Statement at the Human Dimension Webinar:
Combating Racism and Discrimination against the Roma and Sinti rights
October 5, 2020
The United States appreciates the opportunity to address the issue of combating racism and discrimination against the Roma and Sinti at today’s webinar. While we regret that we were unable to meet at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are grateful to ODIHR and the Chairmanship in Office for organizing a robust series of webinars.
Romani communities, like other minority communities, have suffered disproportionately during this time. In some instances, the COVID-19 crisis has been the vehicle for anti-Roma racism and discrimination. Governments should ensure measures to contain the pandemic are not wielded as instruments of discrimination and avoid applying measures in ways that would increase inter-ethnic tensions or place disproportionate hardships on Roma (or other minorities).
We recognize before the COVID-19 pandemic many Roma communities suffered from a lack of access to clean water, education, health care, and employment opportunities due to persistent discrimination and racism. The pandemic has intensified this discrimination, as Roma have sometimes been quarantined or denied medical help. Many Roma who work as migrant laborers or in the informal economy have lost their livelihoods due to pandemic restrictions. Many Roma and Sinti cannot access the Internet necessary for their children’s education during this time, further compounding the learning gap. Arbitrary or discriminatory displacements of Roma during the pandemic can leave Roma vulnerable and homeless.
Violence against Romani people, communities and property is never justified. All participating States should take resolute steps to prevent violence that threatens the displacement of Roma. We would like to acknowledge the work done by OSCE participating States within bodies such as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). IHRA is helping to educate us about the genocide of Roma during the Second World War, the devastating consequences of which are felt today. We also applaud IHRA’s efforts to adopt a non-legally binding working definition of anti-Roma racism that will identify the various forms that anti-Roma racism takes, so responses to it can be more effective.
Words always matter. Public officials should refrain from repeating stereotypes that perpetuate racism and prejudice. Equal opportunity for citizens to engage in civil and political life is key to democracy. To be part of the life of one’s community and country, one must be counted. OSCE participating States should facilitate the participation of Roma in census counts in the coming year.
We appreciate the leadership of the Chair-in-Office and ODIHR in organizing this webinar to offer everyone an opportunity to explore ways to improve implementation of the Roma Action Plan and the OSCE commitments relevant to it.