FEATURE STORY

Improving Living Conditions for Marginalized Roma

March 18, 2015

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Story highlights
  • Roma are the largest and most vulnerable population in Eastern Europe.
  • A World Bank team undertook a review of past interventions that addressed the living conditions of Roma to help inform the design of future initiatives developed through European Structural Funds that will be made available over the next five years to address social inclusion and combat poverty in the region.
  • A new resource, The Handbook for Improving the Living Conditions of Roma, has been developed, which is based on this review and is designed to help program managers, national-level authorities, and local actors support Roma interventions by offering strategic guidance and best practices from past experience working with Roma.

As the largest and most vulnerable population in Eastern Europe, Roma face a number of unique and daunting challenges. A disproportionately large number of Roma face deep poverty and social exclusion. These disadvantages begin at birth and can negatively impact an individual throughout their entire lives.

Many Roma children lack an early education and the majority of Roma children grow up in poverty – with many going hungry. Access to education remains low among most Roma, as enrollment rates among Roma lag those of non-Roma starting in preschool and dropout rates well above any national average.  Living conditions among Roma are also often difficult, with many Roma homes lacking water or electricity.

The challenges that Roma face are multifaceted, requiring complementary and coordinated efforts across a number of different economic and social sectors. Of these areas of intervention, health, education, employment, and housing represent four of the most critical sectors of engagement for Roma. With the onset of the European Commission’s new funding cycle for European Structural and Investment Funds - which are expected to address, among other issues, poverty reduction and increased social inclusion for Roma - guidance on maximizing the effectiveness of these resources is crucial.  

Helping to provide this guidance, a World Bank team undertook a review of past interventions that addressed the living conditions of Roma. The result is The Handbook for Improving the Living Conditions of Roma, produced in partnership between the World Bank and the European Commission (Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy and Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion), which jointly funded the activity. The handbook draws on lessons learned and good practices from past experience engaging with Roma and their communities. By identifying community-specific needs – both physical and non-physical - and impediments across these four critical areas of intervention, this handbook provides evidence-based knowledge and practical advice to mangers of project-funding programs, national level authorities, and local actors who work with Roma in difference countries and contexts.


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The Handbook for Improving the Living Conditions of Roma is designed to help program managers, national-level authorities, and local actors support Roma interventions by offering strategic guidance and best practices from past experience working with Roma


" Interventions in a diverse number of areas, from health to education to employment, are all necessary to help improve the living conditions of Roma. But what we find is that coordination among these programs can significantly increase their effectiveness. "

Kosuke Anan

author of the Handbook


This handbook is the latest addition to a growing library of knowledge and is designed to help prepare and implement effective interventions for improving the living conditions of disadvantaged Roma at the local level. By focusing on the integration of interventions in the four areas of housing, employment, education, and health care, this handbook reinforces the idea that a collective approach to engagement can be more effective than a sector-by-sector silo approach.


“Poverty and exclusion among Roma present a number of multi-faceted challenges,” notes Kosuke Anan, Senior Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and author of the Handbook, “interventions in a diverse number of areas, from health to education to employment, are all necessary to help improve the living conditions of Roma. But what we find is that coordination among these programs can significantly increase their effectiveness.”

In an effort to increase this coordination and boost the effectiveness of these programs, the Handbook is divided into three different modules, providing insight and guidance to a number of different stakeholders – with Module One intended to help managers of project-funding programs, Module Two directed at national-level authorities, and Module Three  providing a set of tools and good practice notes for local actors. These modules provide a framework – based on good practice examples, lessons learned, and past experience – for practitioners at all levels of engagement to oversee interventions aimed at improving the living conditions for Roma.

The handbook is also accompanied by a series of 17 case studies from around the world and 35 project briefs from selected projects designed to improve the living conditions in a number of countries around Europe. Collectively, this handbook is designed to illustrate innovative and successful approaches to improving the living conditions of marginalized groups and highlight lessons that can be drawn from past experience.

Integrated approaches to development can increase the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of interventions by creating synergies among projects and programs, and provide multi-pronged solutions to the kinds of complex challenges faced by disadvantaged Roma communities. By reinforcing this integrated approach and by providing practical and actionable guidance tailored that can be tailored to the local context, the Handbook for Improving the Living Conditions of Roma represents an important tool in the arsenal of every practitioner focusing on improving livelihoods among Roma. 


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