Following years of consultations and negotiations, the IHRA's 34 Member Countries adopted a non-legally binding working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination on 8 October 2020 during an extraordinary Heads of Delegation meeting.
The first time the IHRA has taken a decision between its biannual Plenary sessions, this decision represents an important contribution to the implementation of Article 4 of the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration. In it, Member and Liasion Countries pledge to “remember the genocide of the Roma [and] acknowledge with concern that the neglect of this genocide has contributed to the prejudice and discrimination that many Roma communities still experience today."
Developing a shared understanding on the key issue of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination
The working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination was the result not only of the knowledge of subject-matter experts and extensive consultations with Roma communities, but also in-depth negotiations on the diplomatic level. By bringing together experts, civil society and government representatives, the IHRA has been able to build a broader and stronger coalition to help address this issue.
Though non-legally binding, the IHRA’s decisions – because they are taken by consensus – represent a shared understanding among its 34 Member Countries on key issues. While each country’s situation is unique, the problem of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination is an international one and therefore requires an international response.
The IHRA's new working definition: A useful tool that was urgently needed
This tool will help guide the IHRA in its work in advancing education, remembrance and research on the genocide of Roma. It can also help educate and sensitize politicians, media, civil society and human rights organizations to the existence of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination. Of course, the working definition has the potential to not just be an educational tool, but also a practical one. It could also assist in helping better monitor and track such incidents also across countries, for example.
The adoption of the working definition, a priority of the German Presidency, had been made all the more urgent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen a surge in anti-Roma sentiment. If the need to raise awareness of this worrying phenomenon had not been clear before, the pandemic had made it undeniable.
The IHRA’s working definition is thought of first and foremost as a tool that can help the IHRA – and whoever else would like to use it – in identifying antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination. After all, problems that can be identified are much harder to ignore.
"I am delighted that we have taken collective action today to confront this evil," IHRA Chair Ambassador Michaela Küchler said. "Our working definition will provide us with an important tool to address the rising tide of anti-Roma sentiment and safeguard the historical record of the crimes committed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators."
An essential piece of the puzzle, the working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination is a tool that can be used – together with many others – to help raise awareness around this issue and to help combat it.