Lacking basic living conditions, including access to drinking water, sanitation and electricity, most of South-East Slovenia’s Roma population lives in segregated settlements. The absence or insufficiency of municipal infrastructure endangers prospects for integration of the Roma population into the community and hinders the fulfilment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms on the other. This situation affects the dignity and the personal and property rights of the affected groups but has also reinforced the distrust of these communities in a state governed by the rule of law and in promises of equality before the law. The issue is closely linked to the Roma settlements not having proper legal arrangements (land and construction permits) and is encouraged by the history of discrimination against and segregation of the Roma community.
In response, the Slovenian NHRI, known as the Ombudsman, has been very active in advocating for access to infrastructure services in Roma settlements. Monitoring visits have been carried out to affected locations and the issue has been continuously addressed in the Ombudsman’s annual reports and other communications with authorities. The Ombudsman also cooperated with international monitoring bodies, including the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, who also urged the Slovenian government to act in this area.
A suggestion was made by the Ombudsman that, due to the ineffectiveness of municipalities, which are primarily responsible for providing water and sanitation infrastructure, the government should become actively and directly involved in the regulation of Roma settlements. The main obstacle to resolving the issue seems to be a lack of political will, both at the municipal and government level and much remains to be done to ensure the effective realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation for all.
This is one among many of the NHRI success stories that Human Right 2 Water has gathered in its new publication on National Human Rights Institutions and Water Governance – Compilation of Good Practices.