For the past 30 years, the Open Society Foundations have been the main private champion of efforts to support Europe’s 12 million Roma communities. Over three decades, the Foundations have supported the fight for equality and the political participation of Europe's largest and most resilient minority group that still experiences the worst exclusion on ethnic grounds unacceptable in the 21st century.
Now a new stage begins, in which Open Society will increase its commitment to Roma-led advocacy and change by creating a new Europewide independent Roma-led foundation with a broad network of Roma-led entities. Under the leadership of Zeljko Jovanovic, currently the director of Open Society’s Roma Initiatives Office, this foundation will be the biggest European Roma foundation to date. The foundation, which will receive funding from the Open Society Foundations over a period of 10 years, will build upon and expand the legacy of the empowerment work done by the Open Society until now.
“I am proud to announce on International Roma Resistance Day that we are taking our long-term commitment to Roma to the next level,” said George Soros, founder, and chair of the Open Society Foundations.
“We will help to build a European Foundation led by Roma. This is a crucial next step in our investment in Roma leaders who are proud of their origin, dedicated to their communities, and able to respond to the challenges of our time. Our support for Roma is one of my Foundations’ activities that I am proudest of. We will seek to ensure the success of this foundation. I hope this promising effort will be supported by those who believe in a Europe of equality and justice for all.”
“We have been dreaming, hoping, and working hard towards this moment. After 30 years of the Roma programs within Open Society pioneering and developing Roma voices and leadership, now we are ready to build and lead a fully-fledged foundation, with a reach across various European countries”, said Jovanovic.
“Our goal is to build unprecedented Roma self-organization and political participation so that our voices are heard, and power is felt on behalf of justice and equality for all in Europe. This new foundation will build upon Open Society’s legacy and expand Roma leadership to be able to shape a better future for the Roma, for our countries, and for Europe.”
The new Roma foundation anticipates being fully operational and launched by October 2023. The foundation will build and grow its network of European Roma-led initiatives actively supported by Open Society and a range of other funders, including the Roma Education Fund (REF), the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC); the Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDI); and national Roma movements including Aresel in Romania, Opre Roma in Serbia, Kethane in Italy, Roma Standing Conference in Bulgaria, Avaja in North Macedonia, and others.