Inequality – a Common Priority

“The culture of the Roma people is very rich, it just needs to be portrayed in the right way. The knowledge and experience I gained in the past six months will help me present it through film, music and other areas of contemporary creativity,” - Tomislav Jovanović, Roma UN Volunteer at the Serbian Ministry of Culture and Information

30 Roma UNVs were selected to link Roma communities and public institutions in their municipalities

A stocktaking of the MDGs, and the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, showed that the world halved levels of extreme poverty, but the eradication of poverty until 2030 requires concomitant action on inequality. The dedicated SDG 10 calls for the empowerment and social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.

In Serbia, UNDP has had disadvantaged and marginalised communities in the scope of its work for many years. The current programme has a range of initiatives addressing the needs of Roma, people with disabilities, vulnerable women, the LGBTI community, people living with HIV and the unemployed. Projects are funded by the Austrian Development Agency, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Turkey. It is an area of close joint action, policy support and advocacy with other UN agencies, think-tanks and civil society organisations.

In 2017, UNDP carried out the fourth round of its regional survey on the socio-economic position of marginalised Roma1 in the Western Balkans, with the support of the European Commission and in cooperation with the World Bank. The survey contributed to filling the gaps in the availability of data needed to monitor and inform socio-economic policies for Roma inclusion. According to the data, the most alarming situation in Serbia is that of the Roma on the labour market: just over a fifth of Roma citizens aged 15 to 64 were employed in 2017, while only a third participated in the Serbian labour market. The employment rate of Roma women was even lower, standing at just nine per cent. Rates of NEET [Not in Education, Employment or Training] among young (18-24) Roma are very high, at 73 per cent (88 per cent for women).

In 2018, UNDP supported the Centre for Social Policy (CSP) in launching a regional dialogue on the Welfare State in the Western Balkans. CSP also prepared a Human Development Paper for Serbia, focusing on inequality. UNDP also supported the Centre for Public Policy Research in organising the first conference in Serbia focusing on the Future of Work. In 2018, UNDP worked with a group of researchers in an experiment to assess the universal basic income’s approach in the context of welfare system reform.

In partnership with UNHCR, UNDP helped 30 young Roma become young UN volunteers. After a period of training, they were engaged in local institutions in 24 municipalities and cities where they live, in order to influence social and political processes relevant for Roma inclusion and advocate for the interests of the Roma community.

UNDP is a partner in a joint UN project with the UN Human Rights Team, UNFPA, UN Women and ILO, focused on ensuring autonomy, giving a voice to and stimulating the active participation of persons with disabilities (PwD) in social life and the labour market. To date, 79 PwDs have learned about their rights, the legal framework and practises regarding PwD employment, as well as how to advocate for their interests.