Putting plans to work

Speech by FRA Director at the Extraordinary European Platform on Roma Inclusion, held in Brussels on 22 March 2012.

Panel questions:

  • How to measure that the strategies have an impact on the ground?
  • What resources (political, financial and human) are foreseen to enable the National Contact Point to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the national strategies?

The EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies is set out to make “a tangible difference in Roma people’s lives. How do we make sure that progress is“tangible” for the Roma citizen? The answer to this question puts the focus on theneed to measure the effectiveness of the strategies put in place and the need to be accountable to those who these strategies are supposed to benefit: the Roma. Let me stress from the outset that the National Roma Integration Strategies areexpected to elaborate the framework in which specific actions at regional and local levels will be undertaken for improving the situation of Roma. This broader framework must integrate the respect, protection and fulfilment of fundamental rights and development opportunities. These two complementary aspects constitute the essence of the rights-based approach to Roma integration that is the sustainable way of practically fulfilling rights ‘on the ground’.

The National Roma Integration Strategies should be seen as dynamic “living” documents that can and will change over time adapting to a changing socio-economic environment in their effort to reach the targets set.

In this context, monitoring and evaluation of existing instruments and measures are needed:

  • First, to steer the further development of the strategies, and their specific actions at regional and local level,
  • Second, to support building on and sharing of good practice within and between Member States, and
  • Third, to avoid ‘policy failure’ by acting as “early warning” mechanisms by providing regularly robust evidence to policy makers to guide their decisions.

What are the requirements for such monitoring to be effective? First, Roma integration programmes and strategies must be built on reliable demographic, employment, health, education and housing statistical data broken down by ethnic origin. In all these areas, there is a need for quantifiable indicators to measure progress over time. Then, any meaningful data collection and monitoring system will require cooperation and involvement of relevant line ministries (health, education, social affairs, etc.), national statistical institutes, specialised bodies, local authorities, civil society, and most importantly the Roma themselves. Member States will need to build up their administrative capacity to collect and analyse data and develop an integrated evidence-based policy response to identified challenges.

As an EU body specialising in data collection and analysis to provide evidence based advice, the FRA is aware of how challenging this task is. Currently, data gaps are significant, sensitive personal data must be protected, multi-level governancecomplicates data collection, human and financial resources are limited, etc. The field of Roma integration is no way unique in this, as many issues linked to fundamental rights suffer from a similar lack of reliable data.

Yet, with the EU Framework we have an unprecedented opportunity for a concerted effort to feed the policy process with robust evidence from the ground on how the various strategies are improving the situation – or not. All of us here in the Platformwill be part of this concerted effort. The EU Framework has tasked the FRA to contribute to this through research, data collection and know-how, and by working together with the Member States and other key actors to provide regularly a comparative analysis of the evolving situation of Roma across the EU. This will underpin the reporting on the progress of the Framework.

We have made our Roma work one of the highest priorities in the years to come. As tasked by the Commission and the Council, we are:

  • Expanding our on-going research on Roma to cover all Member States.
  • Designing the next waves of Roma surveys to measure progress on the ground; and
  • Extending an invitation to Member States to work together with us in developing effective monitoring methods that can produce comparable results.

The main objective of this multi-annual Roma Programme of the FRA is to contribute to the monitoring and assist in the efforts to implement the EU’s Framework for Roma integration.

What can the FRA concretely offer to Member States “to put plans to work” as this session says?

First, the results of its comprehensive quantitative EU wide survey research and comparative analysis. This kind of data will provide evidence regarding the impact of interventions on the ground, as foreseen in the national strategies.

Second, the results of a mapping exercise that we will carry out in 2013 across the EU identifying the available official and non-official data sources that already exist at different governance levels, regional or local, on the situation of the Roma. Through this we will be able to identify existing unused or underutilised data sources, as well as gaps and needs for ethnically disaggregated data at national level and the FRA can assist Member States in identifying the best way of using such sources and closing the gaps. Third, the results of our intensive in depth qualitative research, which will also start next year. We will focus on the local level where policy failures are most visible, and where the consequences of Roma exclusion and deprivation are most directly felt. What are the obstacles to making more effective use of the EU’s structural funds, how do certain conflicts between Roma and non-Roma erupt, and what could help in finding local solutions to local problems? The FRA seeks to get close to this local reality by conducting field research that involves and engages with local authorities and the local communities, both Roma and non-Roma.

Finally, the FRA will provide its expertise to facilitate the exchange of information and know-how with Member States and help them develop the right monitoring tools. In many national integration strategies, we have seen references to the FRA data and expertise.1 Together with other partners, such as the UNDP, we are happy to share our know-how and experience with survey methods. Obviously, we will make our data and research findings available so that they can be used when developing evidence-based policy measures and monitoring their effectiveness. At the same time, we are also looking at ways how to facilitate the sharing of good practices between Member State authorities in relation to monitoring methods, data collection and relevant indicators. We are thinking that together with interested partners, and in cooperation with Member States, we could elaborate a compendium of promising practice on monitoring methods and common basic/core indicators relevant for measuring Roma integration in the context of the EU Framework.The aim should be for national authorities to eventually carry out the type of monitoring work that can produce robust and comparable data. The Finnish national integration strategy describes this very well: “In the future, Romani-related information gathering and the development of its methods should be the responsibility of national statistical authorities, as they, being permanent and statutory authorities, possess the necessary continuity, expertise and access to databases.”

In closing, let me give you an example of how the type of data the Agency collects could provide useful evidence for designing policy responses. In about a month we will publish the first results of surveys carried out in 2011 by the FRA in close cooperation with the UNDP and the World Bank. They cover 11 Member States,including for the first time, Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Poland and Portugal. Around 22,000 Roma and non-Roma were interviewed, providing information on almost 85,000 household members. This type of survey work produces reliable data on some key questions that policy makers need: how many Roma complete school, what type of school, do they face health problems, do they know if they are covered by medical insurance, what are their housing conditions, have they experienced discrimination, are they aware of anti-discrimination laws, are they aware of the existence of organisations that can help when faced with discrimination.

On top of this, the FRA also conducted 288 interviews with representatives of local authorities in the same areas where the survey was conducted to better understand the situation– both in terms of problems as well as the solutions which are being tried.

With not all MS having delivered their strategies yet, the following referred to the FRA: Germany, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. Most explicit is the Italian strategy on Roma integration which foresees the cooperation between the FRA and the Italian national contact point “in the implementation of the first statistical research project on the situation of the Roma communities in Italy in 2013”.

This is the type of information that can bring the experience and views of local communities and local authorities to the policy makers helping them in this way to develop better informed policy responses.

Thank you for your attention.