The third study on implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy in Estonia that the centre carried out last year in collaboration with the Central European University was published.
The previous Roma Civil Monitor reports uncovered the problem that there is a lack of active Roma rights advocacy organisations in Estonia. This report explores the reasons behind the problem, by laying out the context of civil society development in Estonia, analysing the State measures to empower Roma organisations, and evaluating the obstacles faced by existing Roma advocacy organisations.
Support and funding for civil society in Estonia
The first chapter provides an overview of the framework for civil society development in Estonia. It outlines that the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for preparing Civil Society Development Plans, which have not specifically mentioned the Roma community. The Ministry of the Interior also supports NGOs through National Foundation of Civil Society (NFCS), which provides grants to NGOs for capacity building, however, no Roma organisations have applied for funding. NFCS also finances NGO counselling in county development centres. For example, the consultant in Valga county (where the majority of Roma community in Estonia is situated) was once approached by a member of the Roma community who was interested in writing a project to create a Valga Roma Service Centre, but the idea was never realised. The Integration Foundation, which initiates and supports activities aimed at integration among Estonians and non-Estonians, as well as activities related to immigration and emigration, supports the Roma community with organising cultural activities but has not engaged in capacity building of Roma rights advocacy organisations.
Case study 1: State’s action for Roma civil society empowerment
The second chapter looks into a specific government initiative to empower the Roma community – EC-funded projects ESTROM and ESTROM 2, implemented by the Ministry of Culture with the aim to develop a support network for empowerment of Roma integration stakeholders. One of the main goals of the projects is to find spokespersons for the Roma community through offering various trainings to more active Roma youth and women. Representatives of the Roma community noted that the planning process of the projects could have benefitted from a more meaningful participation of the Roma community, stressing that it is essential to give the Roma community an opportunity to contribute to project planning and preparation, as well as to conduct clear and open communication throughout the project.
Case study 2: Obstacles faced by Roma NGOs
The third chapter looks into practical obstacles faced by Roma advocacy organisations. There are currently three registered Roma advocacy NGOs, but none of them have paid employees or consistent activities (there are a few more NGOs which are active in promoting Roma culture). Currently, the same few members of the Roma community lead all the organisations. One of the main problems is that they work for the organisations on a voluntary basis alongside their main job. Also, there are not enough active members in the organisations to share responsibilities. Another obstacle is that there is a lack of people who have knowledge about the functioning of NGOs, especially regarding project-writing and dealing with bureaucracy. The representatives emphasised that it would be necessary to have a targeted long-term support for step-by-step planning of the work of the NGO, including project-writing. As existing Roma advocacy NGOs are not active, it also means that they have been not included in consultative processes and bodies related to the development of civil society.
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