Policy Memo 73, Authors: Alexandra Toderita, Alexandru Damian, Oana Ganea, Contributor: Maria Balea
In Romania, rural poverty often overlaps with areas with sizeable Roma communities. Since 63% of the individuals who declared themselves as Roma ethnics in the 2011 census live in rural areas, almost half of the marginalised rural areas are inhabited by Roma communities.
The social exclusion of Roma and of vulnerable groups, in general, has been approached too often through simplistic interventions, without a profound assessment of the local context, the specific needs and the potential of these communities. The European Funds for Agriculture and Rural Development 2014-2020 have the potential to change this paradigm, through a bottom-up approach – community-led local development (DLRC).
It is implemented by Local Action Groups (the LEADER axis in the National Rural Development Programme), which, in the current programming period have included among their priorities the socio-economic inclusion of vulnerable groups.
This report is based on research that was set out to analyse (1) first of all, whether or not the existing funds for rural development are aimed at promoting social inclusion and reducing poverty in vulnerable groups and how these funds are designed to achieve this, and, secondly, (2) the extent to which these objectives have been achieved halfway through the programming period. Lastly, (3) it focuses on the stories, needs and proposals of the stakeholders and it makes recommendations – both in terms of content of the measures and in terms of architecture and implementation mechanisms of the funds.
The conclusions are not too encouraging: while, at macro level, the intentions of the LEADER programme were and are good, of the 239 LAGs currently in existence, 130 included social infrastructure measures in the Local Development Strategies (LDS), and 106 had a social measure combined with actions targeting minority groups (mostly, Roma) – totalling € 49 million – halfway through the programming period, none of this money has actually been spent according to the planning.
The main reason for that is the lack of consistency and correlation between the NRDP and the measure in the Operational Programme (OP) “Human Capital” which is supposed to operationalise, in terms of services, what is carried out through the rural development funds, to “give life” to the infrastructure built or rehabilitated through them. The report examines technical elements that describe this bottleneck, problems faced by relevant stakeholders – lack of organisational capacity, financial issues and, sometimes, lack of vision on behalf of the NGOs working with vulnerable groups – and it proposes exploring an alternative architecture for the integrated local development funds beyond 2020.
Moreover, the report includes an extensive compendium of best practices and successful projects in this field in other European countries, which can serve as role models for Romania. The allocation of special funds aimed at building the capacity of organizations representing vulnerable groups to access dedicated European funds, cooperative development programmes and other social businesses, social farms, mediation, counselling and 1-on-1 training to facilitate access to the labour market for disadvantaged young people – these are just a few of the examples presented in Chapter 3.
The full version of the report, in English, can be found here.