Student Voices: Alex Dinu
Alex's field experience at NCCD in Bucharest, Romania
Alexandra Dinu (HRTS '13) held an internship position with the Romanian National Council Combating Discrimination (NCCD) in Bucharest, Romania. The NCCD is the Romanian public authority that rules in matters of discrimination. The Council is an autonomous, legal entity under Parliamentary control. It is the guarantor of enforcement, substantiating the observance of the principle of non-discrimination in accordance with the national legislation in force and with the international covenants Romania has signed. The activities performed within the organization relate to preventing discrimination; mediating discrimination cases; investigating, establishing and sanctioning discrimination; monitoring discrimination cases; and assisting discrimination victims.
Alexandra participated in case hearings, Council deliberations, conferences and advisory meetings with public authorities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), trade unions and other legal entities who legal purpose is to protect human rights and combat discrimination. She was required to draft summary reports that were evaluated by the presidential counselor and field supervisor. Additionally, Alexandra assisted the presidential counselor in drafting the second country periodical report on the application of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.
Alexandra took on this internship because she wanted to get a full experience related to the application of laws protecting human rights in Romania, as well as learn about the initiatives and campaigns organizations employ for combating human rights violations. Alexandra's activities at the NCCD were not always complex, but they broadened her knowledge on discrimination laws and principles. She learned about how a public human rights agency operates. At NCCD, for instance, there were case hearings and investigations of complaints filed by people who felt they had been discriminated against. Most complaints were related to discrimination based on minority rights such as minority languages; others are related to workplace or disability.
During her internship experience, Alexandra learned about the widespread discrimination against the country's largest minority group - the Roma - and the lack of social protection for children with disabilities. The Roma continue to be forcibly evicted, are denied their rights to housing, employment, healthcare and education, and face racist attacks and police ill-treatment. Romania's children with disabilities do not benefit from adequate medical services or specialized therapies, and they are hardly or sometimes never accepted in schools or kindergartens. There is no adapted school curriculum, the schools do not facilitate access to people with disabilities, and teachers are not provided with adequate training; these facts result in abuses and discrimination.
To Alexandra's surprise, the NCCD faces a variety of challenges that she had not anticipated. The building, for instance, is very old, needs to be consolidated because it is considered earthquake risk, and it is not accessible for people with disabilities. Additionally, the NCCD (a judiciary focused institution) lacks a research department. Research is usually done by the staff in the cabinet of the Council's president. Part of the problem is under-funding. NCCD only gets about 800,000 Euros each year for all institutional needs (projects, research, salaries, etc.), while other similar European agencies get many times that amount.
Overall, Alexandra found her internship experience extremely valuable because it broadened her knowledge about human rights issues in her home country, provided her with the opportunity to network and learn from human rights professionals, and helped her acquire working experience to further her studies and research projects.
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