9. 12. 2019.

“Meet, Do Not Judge” campaign started! Anti-discrimination laws are in place and their implementation is pending

Serbia has the necessary legal base and mechanisms to combat discrimination against Roma that is unfortunately, being insufficiently and improperly implemented. The main prerequisite for improving the position of Roma is combating stereotypes and prejudices that remain ingrained in all pores of the society and henceforth limit access to education, health and social protection system, employment and housing – the conclusion reached during the panel discussion held today in Niš at “Deli” Coworking space.

“The main principle of the Strategy for Social Inclusion of Roma in the Republic of Serbia for the period 2016 – 2025 is to shift the focus from the national to the local level. The national level is passing regulations but must constantly look at towns and municipalities, and people who feel the effects of the policies and measures daily,” Nina Mitić, Assistant Minister for Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs implementing Meet, Do Not Judge! Campaign, said at the beginning of the discussion that marked the start of the campaign. The campaign aims to reduce prejudice against Roma and promote tolerance and anti-discrimination.

A recent survey Citizens’ Attitudes on Discrimination in Serbia shows that two thirds of citizens (69%) acknowledge a significant manifestation of discrimination in Serbia, while 50% see Roma as the ones most exposed to discrimination. “Still, the report shows that survey respondents from Southern and Eastern Serbia, areas where extreme cases of discrimination had been reported and where large Roma population lives, do not perceive Roma as an extremely vulnerable group (only 13% of inhabitants),” Ivana Filipov, Advisor to the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality underlined and added that in the course of 2018, the Commissioner received only 28 discrimination complaints on the grounds of Roma nationality. The survey was supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) within the framework of German Development Cooperation.

At the beginning of the panel discussion, a short film presented and summarised parts of electronic media reports on cases of violence and discrimination that had taken place in the past five years in and around Niš, with a particular focus on the “Vuk Karadžić” elementary school in Niš where 90% of students are Roma.

“It is not enough to just note that a situation like this exists and is unacceptable, we must encourage multi-sector cooperation and bring together actors who can put adequate prevention measures in place. Otherwise, we remain limited by only a public declaration that something is unacceptable, and no one benefits from it. Especially not the children attending that school, who will, when the day comes and depending on what we do now, become either working and tax-paying members of the Serbian society or live from social assistance in unregulated settlements,“ said Petar Antić, Project Manager of the GIZ-implemented project “Inclusion of Roma and other marginalised groups in Serbia”.

The discussion included representatives of the Inspection Department of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, the “Initiative for Economic and Social Rights A-11” and “Roma World” associations.

In the coming period, the discussion panels for the Meet, Do Not Judge! campaign are to be held in Belgrade, Leskovac and Novi Sad. “Other campaign activities are mainly focused on youth as they tend to be more open to new attitudes. They too are the ones shaping relationships of the future society. The campaign is therefore targeting the social media and involving well-known Youtube celebrities and Serbian public figures. Besides, young adults from ten secondary school parliaments in ten towns in Serbia will receive manuals and materials for organising workshops and other activities on discrimination”, Radmila Nešić, President of “Ternipe” Association implementing the Meet, Do Not Judge!campaign with GIZ support, explained.