REF Operational Guidelines

In July 2003, the first high-level regional conference on Roma entitled “Roma in an Expanding Europe: Challenges for the Future” was held in Budapest, Hungary. Countries participating in the conference were Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovakia. The conference was co-financed by the World Bank (WB), the Open Society Institute (OSI), the European Commission, UNDP, the Council of Europe Development Bank, and the governments of Hungary, Finland and Sweden. These eight participating countries, represented by their prime ministers and other senior government officials, resolved to establish:

  • the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 during which countries would focus on reducing disparities in key economic and human development outcomes for Roma;
  • an international Roma Education Fund. The Decade countries have also developed their individual action plans for the inclusion of Roma in their society.

In December 2004, an international donor conference was held in Paris which marked the establishment of the REF. A total of approximately 34 million Euro was pledged for the period 2005-2015 from 8 bilateral donors (Canada, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Switzerland, Sweden and the UK), private foundations and multilateral agencies (Open Society Institute, Council of Europe Development Bank, World Bank and the Network of European Foundation). On May 12, 2005, the REF was registered as a Swiss Foundation and started operation with its office in Budapest. On February 17, 2006, the REF was also registered as a Hungarian foundation. Both the Swiss and the Hungarian foundations have their own distinct Board of Directors composed of representatives from international organizations and non-governmental organizations. The Swiss foundation approves and funds REF grants, while the Hungarian foundation is responsible for the REF head office and for financing selected projects in European Union countries.

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