Over the last 10 years, and in the course of several Roma integration programmes, a new function or rather a professional role has emerged: the Roma mediator – a professional involved in various fields (in particular the areas of Roma integration, education, health care, employment, and residence). In this article, Éva Deák, from the Partners Hungary Foundation, provides an overview on the link between social groups, different cultures, and about results and successes in understanding and manage social conflict.
Roma mediators are experts in equal opportunity, who in the course of mediation between Roma communities and various institutions, facilitate the availability of public services – mainly those of education, health care and labour market – for the Roma. They do this by encouraging interaction between, and providing information for, the Roma communities and the societies where they live, as well as by managing conflicts effectively.
As opposed to some European countries, in Hungary the profession of Roma mediators does not exist. Yet there are experts of equal opportunities who in the course of their work fulfil the functions mentioned above. Although with different names (Roma nurse, Roma pedagogy assistant, Roma janitor, family coordinator, opportunity improvement coordinator, family mentor), the functions played by these mediators have several elements in common.
European Outlook . International programmes
The Roma mediators played a key role in the programme entitled ‘A Good Start’ (2010-2012), carried out by the Roma Education Fund in Macedonia, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania with the support of the Regional Directorate of the European Commission.
According to the ROMED – the joint Council of Europe: EU programme for Roma mediators – there are several differences among particular countries concerning: the needs and circumstances of the Roma communities; the terminology in use; how much the work of intercultural mediators is exploited; and what qualification people who are trained to fulfil these tasks originally had.
The Council of Europe High Level Meeting on Roma on 20 October 2010 adopted the “The Strasbourg Declaration on Roma” which lays down “ the European Training Programme for Roma Mediators with the aim to streamline, codify and consolidate the existing training programmes for and about Mediators for Roma, through the most effective use of existing Council of Europe resources, standards, methodology, networks and infrastructure, notably the European Youth Centres in Strasbourg and Budapest, in close co operation with national and local authorities.”
Furthermore, the European Commission assessed the national Roma strategies and published its conclusions “National Roma Integration Strategies: a first step in the implementation of the EU Framework” in which it underlined that Several Member States have already put in place or are considering programmes involving qualified Roma as mediators for improving access to healthcare. These are very welcome initiatives. However, such measures need to be supplemented by other actions to have a significant impact on the health gap between Roma and the rest of the population.
Functions and Tasks of Intercultural Mediators –similarities and differences
Creating relationships based on trust and honest communication with the representatives of the parties ;
- Striving to understand the situation, to mirror the different viewpoints of the parties, and the basis of their opinion, feelings, attitudes and actions;
- creating contact between parties by ensuring effective communication
- reinforcing and/or making communication and relationships easier between Roma communities and public institutions of health care, education and labour.
Main characteristic of Mediators’ Training
Communication: The means and options of persuasion of communication with the families; the establishment and continuous improvement of the structure and instruments of communication within the project.
- Conflict management
- Recognition and treatment of prejudice
- Improving cooperation
- Good assessment capabilities
- Sharing experience and good practices
Conclusions and Recommendations
– It would be worthwhile to carry out concise scientific research and create an unified system on the basis of the research for assessing and measuring mediatory work.
– One of the basic questions in connection with establishing the profession as an independent mediator is whether training could be incorporated in the Hungarian education system
– Another basic question revolves around the systematic aid of employment.
Together for Better Health for us, by us is a consortium of four non-government organizations – National Network of Health Mediators, Partners Hungary, OvidiuRo Association, and Association for Culture, Education and Communication – working to improve access to healthcare for socially excluded Roma communities in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Over five million Roma people living in Europe lack basic services such as clean drinking water, sanitation, and healthcare. More information about the “Together for us, by us” Established in 2011 with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the three-year programme seeks to address some of the gaps in these basic services.