Webster Vienna and ACUNS Collaborate in Panel Discussion on Campus

On September 6th 2016, the Academic Council of the United Nations System (ACUNS) Vienna Liaison organized a panel discussion, which was hosted by Webster Vienna Private University on “Youth Combatting Discrimination and Prejudice on the Grounds of Ethnicity and Religion”. The discussion was chaired by Dr. Franco Algieri, the Head of the International Relations Department at Webster Vienna. The panelists that participated in this discussion were: HE Ol’ga Algayerova, the Head of the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the International Organizations in Vienna, as well as Ms. Sheena Keller, Research Officer in the Equality and Citizens’ Rights Department at the Fundamental Rights Agency, Ms. Irina Spataru, from the Romano Centro, Dr. Alexander Karakas, the founder of “Not in God’s Name” and Co-Founder of “Trialog-Respect Now” as well as Ms. Veronika Bezinsky from the Academic Council of the United Nations System Vienna Liaison. The panelists presented their work with minorities and discussed their projects on addressing the issues that minority groups in Europe face today.

One minority that was discussed in particular during the event was the ethnic group, Roma. Ms. Sheena Keller presented the work of the Fundamental Rights Agency covering Roma and Roma youth – the situation of Roma in the EU, projects on local level concerning the engagement and participation on inclusion and integration as well as examples of working with Roma youth. She also mentioned the Roma Internship Program of the FRA, in which young Roma students and professionals are encouraged to engage in the Agency’s work on projects concerning Roma communities around the EU.

Ms. Spataru, a Romani woman that came to Austria at a young age, provided an insight to the audience on what it was like growing up as an “invisible Roma” and spoke about her earlier experiences as a minority. As the Roma minority is the youngest minority in Europe, she pointed out, it is really important to pay attention to the needs of the young people with Roma origin.  She talked about the rising Roma youth movement and its active role in challenging Antigypsyism and the fight for the recognition of the Roma Genocide during World War II. She reflected on her experience in participating in the newly founded international youth project "Europe of Diasporas“, and the importance of collaboration with other minority or diaspora groups.

H.E. Olga Algayerova spoke about the Roma minority in Slovakia, which consists of approximately 10% of the population. She also talked about what Slovakia is doing in order to combat the issues the Roma may face as a minority and presented the Roma Youth Strategy of her country. Furthermore, the panelists discussed the generation gap issues and how different generations together can work on combating discrimination and prejudice. Another issue that was touched upon was the issue of Islamic youth radicalization. Dr. Karakas talked about his initiative to fight against radicalism through the help of famous Muslim fighters that are highly looked up to by today’s youth. He also talked about the issues he has faced being half Austrian and half Turkish. Furthermore, Ms. Veronika Bezinsky talked about her concern with the rising Antigypsyism in Eastern Europe, which was the motivation behind organizing this event. She also gave an overview of the ACUNS activities on minorities so far.

After the official discussion the audience and the panelists had a chance to continue their discussion and network. Furthermore, the students also had a chance to find out more about ACUNS and talk to ACUNS volunteers about the non-governmental organization.
Author: Luma Kamel (BA-Management)