National Roma Policy 2018–2022 (ROMPO2)
The primary objective of Finland’s National Roma Policy for 2018–2022 (ROMPO2) is to support the progress seen in the societal integration of Roma and positive development in Roma linguistic, cultural and social rights. The policy programme is based on the premise that Finland’s current legislation and comprehensive service system provide a good foundation for the promotion of the inclusion and equality of the Roma population.
The most important guarantees for quality and successful implementation are the active approach and commitment of the Roma population and the various organisations and authorities, as well as the creation of various collaboration structures between these actors. The results and their sustainability are linked to the efficiency of mainstreaming actions, the effectiveness of fixed-term and targeted development measures and the success of measures to establish them.
The National Roma Policy sets out a number of good practices described in broader detail at the end of the policy document.
The National Roma Policy comprises eight policy guidelines which seek to reinforce Roma access to education and training in all forms and at all levels, promote occupational competences and strengthen labour market integration, promote the equal treatment of the Roma and eliminate discrimination, preserve the Romani language and Roma art and culture, and empower the Roma and develop international work on Roma issues. For the achievement of these objectives, the Policy puts forward concrete actions and designates the parties responsible for them.
Education and training
The needs of Roma children and youth must be catered for in early childhood education and care (ECEC), student counselling and pastoral care in order to reinforce Roma access to education and training. Providing training to ECEC and basic education staff and enhancing their knowledge of the Roma population are crucial to the achievement of this objective, and teaching staff in collaboration with homes should reinforce the identity of Roma pupils and their awareness of their history and culture.
Most of the post-basic education of Roma takes place at vocational institutions. More than one-third of adult Roma have a vocational qualification, whereas very few have completed general upper secondary education. Roma vocational students often experience discrimination when looking for on-the-job learning positions, and the providers of vocational education and training as well as employers should therefore identify the impacts of Roma discrimination as a barrier to education, training and employment access. They should also increase the efficiency of their student support measures improving access to education and training-related on-the-job training, vocational learning taking place in the workplace and apprenticeship training positions. More favourable attitudes towards general upper secondary education among the Roma population will be built in cooperation with Roma organisations, for example by inviting Roma who have completed general upper secondary school to appear as peer speakers at events. In basic education study guidance, general upper secondary education should be discussed as an option for Roma youth while at higher education institutions, mentoring programmes geared to Roma have proven effective.
The starting positions of Roma jobseekers vary a great deal as regards barriers to and capacities for access to employment. While some of those in the poorest labour market position require support to improve their transferable skills and vocational competence, even well-educated Roma may encounter discrimination both in job-seeking and in the workplace. Individual support to Roma customers, for example by increasing the efficiency of labour market services’ standard support and guidance services and by identifying service needs, is required to strengthen the labour market integration of Roma. Roma employment may also be enhanced by viewing Roma as potential entrepreneurs and providing them with targeted training and counselling in entrepreneurship.
Discrimination against Roma in the job market may be prevented by developing non-discriminating recruitment and working life practices as well as by drawing attention to employment discrimination experienced by Roma. In many places, project activities of Roma organisations and other CSOs as well as rehabilitating work activities play a major support role in boosting Roma employment and in encouraging and empowering customer work.
The Roma experience that the amount of hate speech and Romaphobia encountered by them has increased. Combating discrimination and promoting equal treatment are indeed cross-cutting objectives of the National Roma Policy. High-quality human rights and citizenship education is an excellent way of promoting equal treatment, and children should have the opportunity to gain knowledge and positive experiences of Roma culture from a very early age. Other approaches include inclusion and consultation of Roma in equality planning and the dissemination of proven equality plan elements. The annual monitoring of hate crimes against Roma and reporting these crimes and their punishments in the news are also effective tools for combating discrimination.
The Roma population may also be subjected to multiple discrimination, i.e. be discriminated against for more than one reason. Not only Roma origin but also e.g. disability or sexual orientation may be used as grounds for discrimination. According to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, Roma women experience more discrimination in their everyday lives than Roma men. The Advisory Boards on Romani Affairs and Roma organisations are committed to promoting gender equality, and this commitment must be visible in all activities from planning through to action and aims.
The extent of housing problems among Roma is encountered on a daily basis in the work of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman and Roma organisations even though the housing conditions of the Roma population have improved over the years. The majority of complaints made by Roma to the Office of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman relate specifically to housing. Roma mainly live in state-subsidised rental homes, as it is difficult for them to access housing in the private rental market due to their poor financial status and prejudices against them. Community mediation and social housing management may be used to solve housing-related problems. One of the good practices in this area is to train volunteer Roma mediators. Providing information about resident selection and housing advice practice that are in compliance with legislation and good governance and take cultural characteristics into account helps prevent discrimination against the Roma population in the housing market. The authorities are duty-bound to address internal housing discrimination within the Roma population. In many municipalities, measures promoting internal non-discrimination and equality as regards the choice of place of residence in the Roma population are required.
Compared with many other minorities and special groups, the situation of the Roma population as users of health and social services is comparatively unexplored in research. In prenatal and child clinic and family services, for example, ensuring service quality may require that professionals in the various service sectors have more specific knowledge of Roma culture and the living conditions of the Roma community, a culture-sensitive working approach and customer-driven service design. Constructive cooperation between the Roma population and those responsible for service development is vital to enhancing service quality. There are several information provision, cooperation, cultural interpretation, feedback, evaluation and appeal methods that can be utilised in this.
Language and culture reinforcement
Under the Constitution of Finland, Roma have the right to maintain and develop their own language and culture. The Northern Romani dialect (Finnish Kalo) spoken in Finland is a severely endangered language and urgent actions are required for its revitalisation. Since only a minority of Finland’s Roma speak the Romani language and the majority only speak it passably, municipalities are faced with a challenge in locating an adequate number of students for Romani language programmes or qualified teachers to run the programmes. Distance teaching may provide a way to address such challenges. Incorporating Romani language content into leisure time camp activities, cultural events and parish life for Roma families, children, youth and older people helps to keep the language alive.
The University of Helsinki offers basic and intermediate studies in the Romani language and culture. Access to these studies, having a scope of 60 ECTS credits, is possible either through open university or a separate admissions procedure.
Apart from Roma music, relatively little research has been conducted on Roma culture and art. The proposals for action concerning Roma art and culture are primarily based on the idea of ensuring availability and accessibility of and inclusion in arts and cultural services among the ordinary Roma population. Roma would also like to present Roma culture to other population groups at various art and cultural institutions. Therefore opportunities for art and cultural leisure activities must be improved and artistically talented Roma children and youth must be supported and encouraged in contexts such as basic education in arts. Roma access to general arts and cultural services should be promoted through a variety of means, which in turn necessitates an understanding of the barriers to Roma participation and knowledge of their interests.
The Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE produces the weekly Romani Mirits radio programme which includes news in the Romani language.
Empowerment of Roma organisations
A key objective of the National Roma Policy is to include and activate Roma to advocate locally on their own issues as well as to act at the regional and civil society organisation (CSO) levels. The aim is to create new avenues of influence for Roma in matters concerning them. Societal empowerment is manifested in active citizenship and participation of Roma of various ages in general-interest activities benefitting the entire society, such as CSO work, and visible as a commitment to advancing matters relating to one’s own community through means including civic engagement or politics. A case in point is the establishment of the Roma Youth Council in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area in 2015.
More and more local and regional Roma organisations have been established across Finland since the turn of the century, and CSO activities hold vast potential for accomplishing integration and promoting active citizenship. Many Roma organisations engage in valuable work in joint cooperation with municipalities and other third-sector actors. Roma organisations should be able to boost their membership and increase their mutual cooperation in order to maintain these valuable accomplishments.
Developing regional, local and international work on Roma issues
In the same way as with the National Advisory Board on Romani Affairs, the purpose of Regional Advisory Boards on Romani Affairs is to promote opportunities for societal participation and financial, social and cultural living conditions among the Roma population. They are cross-administrative cooperation bodies for the authorities and the Roma population. At the core of their work lies profound knowledge of the local Roma community, which calls for good cooperation networks and outreach work. In many localities, well-established cooperation relating to local work on Roma issues has already taken place between the Roma population and the authorities. Official Local Roma Working Groups appointed by a Regional Advisory Board on Romani Affairs or on the basis of local resident’s initiatives have operated around the country since 2002. The starting point for local work on Roma issues is that it is practically oriented and meaningful for the local Roma population and that it develops their participation opportunities as developers of their own living conditions. Active provision of information and continuous dialogue between the authorities and Roma aimed at eliminating prejudices and stereotypes is particularly important in terms of promoting non-discrimination.
A guide has been prepared to support the local implementation of the National Roma Policy. The MAARO Guide is intended for local and regional actors to support the local implementation of the National Roma Policy (ROMPO2) for 2018–2022. While the policy guidelines of the MAARO Guide and the actions included in the guidelines are based on the National Roma Policy, their implementation should reflect the wishes and needs of the Roma population as well as the existing service structure in each area. The Roma population is internally heterogeneous and consequently the viewpoints of Roma of different ages and from different localities, for example, must be taken into account in order for equality and inclusion within the group to be guaranteed. The aim is to set for each MAARO Programme, as part of general indicator-based monitoring, county- and/or municipality-specific monitoring indicators on the basis of which programme implementation is monitored.
The Guide sets out the actions assigned to the local actors in the National Roma Policy and concludes with instructions on projectisation and a listing of potential project funding sources.
Finland is one of the leading political and financial supporters of the European policy on Roma. Finland’s international Roma policy emphasises both the improvement of social conditions and the equal rights and inclusion of Roma. Finland’s guiding principle and message has been that Roma and Roma organisations must be consulted with regard to European organisations’ policies on Roma. The focal areas of Finland’s European policy on Roma are strengthening the fundamental and human rights perspective as part of European policy on Roma, eliminating barriers to access to employment among Roma, utilising digitalisation, technology and social innovations for increased inclusion of Roma, strengthening Roma policy and access to influence among Roma, empowering Roma women and supporting self-motivated activities at all levels.
Finland's National Roma Policy (2018-2022) is now available in English. Below you can find a permanent link.
The MAARO-guide is intened for local and regional actors to support the local implementation of the National Roma Policy. Below you can find a permanent link to the guide.