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Conflict lessons in Vilshany: the main thing is to develop a prevention strategy
Participants of the meeting at Kharkiv RSA Photo by Eastern Office of International Renaissance Foundation
Participants of the meeting at Kharkiv RSA

Joint action by government and civil society activists should be aimed at preventing such conflicts as shooting in Vilshany during which Roma were killed. This was the main message of the meeting held on June 2 in Kharkiv. 

Representatives of Kharkiv Regional State Administration met members of the Public Coordination Council on Roma Integration and the Director of Roma Program Initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation  Olga Zhmurko.

First of all human rights defenders stressed that the conflict in Vilshany, resulting in the Roma’s death, had signs of ethnic hatred. You cannot turn a blind eye to it, refer it to the category of domestic conflicts on the ground and say that there was no xenophobia in this case. The interaction of government and civil society activists is to be built so that primarily work on preventing conflicts of hate based on ethnicity was efficient.

The tragedy in Vilshany is only one the instances of the kind, which have recently been occurring in different regions of Ukraine with respect to the Roma community. In January 2017, in Kharkiv such a "hot spot" could have become Sheludkivka - a village in Zmiiv district, where locals were hostile to Roma families, threatened to evict them. Then the situation that could have end anti-Roma pogroms (as it was in August 2016 in the Odesa region) was extenuated through the intervention of human rights organizations. Participants discussed the need for cooperation between government and human rights activists. In particular, to socialize the Roma community to create the right messages through the media, which would generate in people an adequate attitude towards the Roma community, not fuel hate speech, as it unfortunately often happens. One of the proposals is to publish success stories about Roma people of the land. The Deputy Head of Mass Communications Igor Isaenko promised to support this initiative, engaging local media.

Representatives of the Public Coordinating Council also recalled the importance of socializing the Roma community, engaging it in social services.

Deputy Head of Kharkiv Regional State Administration Mykhailo Chernyak heard a proposal to create a coordinating council of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration and enter a position of an advisor to the governor on the Roma issues. A candidate is Mykola Burlutskyi, Chairman of the Coordinating Council, head of the NGO "Chachimo".

According to one of the participants of the meeting, the head of the Eastern Office of the International Renaissance Foundation  Olena Rasskazova, today on behalf of the Coordinating Council a letter with appropriate proposals addressed to the governor of Kharkiv region has been prepared. Both sides stressed: the need to create the proposed body is to be actually effective, but not formal.

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