On International Roma Day

On International Roma Day

April 8, 2020

On April 8 we mark International Roma Day to recognize and celebrate Romani history and culture, which has enriched all of us in the OSCE region. The United States is proud to claim over one million Americans of Romani descent who have helped shape our great nation.

Unlike in past years, many traditional celebrations, festivals, and parades marking International Roma Day will not take place due to the current crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, we continue to recognize and value this community and the contributions Roma and Sinti have made to the world, and their power to preserve their identity and endure through historic persecution and tragedy.

We must never allow the memory of the Roma murdered during the Holocaust to fade. As Austrian-Romani artist, writer, and Holocaust survivor Ceija Stojka said, “if the world does not change now… if it does not build peace — true peace — so that my great-grandchildren have a chance to live in this world, then I cannot explain why I survived Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Ravensbruck.” This history threatens to be lost as the last generation of Roma and Sinti survivors passes away. We must ensure this does not happen. We must teach this history and its lessons in our schools, museums, and public institutions.

To this day, Roma individuals face discrimination, segregation, and marginalization in their daily lives. We call on all OSCE participating States to combat intolerance against Roma and to support their full participation in civic and economic life.

COVID-19 poses particular challenges for traditionally vulnerable groups, including marginalized Roma communities. Governments should ensure that any measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 are carefully implemented to avoid placing disproportionate economic hardships on Roma and other minority populations and avoid increasing inter-ethnic tensions. Authorities should take measures to prevent violence and scapegoating of members of any minority including Roma for the pandemic and hold accountable those responsible for any attacks against them. Governments should also ensure that vital supports and services remain accessible to all on a non-discriminatory basis.

On International Roma Day, the United States reaffirms its commitment to the human rights and dignity of all, condemns bigotry and violence, and supports the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area.