Restoring dialogue and trust through mediation: the Romed Programme

Mediation refers to the work which people with aRoma background, belonging to local Roma communities, or with a good knowledge of Roma issues,may do to restore communication between such communities and the public institutions. In most cases, mediators speak the specific Roma language of the community with which they are working (that language, as the case may be could possibly be a dialect). The overall aim of the project is to facilitate intercultural dialogue and support efforts towards the greater social inclusion of Roma citizens in Europe. Moreover, the aim is to raise the visibility of existing research and foster cooperation with policy-makers, by providing evidence for policy initiatives. The programme not only sets out to improve the situation of Roma, but also undertakes to promote the mediator's professional status and unique ability to facilitate dialogue between estranged communities.

The first ROMED Programme in the implementation of a joint action between the European Commission and the Council of Europe is running from July 2011 to April 2013. The programme builds upon networks and results of the work on Roma education and inclusion carried out by the Council of Europe. The two organisations, the Council of Europe and the European Commission, have implemented a ‘European Training Programme for Roma Mediators’, which addresses issues relevant not only for Roma, but also for many other groups. Mediation works both ways, opening closely-knit Roma communities to a less anxious apprehension of European society while facilitating contacts from public institutions and services in their work to palliate and end all forms of discriminations and of social exclusion. Professionalisation of mediating activities, through curricula and qualifications which receive official recognition are part of the long-term objectives for the ROMED Programme.

The improvement of the mediator’s status will in the long run prove beneficial to his efficiency on the field and to his own working conditions.

Module-based training can meet these requirements, making it easy to monitor acquisition of knowledge. Basic modules introduce trainees to the realities of the field, whilst specialised modules enable them to adjust their practice later. This generates a training profile for skills that match a work profile, allowing them to construct their own learning itinerary, and improve their qualifications and professional position in the medium or long term.

During the two years of the ROMED programme, 1 000 mediators successfully completed their training. The programme is co-managed by the European Commission and the Council of Europe (EUR 1 million per year has been allocated by both organisations as 50 % -50 % matching funds).

Work is underway to finalise a successor programme to ROMED to cover 2013-14 with a similar budget and related objectives in terms of mediation, but with a focus on improving the working environment of the mediators, including the local administrations, communities, and public institutions.

The main achievements, so far, include:

- design and elaboration of a new training curriculum for mediators (available in 20 languages);

- a European Code of Ethics for Mediators: a set of core principles and norms to guide the work of mediators has been identified as a key tool for protecting the mediator against abuse and for enhancing the quality of the services provided;

- creation of a European pool of ROMED trainers: 65 trainers, of which 40 are of Roma origin;

- creation of a European Database on Mediators: a valuable resource with upto- date information on various aspects of Roma mediation in a number of countries. This tool is already available online and needs constant updating. www.coe-romed.org

- over 1 000 mediators trained in more than 20 countries. A very large majority of mediators are Roma while the others have a very good knowledge of the Roma community. There is gender balanced participation in the training sessions;

- around 800 representatives from national and local institutions have attended the training sessions (during each training session, a day was dedicated to the cooperation between mediators and public institutions and authorities). This aspect of the training programme is essential, since the improvement of the working environment has a direct impact on the quality and effectiveness of the mediation;

- creation of a European network for mediators, which allows professional exchanges between mediators and their peers in other regions or countries; and

- adoption by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of the ‘Recommendation on mediation as an effective tool for promoting respect for human rights and social inclusion of Roma’ (CM/Rec(2012)9).

Involving Roma as mediators is essential for the good operation of the ROMED Programme. It has many advantages: Roma mediators are familiar with the sociological context, the language and the difficulties experienced in the communities for which they restore dialogue with society, while tapping into the communities’ dynamism. The ROMED Programme carries a strong political signal which encourages Roma youth to participate in projects that concern them and which creates jobs. It also fosters new, positive attitudes amongst Roma professionals, not only in their own communities, but also amongst their professional associates and institutional partners.

Source: Roma and Education: Challenges and Opportunities in the European Union

© European Union, 2012

lifelong learning

This project is co-funded by the European Commission. This publication reflects the views of the author only and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use of the information contained therein.

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