Even small investments can have an impact on Roma integration, shows new report by the BPRI project

by Aleksandar Dimishkovski

More than 10,000 Roma from the Western Balkan region have benefited from the small grants programme implemented by OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) through the Best Practices for Roma Integration (BPRI) project in the past year, according to a newly published report. .

The report, entitled Small Grants Programme, Summary of the Implementation of Selected Projects, shows that although the funding was limited to 5,000 euros per project, significant results were achieved and a total of 25,135 residents in the 20 selected municipalities from the region benefited directly from the programme. Through the small grants programme, BPRI supported projects covering a range of different needs, including the provision of local infrastructure to Roma settlements, help for a local Roma radio station and support for the integration of Roma pupils in schools.

“This programme proves that tangible results can be achieved with good will and innovative ideas even with small budgets, especially if communities are consulted on what are the priority needs in their settlements”, says Mimoza Murati local expert, who helped draft the small grant summary.

The report and the results of the programme were presented to the municipalities that received the grants during a two day roundtable that concluded today in Podgorica, Montenegro. Participants of the roundtable also discussed the most successful models for making a significant impact on the Roma integration process and planning their replication.

“The grants may be small in size, but the impact that they have had on people's lives has been really great”, says Judith Kiers, BPRI's Project Manager. “In Lezha, Albania, for instance, where some small infrastructure improvements were carried out, the real benefit was the creation of a Community Board that includes municipal representatives and representatives of Roma NGOs. Co-operation with Roma communities at all stages of implementation has raised awareness and improved the quality of the municipal services.”

For Kiers, there are important lessons to be drawn from this programme, especially how even small investments can have an inspiring knock-on effect so that many other, similar initiatives are likely to follow.

BPRI is a regional project funded by the European Union, supported by OSCE participating States and implemented by ODIHR. The project supports innovative programmes to promote greater Roma participation in political and public life and decision-making, help to combat discrimination and contribute to better living conditions.

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