The Decade of Roma Inclusion and U.S. Engagement on the Human Rights of Roma

On February 5, Secretary Clinton met with a young group of Roma civil society activists and professionals in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Roma participants each spoke briefly about their work and their ideas on how to help move the Roma community forward. Many of the Roma youth activists were alumni of the Intern Program for Young Roma, an Open Society Institute initiative held under the auspices of the National Assembly of Bulgaria that announced its fifth intern program on February 6.

In her opening remarks, the Secretary told the activists that "helping to promote and protect the inalienable human rights of Roma everywhere is a long-standing personal commitment of mine, and it is a stated foreign policy priority of this Administration." As part of that commitment, the Secretary announced that the United States will join the Decade of Roma Inclusion as an official observer. But what is the Decade of Roma Inclusion, and what is it trying to accomplish?

The "Decade" is an effort by European governments, to improve opportunities for Roma to participate in the political, social, economic, and cultural lives of their communities. Launched in Sofia on 2005, it is an unprecedented collaboration between governments, international organizations, and civil society groups committed to closing the gap in welfare and living conditions between Roma and non-Roma populations, as well as putting an end to the cycle of poverty and exclusion that plagues so many European Roma communities. Participating governments are asked to reallocate resources to achieve results, often using additional funding instruments of multinational, international, and bilateral donors.

As the Secretary noted, there are not only moral concerns when minorities like the Roma are excluded, but there is also a cost to European countries from the loss of human potential when they don't fully integrate women or minorities of any kind. So the efforts of the twelve countries currently taking part in the Decade, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain are important not only for the Roma, but for the countries as a whole. All of these countries have significant Roma minorities, and each country has developed a national Decade Action Plan that specifies goals and indicators in key areas. International partners include the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the Council of Europe, and UNICEF.

In her closing remarks at the roundtable, Secretary Clinton urged governments throughout Europe to continue their efforts to address the plight of Roma, to end discrimination and ensure equality of opportunity in education, employment, housing and other aspects. "I wish to make clear today to Roma people, to civil society groups, and to governments working on this issue across Europe, that the United States is very concerned and interested and will stand with you as a partner."

My colleagues and I in the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) will serve as the primary contact point for the Decade Secretariat moving forward. As an observer nation, the United States will continue its vigorous support for Roma Decade goals. Having observer status is an important way we can engage governments and provide feedback and perspective on the Decade initiatives.

The young Roma professionals that met with the Secretary remind us that barriers can be broken even when they stretch across time and borders. Our job in DRL will be to continue working with Roma civil society, activists, and with the countries themselves until the full integration of the Roma people into the societies and nations where they reside is achieved.

For more information about the United States government's engagement on human rights, visit



khalil s.
February 7, 2012

Khalil S. writes:

interested in sharing thoughts

February 7, 2012

John in Canada writes:

Human rights for all Secretary Clinton!

A question Secretary Clinton.

I know that you support human rights and Intellectual property rights. As a lawyer I can only assume that you also believe in the rule of law

Pharmaceutical, technology, entertainment and many other industries have amassed much intellectual property over the past 30 years.

It is not a secret that the tools to make this Intellectual property in many cases has been made possible by conflict minerals, without them we wouldn't even have cellular phones. Frankly It would be easier to list items that dont contain conflict minerals than do these days.

We also know without a doubt and I think many in the US government are aware given the endorsement or attempt to have such items labeled - that conflict minerals are responsible for rape, murder, genocide against men, women and children. Crimes under national and international laws.

Now knowing this I am curious how we can have legitimate just laws to protect Intellectual property when that property is built on serious crimes against humanity.

Does a business have more rights to make money than a child has to life?

In short how can we make laws to protect something when that something is dependent on the violation of serious crimes against humanity? Any argument against this is willful blindness.

If we protect rights that are dependent on such violations are we not then making those violations legal?

Seems to me both go hand in hand and are not a separate matter at all.

How do you address this problem?

If I may, It seems just to me that until the serious human rights violations associated with conflict minerals are dealt with, then businesses that use this material should have no support in the protection of their intellectual property.

Human right for all everywhere, not just when its convenient.

Secretary Clinton With Roma Leaders in Bulgaria
Posted by Albana Karakushi
February 7, 2012


Latest Stories

January 19, 2017

What We Got Right

With a new administration taking office this week, it is natural to assess the inheritance it will receive from the… more