Blog by Tomas de Jong, European Public Health Alliance
Each year, the European Platform for Roma Inclusion is organised to bring together the key stakeholders in Roma inclusion to discuss ways forward. This year it took place on the 25th and 26th of October in Prague, and was paired with a Council meeting of the so-called National Roma Contact Points (the member state representatives who work on Roma inclusion). For the first time, a small group of civil society organisations could join this meeting. On behalf of the European Public Health Alliance’s Roma Health Network, I attended both events.
Among the many topics covered, attention for Roma children was virtually non-existent at the Platform. Aljosa Rudas, on behalf of ISSA’s initiative REYN (Romani Early Years Network) pointed this out in a passionate intervention during the Council meeting. He called for more attention to the comprehensive nature of Early Childhood Development, focusing specifically on the first 1,000 days of life. He emphasised that action on this is lacking, despite a large basis of evidence pointing to the crucial nature of these early years. “More evidence is useless if we do not follow the evidence that exists already”, he said in his intervention.
Though it was difficult to cover such in-depth topics during the Platform, the fact that an in-person exchange took place again was very welcome. Roma and pro-Roma civil society are slowly becoming part of the conversation again. Though there is still a lot of work to be done to increase Roma participation, the Platform is slowly being expanded. It is hoped that soon there will be more room in this conversation to pay attention to the crucial topic of Roma children. After all, they could prove to provide the future solutions to the issues that Roma face today.
Tomas de Jong, Junior Policy Manager for Health Equity
European Public Health Alliance