on Ethnic Relations (PER) was founded in 1991 to encourage the
peaceful resolution of ethnic conflicts in the new democracies of Central
and Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation. It is sponsored by the Carnegie
Corporation of New York, with additional funding from the Starr Foundation,
the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Philip D. Reed Foundation. PER conducts
programs of action, education, research, and publication in Central and
Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation.
The Roma have had such a long, widespread, and controversial presence
in all of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as to warrant special
attention by the PER. It has devoted considerable resources to efforts
to improve their situation.
In May 1992, PER organized a meeting in Stupava (Bratislava), Czechoslovakia,
that brought together Roma leaders, organizers, and social workers from
Central and Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation with government officials
in the region. This meeting, the first of its kind, was co-sponsored by
the Czechoslovak federal government and the governments of the Czech and
Slovak republics, and dealt with the social and political status of the
Roma populations in the region and government policies toward them in the
post-Communist era. The meeting also included participants from the United
States, Great Britain, Germany, and Italy.
In April 1993, PER organized a second meeting between Roma leaders and
representatives of governments in the region. This meeting was held at
Snagov, near Bucharest, in cooperation with the Romanian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and several Roma organizations.
The results of these meetings and related initiatives are summarized
in two PER reports: The Romanies in Central and Eastern Europe: Illusions
and Reality (1992), and Countering Anti-Roma Violence in Eastern Europe:
The Snagov Conference and Related Efforts (1994).
To follow up on these two meetings, PER formed a Roma Advisory Council
(PERRAC). In February 1994, members of PERRAC, together with other specialists,
visited Romanian villages and cities where anti-Roma mob violence had occurred
or where a high potential for it existed. The team surveyed local Roma
residents and majority populations and then met with police chiefs and
prosecutors at the national and local levels to discuss patterns of ethnic
violence, evaluate preventive measures, and make practical recommendations
based upon their findings.
In April 1994, PER brought four leaders of Roma communities in Central
and Eastern Europe to Washington to testify at a hearing of the U.S. House
of Representatives on human-rights abuses against the Roma and to meet
with congressional personnel and with officials of the U.S. Department
PER works closely with the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE) on human-rights issues involving the Roma and has participated
in formulating policy recommendations. PER was a co-sponsor of the Council
of Europe planning session, held in Strasbourg, that preceded the September
1994 OSCE meeting in Warsaw on the Roma. PER staff have served as members
of official U.S. delegations to the OSCE's Human Dimension seminars on
the Roma and on other minorities issues.
PER supports studies of the Roma at the Romanian Academy Institute of
Sociology and the Center for Romani Studies and Social Action, and in May
1994 it co-sponsored, with the Romani Science and Art Association, a conference
held in Budapest on Romani culture.
PER also encourages the training of specialists on the Roma, and in
1994 it funded an internship at Greenwich University in London for the
study of Roma issues.
In Warsaw, PER supports an internship training program for young Roma
to work at the Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues (CPRSI) in the OSCE
Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. PER's executive director
serves on the CPRSI advisory council.