Launching of the National Action Plan for Integration of Roma and EgyptiansMar 9, 2016
Speech delivered by Brian J.Williams, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Albania
Mr. Blendi Klosi, Minister of Social Welfare and Youth
Mr. Yngve Engström, Head of Operations, EU Delegation to Albania
Mr. Bledar Taho, Representative of Roma NGO “Institute of Roma Culture”
Mr. Arjan Lile, Representative of Egyptian NGO “Sfinksi”
It is my pleasure to speak today at the Government launch of its National Action Plan for Integration of Roma and Egyptians.
The National Plan embodies the determination of government and civil society partners to scale-up support to Roma and Egyptian communities. It illustrates Albania’s commitment to universal human rights, as well as its interest to align to the European Union social agenda.
Successful implementation of this ambitious Plan will mark progress towards Albania’s achievements of several of the Sustainable Development Goals, including those on poverty, inclusive and equitable service delivery in areas such as education and health care, but perhaps most importantly progress on SDG 10 focused on reducing inequalities.
Addressing the integration of Roma is also critical for Albania to respond to many recommendations made in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review process overseen by the UN’s Human Rights Council. The Government has agreed with those recommendations, and this Plan will contribute to its response.
The Plan is about to presented in greater detail, but I wanted to draw your attention to a few key points.
First, we are pleased to highlight that the Action Plan takes the overall approach of mainstreaming access to existing services by reducing discrimination and removing barriers faced by Roma and Egyptian communities. We do not promote the creation of parallel services, but rather encourage deepening cultural acceptance alongside special efforts to ensure access to standard services.
Second, we would like to underline the essential role of civil society, especially, of course of Roma and Egyptian organizations themselves. Civil society partners this morning have testified to their involvement in the drafting of the plan; their involvement will be even more critical for successful implementation. It is only through vibrant, honest and evidence-based dialogue – which sometimes includes tough messages on all sides, but which is also respectful of difference and relentlessly mindful of everyone’s dignity – it is only through such dialogue that cultural attitudes can shift, practices improve and sustainable progress achieved. Such respectful dialogue needs to be modelled at every level – from municipal employees to ministers, from school teachers to international public servants.
Third, a good Plan is a promising start, but now everything will hinge on implementation and, in particular, on strong coordination. The Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth has a leading responsibility to ensure coordination, even while we all recognize that other Ministries and local governments have their own resources that must be mobilized. All partners here today have the obligation to practice transparency and information sharing, and to support and encourage the Ministry’s leading role in coordination. We need to meet at a technical level regularly to ensure efficient implementation, but also periodically at the strategic level.
Fourth, -- a corollary to the point on coordination – successful implementation will require a strong monitoring framework. It must generate reliable, verifiable information that can be reviewed by all partners. Monitoring mechanisms must make space for and draw upon the insights of civil society, community partners, youth groups and human rights structures, such as the Ombudsman’s office.
Fifth, consistent with the UN’s interest in supporting Albania’s Territorial Reform, we are particularly keen to engage with the new Municipality structures – and in turn to support local government engagement with Roma and Egyptian communities – as the Plan is rolled out. To be judged ultimately as a success, this programme must have nation-wide impact.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thanks to the generous financial support and technical partnership of the European Union, UNDP is privileged to be able to assist the Ministry of Social Welfare with the implementation of the National Action Plan, starting this month, with a 4 million Euro three-year programme. UNDP will work closely with central and local government to support their inclusion policies for increasing employment and improving the livelihoods, more inclusive local planning process and improved Roma neighbourhoods, as well as for integrated social services that leave no citizens behind. At the same time we will partner with NGOs and youth activists to strengthen their civic engagement and advocacy efforts.
Overall, the Government’s Plan is ambitious, with an overall desired budget of roughly 56m Euros, of which Government is already forecasting to contribute more than 30m Euros. As we move towards implementation, a close eye will have to track the real resources available – adjusting prioritization accordingly, but also monitor that real results are generated and communicated, to maximize the mobilization of additional resources.
We look forward to working with all partners to make it a success.