39th SESSION OF THE HRC – Side Event Roma People

​H.E. Mr.  Cristóbal González-Aller, Ambassador of Spain, highlighted the importance of Roma People in Spain. However, in spite of its importance, Roma People are discriminated against in the Spanish territory. There is structural discrimination, he said, fuelled by jealousy, realities of social exclusion, education and ignorance of the culture and social reality of the Roma population. However, in recent years, efforts have been made to try to integrate the Roma population among the Spaniards and recognize their important contribution to Spanish culture, both in music, with flamenco, and in the Spanish lexicon itself, with words like ‘mola’ or ‘chungo’, which are actually caló, the Roma People language, words, but broadly used among Spanish. Despite everything, he continued, there are still many challenges. The CERD, for example, has underlined the important dropout rate among the Roma People.

H.E. Ms. V. Batistic Kos, Ambassador of Croatia, pointed out how, if one generation lives in poverty and discrimination, the next one will probably be subjected to the exact same miseries. And that is precisely what is happening among the Roma People.  According to official figures, there are approximately 16.000 Roma living in Croatia. However, the Ambassador stressed that there are many Roma people who do not dare to call themselves Roma. Therefore, she said, it is estimated that the real number of Roma People in Croatia is up to 30.000. After this, the Ambassador went on to mention the creation of a regional framework that allows members of the Roma population to participate in elections and public affairs and to create political parties. For example, on a governmental level, the Head of Department of Human Rights is Roma. Finally, she highlighted the study carried out by Croatia to measure the effectiveness of the inclusion strategies carried out. A study that has brought together 4.700 Roma families and has resulted in a large number of documents and routes to follow for future inclusion strategies.


H.E Mr. M. Gaffey, Ambassador of Ireland, pointed out the fact that the impression that many citizens have of the members of the Roma People is generally a negative one. And, even if, step by step, this incorrect vision of Roma people is changing, there are still many challenges to overcome. For example, the young Roma People marry much younger than the non-ethnic group. Infant mortality is much higher. They are 7 times more likely to commit suicide and economic crisis affect them badly. Finally, he mentioned the fact that the Irish Prime Minister acknowledged in a speech that Roma People were a different ethnic group. This does not change any law, but it does help to improve the image of the Roma Population in the eyes of the rest of the Irish citizens.





Mr. Nicolás Marugán, member of the CERD, emphasized the need for indicators of progress in the governments, so that political leaders know what has improved and what has not. He also talked about some of the recommendations that CERD has made to some countries regarding the situation of the Roma Population in their land, such as Sweden, Jordan, etc. In addition, we must not forget the double discrimination suffered by Roma women and gay, lesbian, transgender and disabled Roma. He also stressed the importance of having access to a decent job, and the need of having a media that does not stigmatize Roma people. Finally, he commented the situation of Roma People in countries such as Pakistan, where they lack identity documents.

Mrs. M. T. Patiño Lafuente, General Director of Family and Childhood Services, pointed out the fact that, out of 47 million people in Spain, 750.000 are Roma. Art. 14 of the Spanish Constitution dictates equality between citizens, and art. 9 of the Spanish Constitution appeals to public authorities to promote the conditions for the freedom and equality of all citizens, as well as to eliminate obstacles that hinder the participation of all of them in political, economic, cultural and social life. These two articles are of extreme importance, for they are key to the integration and inclusion of Roma people in Spain. Finally, she commented on the composition and functions of the State Council of the Roma People.

Mr. R. Hernández indicated his belonging to the Roma People. He made it clear that he feels identified and represented with the Spanish Delegation to the United Nations, but that, even so, he believes the Roma People itself should be present at the UN. He acknowledged their lack of a fixed land, but that does not prevent them from being a separate group, with its own language and culture. They are very numerous all over the world, but they are the most rejected and stigmatized group all over the world as well.  And, even so, and despite all the United Nations reports, no Roma People Commission has been created to try to strengthen their position among society. Focusing now on the Spanish situation, he pointed out that the contribution of the Roma population to Spanish culture has been very important, and that the advances of the Spanish State have also been great. However, there is still a long way to go, and many problems to solve.


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