A 11 Initiative discussed the displacement of Roma families with the president of the EBRD

Together with other civil society organizations from Serbia, representatives of Initiative A 11 participated in a meeting with Odile Renaud-Basso, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), held on July 8 2024 in Belgrade.

During the meeting, representatives of Initiative A 11 pointed out that within projects supported financially by the EBRD involving green transition, individual waste collectors are not sufficiently recognized as stakeholders with the knowledge, skills, and experiences that could be valuable for their inclusion in these processes.

It was emphasized that these projects often lead to a loss of income sources for waste collectors, who then often become dependent on minimal welfare payments that do not meet their basic needs.

A 11 Initiative reminded that there are estimately between 40,000 and 50,000 individual waste collectors in Serbia, majority of whom are Roma individuals. While the Waste Management Law recognizes individual waste collectors as individuals collecting non-hazardous waste, the existing legal framework does not provide adequate solutions for regulating their employment status.

In addition to insecure, extremely harsh and unsafe working conditions, waste collectors also face criminalization of their work. The Law on Communal Activities, as well as local communal activity regulations in many cities and municipalities in Serbia, penalize the collection and storage of secondary raw materials, with fines ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 dinars for such offenses.

A 11 Initiative also highlighted that the Belgrade Solid Waste PPP project, which includes the construction of an incinerator and the remediation of the Vinča landfill, supported by an EBRD loan in 2018, led to the displacement of 17 Roma families who lived and worked at the landfill. Despite a complaint to the EBRD’s Independent Project Accountability Mechanism (IPAM) and mediation conducted as part of the problem-solving process, which was concluded a year ago with an agreement among all parties involved, displaced families still face difficulties in restoring their sources of income and accessing adequate housing.

During the meeting, the EBRD President emphasized that the bank will continue to closely monitor the implementation of the reached agreement.

Furthermore, representatives of Initiative A 11 took the opportunity to point out that the political assessment of the EBRD’s strategy for Serbia for the period 2023-2028 notably excludes economic and social rights, which are also integral to human rights. Respect for the rights to work, education, health and social protection, and adequate housing are crucial for reducing inequalities, poverty, and social exclusion, and for creating an inclusive society based on values of social justice.

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