UNDP helps Roma in Međimurje County apply for EU funding

Feb 12, 2014

PHOTO: workshop in Međimurje County/UNDP

Improving the living conditions of Roma communities is a priority for the European Union (EU), yet Roma organizations in Croatia have traditionally fared poorly in competing for EU funds. Now the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is hoping to change this by providing direct training and coaching to Roma non-governmental organizations on formulating and applying for projects.

The initiative is part of a broader UNDP project that is designed to further the social inclusion of Roma in Međimurje County. It is funded by the Open Society Foundations (OSF).

The pool of development funding available to Croatia has expanded dramatically since the country joined the EU in July 2013: EUR 8 billion in structural and cohesion funds have been budgeted for the 2014-2020 period. Yet these funds remain mostly out of the reach of Roma organizations. Only four Roma organisations have participated in the implementation of projects financed from Instrument for Pre-accession (IPA) funding – two organisations as applicants and two as partners, according to research conducted by the Vukovar Center for Peace, Legal Advice, and Psychosocial Assistance (an organisation currently implementing a "Project Generation Facility" project, also with OSF funding). This low rate of success stems in part from the inability of Roma NGOs to demonstrate that they have sufficient financial capacity and that they were not previously applicants of EU projects.

UNDP’s support is designed to provide Roma NGOs with the tools they need to apply for EU funding. A series of workshops begun in September 2013 have taken participants step-by-step through all aspects of project writing. The learning method is practical and covers all basic aspects of developing projects, such as creating e-mail addresses for the organisations, downloading application forms from donors’ websites, filling out application forms section by section, sending the completed applications by mail and e-mail to donors. Participants work on real-world project examples with modest budgets.

"I love those workshops because we write concrete projects,” said a workshop participant who belongs to a Roma organisation in Međimurje County. “I hope we will finally get some financial support for our work in the field because we are the ones who know best the real problems of the Roma population."

The ideas that Roma NGOs are pursuing through the project include enhancing the area surrounding a source of drinking water in the Lončarevo Roma settlement, to the construction of a football field in Pribislavec, to the organisation of an exchange program for youths from Croatia, Slovenia and France. The groups involved hope to receive notice of the first grants for their projects in the first half of 2014.

While starting with smaller projects, UNDP is also encouraging Roma NGOs to partner with medium-sized EU projects so that a pathway can be built towards larger-scale initiatives that can make a real difference in addressing the challenges that Roma communities face in Croatia. The initiative is also designed to develop leadership skills. "In particular, we try to work with young, educated Roma who will be the Roma intellectual elite of tomorrow and can already play a major role in creating social changes," noted Milan Medić, an expert at community mobilization and the UNDP workshop leader.