Evaluation of key national Roma integration documents in Croatia

Apr 10, 2015

photo: undp croatia

The national Roma inclusion policy is the second national public policy ever evaluated in Croatia  

Zagreb, 10 April 2015 - Roma and representatives of key ministries discussed the findings of an independent midterm evaluation of the National Roma Inclusion Strategy 2013 to 2020 (NRIS) and the related Action Plan (AP) 2013 to 2015.

The evaluation looked into the conceptual consistency of various aspects of strategy and action plan, data availability for impact indicators setting and effectiveness of implementing architecture. This is the second national public policy evaluated in Croatia (after the AIDS/HIV Prevention National Strategy 2005-2010) and is a key step towards the use of evaluation as a tool for evidence-based policy making in Croatian public policy governance.

Participatory approach to the evaluation meant that evaluators interacted with more than 100 interlocutors, involving in discussions Roma from different Croatian regions, most of whom rarely participate in the policy making process.

This made possible to get grassroots views about progress towards achievement of a strategic overall goal “to improve the status of the Roma minority in the Republic of Croatia by reducing the multi-dimensional socioeconomic chasm between the Roma and the remaining population and by harmoniously, openly and transparently achieving the full inclusion of the Roma in all segments of society and the community”.

The findings show that themes that the Croatian strategy and the Action Plan cover are “broader than that of the respective documents adopted in most countries participating in the Decade of Roma Inclusion. The clear distinction is attention placed on gender equality and monitoring and evaluation,” said Eben Friedman, evaluation team leader. “However, we recommend a partial revision of the National Roma Inclusion Strategy as well as a different design for the Action Plan for 2016-2018”.

The analysis exposed some shortcomings in conceptual links between overall objectives in the Strategy and interventions to be implemented in the Action Plan.

One example of disconnect between aspiration and actions taken refers to the objective of de-segregation while interventions refer to the improvement of the quality of infrastructure and living conditions in Roma settlements. 

How much progress has been made in crucial areas? 

When assessing achievements in education, employment, health and housing, four crucial thematic areas, education is singled out as making most of the progress. Not only because year on year until 2013 there was an increase of children enrolled in primary schools, but also because there is a system for data collection in place and functioning.

Still, there is an ample of room to improve indicators in this and even more so, in other thematic areas, ensuring that they allow assessment of how implementation of interventions change lives of Roma (rather than only assessment of the degree to which measures were implemented). Qualitative data, analysis of different interactions, practices and process at the local level are missing and identified as crucial to show us what processes support inclusion.

Evaluators also singled out that the health sector plans to introduce “health mediators”. Recruited from Roma community health mediators would provide direct support to Roma community in accessing health services. However, the AP also mentions “mediators” in the social care sector who are meant to work in close connections with Centers for Social Welfare.

This is an addition to an already existing system of the Roma teaching assistants in the education system, who also provide some sort of mediation between Roma pupils and their parents and school authorities. Evaluators recommended to review the concept of mediation in order to avoid a single sector approach to multidimensional aspects of exclusion, as well as to consider the mediation as a time bound measure. 

The importance of the EU funding for further Roma inclusion 

Another important priority is the need to expand organizational capacities and project management competencies of Romani civil society organizations enabling their access to EU funding. Evaluators recommend this support to be provided by non-Romani organizations through the European Social Fund, by the Office for Cooperation with NGOs, and the information units of ministries who participate in the operational structure implementing EU funds. 

“Lessons learnt from this evaluation will immediately have a concrete impact, especially by serving as a starting point for the design of the new Action Plan”, ensured Sejfić Bahrija, Deputy Director of the Croatian Government Office for Human Rights and Rights of National minorities. 

The recommendations of this evaluation process will also be useful for UNDP’s new project “Better together for Roma in Croatia - Area Based Approach for Roma Inclusion at Local Level (Local Roma SI)” financed by the EEA and Norway Grants* and administrated in Croatia by the National Foundation for Civil Society Development.

*EEA and Norway Grants

Through the EEA Grants and Norway Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway contribute to reducing social and economic disparities and to strengthening bilateral relations with the beneficiary countries in Europe. The three countries cooperate closely with the EU through the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA).For the period 2009-14, the EEA Grants and Norway Grants amount to €1.79 billion. Norway contributes around 97% of the total funding. Grants are available for NGOs, research and academic institutions, and the public and private sectors in the 12 newest EU member states, Greece, Portugal and Spain. There is broad cooperation with donor state entities, and activities may be implemented until 2016. Key areas of support are environmental protection and climate change, research and scholarships, civil society, health and children, gender equality, justice and cultural heritage.