LONDON—In 2015 the Open Society Foundations will begin the process of concluding its program Making the Most of EU Funds for Roma Inclusion, while continuing our long-standing support of efforts to create change in the lives of Roma. With the exception of proposals under review, the program Making the Most will not consider new proposals for funding. The Open Society Roma Initiatives Office will continue management of outstanding Making the Most grants and will develop a strategy for continuing work in this field in the future.
In its eight years of operation, Making the Most has demonstrated that EU funds have been underutilized for addressing Roma exclusion, and has made notable progress in ensuring that such funds are used more efficiently and effectively for this purpose. By encouraging dialogues at the local level on equality and inclusion, supporting municipalities and civil society organizations in their efforts to access EU funds, providing technical assistance, and administering cash-flow loans to bridge the gap between expenditure and reimbursement, Making the Most has helped to channel over 50 million euros of EU funds into more than 700 projects addressing Roma exclusion. Furthermore, Making the Most and its partners supported advocacy related to EU funds for Roma inclusion at the European, national, and local levels to ensure a more favorable policy environment for making EU funds work for Roma.
Now, as we enter a new programming period, the European Commission, member states, and enlargement countries have an excellent opportunity to use EU funds to provide the support Making the Most has been providing for the past eight years. This includes the provision of technical assistance, bridge financing, and support for project-generation activities. The EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies provides impetus for states to take action, and recent changes in EU regulations (advocated by Making the Most, among others) provide additional incentives.
Yet, despite what Making the Most has demonstrated can be done, the Roma integration strategies promulgated by most states fall short of putting forth a coherent programmatic and budgetary plan for achieving concrete objectives. Many states remain reluctant to use EU funds for Roma inclusion and discourage their use by establishing procedures that place almost insurmountable burdens on NGOs and municipalities. In particular, the need for bridge financing to address delays in reimbursement remains a critical problem in EU member states, a problem that could easily be resolved by these states if they wished to do so.
With the Making the Most demonstration phase complete, it is now up to governments and the commission to act. We will continue to support many of our current grantees for Making the Most activities through 2015 and into 2016. All Making the Most funding will be complete by 2016, when the program reaches its 10th anniversary.
Even with the completion of the Making the Most demonstration phase, the Open Society Foundations will maintain strong support for efforts to end Roma exclusion as well as for Roma-led organizations. In 2014 Open Society allocated approximately $26 million to Roma efforts across Europe; our 2015 budget will be similar and include programs working on parent empowerment and professional networking for early childhood development, ending discriminatory policies on nomad camps in Italy and school segregation in the Czech Republic, institutional growth of Roma-led advocacy organizations, empowerment of Romani voters, and scholarships for Roma medical and nursing students, to name a few.
We will also support new efforts. In 2014 alone the Roma Initiatives Office supported 18 new organizations—with grants totaling almost $500,000—who had not previously received support from Open Society.
Roma-led organizations that have participated successfully in Making the Most activities are eligible to apply for funds in the three programs operated by the Roma Initiatives Office, namely: Barvalipe, supporting a confident new generation of Roma capable of leading advocacy efforts in Roma organizations or policy efforts in EU or domestic public service; Zoralipe, supporting the institutional growth of Roma organizations; and Paruvipe, supporting campaigns aimed at influencing public decision-making and service delivery.
The Open Society Foundations look forward to continuing our support for Roma issues this year and in the future.
The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.