Governments and their officials play a key role in understanding the gravity of distortion and in implementing programs that counter this phenomenon. For this to be successful, it requires a whole-of-society approach; the public must be made aware of distortion and support these efforts in their own capacity. With this in mind, in order to increase the capacity of governments in parts of Southeastern Europe to counter distortion of the genocide of the Roma, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (formerly Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation) organized the program “Countering Distortion through Governmental Action: Building the Capacity of Government Actors for Promoting and Protecting the Civil and Human Rights of Roma” in mid- October 2019. The regional training seminar was held in Bucharest, Romania, and welcomed 20 participants from across Southeastern Europe. The instructors had a deep understanding of Roma subjects and the particularities of the region, and included academics, Roma activists, peace workers, representatives of the European Council, and policy advisers
As a whole, the project looked to foster the knowledge and practical competencies among participants that is required to: 1) understand genocide and other mass atrocities, as well as the processes by which they occur; 2) recognize and end identity-based violence; 3) counter distortion and protect the human rights of Roma; and 4) identify the role of government actors and members of civil society in ending identity-based discrimination and violence against Roma, through actions taken at national and regional levels.
By giving participants the space to share experiences and prevention focused practices, they were able to identify common patterns of distortion of the history and of discrimination faced by Roma in their respective countries, reevaluate their own role and capacity to prevent identity-based violence, and exchange ideas and best practices for improving national-level strategies to protect Roma communities.