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All together, all equal

10 April 2008

MRG’s Media Officer, Emma Eastwood, is in Budapest for an MRG Europe seminar on the rights-based approach to international development

I’ve finally escaped the MRG office in London and am holed up in the Buda hills with NGOs and journalists from the new EU member states.

The venue couldn’t have been better placed for those of us new to Hungary, Budapest spreads out as far as the eye can see below our eyrie in the Council of Europe Youth Centre. Dominating the view is the gothic National Parliament building on the banks of the Danube, resplendent in the spring sunshine.

My role at the seminar is multi-faceted – I’m here to learn more about human rights and development, the work of the NGOs present and all importantly to build relationships with journalists from the new EU member states. At the same time I’ll also be giving an online demo of the new MRG World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples and will run a workshop on harnessing the power of the media for advocacy.

My covert mission however is to seek stories that bring the work of MRG to life and my eyes and ears are open for news ‘angles’. Tales of discrimination against Roma in this part of Europe abound… We’re meant to be looking at development in the South, yet many of the NGOs from this region are rightly focusing on their own neighbours – a 2003 report by UNDP found that Roma living conditions in central and eastern Europe were comparable to sub-Saharan Africa. Viera from the Slovakian NGO Center for the Support and Development of Human Potential illustrates the point when she tells me about over-crowding and lack of even the most basic amenities in what is effectively a Roma ghetto in the town of Kosice. Apparently the neighbourhood, called Lumik IX, appears in a gritty film about migration in central Europe called ‘Import Export’ by Austrian director Ulrich Seidl if anyone wants to check it out.

I’ve come well armed for the job of documenting the proceedings – laptop, MP3 recorder, mic, headphones, camera, mobile phone. I battle with a bona fide spaghetti junction of cables in my room… My hope is to interview MRG partners from Kenya and Uganda who’ve come to the seminar to contextualise the theory with case studies from the front line of EU development projects.

We begin by delving deeper into the definitions of poverty and human rights and examine the motivations behind overseas development assistance (we’re a cynical lot I’m afraid, I won’t depress you with our answers). I look around and realise that the gender balance of the seminar is shockingly awry – out of 30 NGO participants and speakers only four are men – interestingly it’s a trend similarly reflected back at the MRG office in London. This is gender mainstreaming gone mad, what about the introduction of quotas I say…

Snjezana Bokulic

MRG’s SE Europe Programme Coordinator Snjezana Bokulic enlightening us all on UN mechanisms – I can’t help wishing that we could steal the Council of Europe’s slogan ‘all different, all equal’ – it embodies the protection of minority rights in just a few words compared to our tongue-twister of a mission statement (and maybe that way journalists would stop thinking I was calling them about a shareholders’ story).

This article reflects the sole opinion of its author and does not engage MRG’s responsibility.