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US Secretary of State Hillary Rodam Clinton, centre, poses with Roma professionals and Roma NGO leaders at the US Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday Feb. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Watson, Pool)

International Roma Day

Press Statement

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 8, 2012

 


On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I want to send best wishes to all Roma as they mark International Roma Day. Today we celebrate the history, impact and culture of Romani people. From music and art to science and literature, Romani people have contributed in ways large and small to the fabric of countless societies.

But too often and in too many places, they are forced to live on the margins. They are segregated, beaten, and systematically discriminated against. They are denied access to an education and to jobs. Despite a decade of progress, during this global economic downturn incidents of anti-Roma rhetoric and violence are on the rise.

Romani people are on the frontlines of the struggle for greater human rights and dignity. That is why the United States is working to protect Roma minorities and end discrimination. We are helping improve opportunities for Roma to participate in the political, social, economic, and cultural lives of their communities. Roma everywhere deserve the opportunity to have a better and brighter future. As I said in Bulgaria at a meeting with young Roma professionals, the United States is committed to working with civil society groups and governments to make a real difference in the lives of Roma.

We believe governments have a special responsibility to ensure that members of the Roma community – and all minority communities – have the tools to succeed as productive members of society. So let us continue to forge new partnerships, discover new areas of understanding and respect, and redouble our efforts to address the plight of Roma on behalf of a freer, fairer and more inclusive Europe.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Rodam Clinton, centre, poses with Roma professionals and Roma NGO leaders at the US Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday Feb. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Watson, Pool)

Remarks at a Roundtable With Young Roma Professionals

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Embassy Sofia
Sofia, Bulgaria
February 5, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. I wish to thank Ambassador Warlick and the Embassy for arranging this meeting, and I am honored to be meeting with so many leaders from Bulgaria’s Roma community. And I think that the men and women around this table remind us of the lessons that history has borne out again and again, that discrimination anywhere, against anyone, diminishes the human dignity of us all, that persistence does eventually win out over prejudice, and that talent only needs the opportunity to thrive.

Americans have learned these lessons over the course of our history. As you may well know, we have had many challenges to include every member of our society, regardless of their race or their ethnicity or any other characteristic that set them apart or made them a member of a minority group, and we are the stronger for it.

Here in Europe, one of the pieces of unfinished business is the full integration of the Roma people into the societies and nations where they reside. For too long, Roma citizens have been marginalized and isolated, prevented from contributing their talents and participating in their societies. This is a critical matter of human rights, and it affects millions of men, women, and children across the continent.

I’m also very troubled to see anti-Roma violence and protests, which in some places are increasing and getting worse. It’s also an error for any society not to fully educate every child, and in too many places Roma children attend subpar, usually segregated, schools. And what is the result of that? Well, then Roma people themselves begin to feel apathetic, uninvolved, and then that continues the cycle, which has to be broken.

So I think that building better understanding between Roma and non-Roma communities is very important. I remember visiting with Roma children at the Faith, Hope, and Love Center during my visit to Bulgaria back in 1998. Seeing their spirit and intelligence shining through the adversity that they had experienced in their young lives was a highlight of my trip. So 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.

Today, I am proud to announce that the United States will join the Decade of Roma Inclusion as an official observer. This commitment is admirable by European governments, and it will help improve opportunities for Roma to participate in the political, social, economic, and cultural lives of their communities. Bulgaria is a founding member of this initiative, so I’m very pleased that I could announce the United States joining this effort here in Sofia.

I also want to commend the Government of Bulgaria for their Roma integration strategy and urge that they work together with the Roma communities and other people of interest to implement the plans that have been adopted.

Now, there’s a moral reason why supporting the rights of the Roma people is the right thing to do, but there’s also, in today’s 21st century economy, economic reasons. Countries that don’t fully integrate women or minorities of any kind will not have the economic growth in GDP that is possible and will face the loss of human potential.

So I’m looking forward to hearing from our guests today, to hear of their experience and their ideas about what we together can do that will really put into action the commitment that 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.

Thank you very much.

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I remember that last year Secretary Clinton published remarks on this day.  Everybody my age, who grew up in or near the city where I now live, remembers the Roma either camping near the river or living in store fronts on the street next to the river.   My mother, who was Hungarian,  regularly  stopped by one store  run by a couple who sold antiques and other odds and ends.  Mom was actually quite good at bargaining with them.   We stopped there every single time we came to town.  I do not remember, however, one single item she bought from them.   Many of my contemporaries remember being taught to fear these people, whom we then called “gypsies.”  I never feared them.  My mom taught me differently.  She taught me to respect them.

Here are Secretary Clinton’s remarks along with a fact sheet from the State Department.

International Roma Day

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 8, 2010

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I offer warm wishes to all Roma as they mark International Roma Day. This is an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions of Roma to the historical and cultural development of Europe. Romani influences on the fields of music, theater, literature, and dance have added to the richness of European culture, from the music of Brahms to the novels of Cervantes. Today we also remember and honor the brave acts of resistance by Romani men and women who refused to remain silent in the face of extermination by the Nazi regime.

Most importantly, International Roma Day is an opportunity to call attention to the challenges that continue to face Europe’s ten million Roma. Protecting and promoting the human rights of Roma everywhere has long been a personal commitment for me, and under the Obama Administration it is a priority of the United States. Like all citizens, Roma should have the opportunity to live free from discrimination, enjoy equal access to education, healthcare and employment, and pursue their full God-given potential.

Through a range of initiatives, including development assistance, international visitor programs, and constructive interaction between law enforcement and minority communities, the United States is working with our partners to make respect for the rights of Roma the norm across Europe. Working with governments, international organizations, civil society groups, and individual citizens, we seek to help Roma chart their own destinies, with opportunity, dignity and prosperity.

United States Assistance For Roma Issues

Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 8, 2010

The United States has committed to a variety of tools in promoting the success of Roma.

One such tool is development assistance, and we currently undertake Roma-focused programs across Central and Eastern Europe.

* For example, our Roma education program in Macedonia provides preschool education for 250 children each year and has provided tutoring and out-of-school support to 1,500 primary school students. So far, 95 percent of these students have remained in school.

* In Slovakia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Serbia, we provide Romani communities and leaders with training to help them more effectively take part in elections and political processes.

* This summer, we will be launching a new initiative to provide Roma with better access to legal services in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia.

Another way we work to promote Roma rights is through international visitor programs, which have provided Roma from across Europe opportunities to visit and study in the U.S. to gain a firsthand view of how the rights of every individual can be ensured both in law and in practice.

* Recent programs have focused on social, political and economic empowerment for Roma from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania.

* In August, we welcomed 24 Romani high school students for a month-long exchange emphasizing self-respect, community development and minority advocacy, and we will soon be embarking on a similar exchange for Romani political leaders from countries including Italy and Slovakia.

One further aspect of promoting Roma rights is helping to facilitate constructive interaction between law enforcement and minority communities.

· At the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, we provide training and assistance to police to help them more effectively investigate and prosecute crimes against Roma.

· Following a string of unsolved killings of Roma in Hungary last year, the Hungarian government asked for investigative support from the F.B.I., which we were pleased to provide.

The U.S. Government stands ready to explore similar forms of assistance to governments in the future.

Further information on U.S. efforts to assist Roma can be found on the State Department’s website at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/hr/race/index.htm.

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