Although Roma is the biggest minority in Bulgaria, with more than 10% of the total population (or more than 800,000 people.); they still remain underrepresented within institutions, the government and political parties. The latter does not perceive Roma integration as a priority and hardly promotes Roma integration activities. This is why advocacy campaigns organized by civil society organizations are the most effective way to achieve the implementation of Roma integration activities and the empowerment to the Roma community in Bulgaria nowadays.
At the moment, Center Amalipe is the most active Roma advocacy organization that organizes the following activities for advocacy and empowerment:
· Civil society mobilization: Amalipe has initiated action plans to establish a network for Roma advocacy organizations and for preparing a common advocacy agenda. More than 90 Roma NGOs, CBOs (Community-Based Organizations) and informal groups have been reached and included in civil society mobilization actions that compose nearly all working Roma organizations. This constitutes the basis for common successful advocacy campaigns.
· Organizing advocacy campaigns: Several successful advocacy campaigns have been carried out: campaign for binding European funds with Roma integration, health advocacy campaign, campaign for including Roma observers in the Monitoring Committees of European funds structures in Bulgaria, education advocacy campaign, and so on. They have achieved significant results for the entire Roma community. For example, all the necessary protocols to allocate the resources from European funds for Roma integration have been established, and so forth. They also made the advocacy perspective viable and powerful for the Roma civil society;
· Establishing advocacy structures: Center Amalipe has initiated advocacy structures within the Roma movement: Roma NGO observers in the Monitoring committees of National Strategic Reference Framework, Human Resources Development OP, and Phare Program were elected after an official procedure and achieved official status. In addition, the practice for using the existing consultative structures (such as: The National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Demographic Issues) for advocacy purposes was also promoted. By establishing advocacy structures it made the advocacy perspective sustainable.
· Sharing experience: Through trainings and workshops, Center Amalipe shares its advocacy experience with the other organizations.Thus, it provides technical assistance for organizing advocacy campaigns -in part with the support of Amalipe- to the partnering organizations within the Roma movement.
As an outcome of the above actions the following results have been achieved:
- There are informal networks of Roma NGOs and CBOs all over the country and set policies for establishing strong Roma advocacy coalitions. More than 50 independent Roma organizations have taken par in several common advocacy campaigns managed by Center Amalipe. This has shaped the basis of a strong advocacy coalition;
- Significant results for the entire Roma community have been achieved as a result of the advocacy campaigns: European funds absorption was binded with Roma integration and significant financial amounts were dedicated for Roma integration activities (for thefirst time in Bulgarian); Roma observers were included in the Monitoring Committees of 4 Operational Programs. National Strategic Reference Framework and Phare program andConsultative Council for Roma Health Integration was established. Tthe job position of Roma health mediators was financed by the state budget of 2009; and so on.
- Roma advocacy structures have been established: The role of “Observer Elected by Roma Organizations” was legitimized within the Monitoring Committees of Human Resources Development OP, Phare program and National Strategic Reference Framework. Working group of the Roma NGO experts included in the Monitoring Committees of European fund structures was established; and so on.
- Roma organizations have begun permanent advocacy “pressure” and dialogue with state institutions for the fostering of Roma integration: Roma NGOs started to use the official consultative bodies for influencing and requiring state institutions to implement Roma integration activities. Although, this process is not completed, it seems to have provided significant outcomes.