The unspecials

In the last years there were a good number of people appointed in “special” or “high” decision making positions dealing with Roma issues.

The only “special”  things about all of them were their incredible lack of expertise to deal with Roma issues at the moment of their employment and the very “high” level of delusional, contradictory and empty  rhetoric they all seemed very capable of delivering .Ex- commissioner Reading is the embodiment of such “specials”.

The fact that none of them were Roma is nowadays a banality as it is the profound structural racism within the intergovernmental and governmental institutions when it comes to the representation and participation of Roma at the decision making level. International NGOs are not doing much better.

The hypocrisy of most of the appointments as senior managers within intergovernmental institutions and national governments when it comes to Roma ( and more often nowadays human rights issues and social inclusion in general) is strident if one cares to examine the discrepancy between glorious lip-service and pathetic concrete actions.

Bureaucracies are famous in being exceptionally risk adverse and conservative the very opposite of innovation. Ironically most of the intergovernmental ones are very keen on innovation at the level of discourse. The “specials” were/are a perfect reflection of the institutions that employed them. Their words are revolutionary while their actions were practically same as previous ones. In this way we ended up with most of the Roma budgets being spent on what is most familiar to bureaucrats –conferences, papers and word production. Rationalising  giving away Ungaro scarfs and bringing Roma musicians for entertainment at luxurious and at the same time ridiculous and useless events seemed to be the only “innovations”.

None of the “specials” proved to be capable to think, find or implement focused, easy, cheap and fast to medium term (4 years maximum) solutions that could lead to a break of the vicious cycle of exclusion facing a majority of Roma. None of them quit during their mandates despite of many catastrophic failures or embarrassments. Being hugely overpaid seemed to be the only sanction they had to put up with.

What could make a “special” truly special.

Genial ideas, courage, capacity to adapt fast and legitimacy based on concrete results, inspirational should do it. Considering the overall situation nowadays even a normal spine, a minimal common sense, some basic concepts about ethics, basic understanding of racism and empowerment and an energy level above comatose might make a huge difference.

A few things the “specials ” should do.

  1. Prepare one or more of the many very smart and courageous Roma to became the next “specials”. Not only that will give a hint of credibility to his/her position but could be a concrete action to prove that the rhetoric about “Roma empowerment” is not an empty one.
  2. Promote and fight for the idea of an independently administered European fund for watch-dog organisations fighting racism and corruption.  A good part of that funding should focus on fighting anti-Gypsyism. Such a fund can solve the problems we have nowadays with Hungary, Russia or Azerbaijan some of the countries that seem to prefer to have no such watch-dogs. It should be based on contributions from Member States , administered by some of the real specials we do have in Europe and distributed to some of the brave but dying watch-dog organisations in the countries we need them the most.
  3. Revive and improve some of the good previous initiatives that were left to die by incompetent “specials” before. European Roma Platform, The Road Map of the Spanish Presidency, OSCE Action Plan for Roma and Sinti are just some of those.
  4. Come up with a working plan that make sense and that has clear time-frames and nexuses ( meaning strategic goals that can lead to a cascading change). Such a plan should be based on real life niches, incentives and opportunities and not on delusional fantasies based on virtual interaction with Roma . Such plans should have clear indicators for failure and the “specials” jobs should depend on it. Points a, b and c could be part of this type of plans.

All the “specials” before were incapable to focus or did not want to expose their own uselessness. They talked about everything and achieved almost nothing. None of them were accountable to anybody. The coordination among the different “specials” remains a mess.

This archetype of “specials” is unfortunately very present within the elites of the civil society in general including Roma movement.

It is not hard to change the status quo. But changing it, means indeed to be special. The title ,only, doesn’t suffice. The unspecials need to go or be retired.

PS. We all make mistakes. The Ungaro scarfs is a huge one. The fact there is no recognition of it within the European Commission is a lot more worrisome than the mistake itself.

PPS. The idea that people appointed in these senior positions can learn whatever they need to learn and more important is for them to know the system of the institutions they work for is simply inept. Learning how an institution works is much easier than having expertise in Roma issues.

To make it clearer : nobody employs a janitor with 30 years experience in cleaning an University as the professor of nuclear physics regardless of how well he/she knows the University, how connected she/he is or how many years she/he has until reaching the retiring age.

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