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UNICEF Regional Director calls for action on Roma

© UNICEF Serbia / Zoran Jovanovic Maccak / 2009
Steven Allen - Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States

GENEVA, Switzeland - June 10, 2009

UNICEF’s newly-appointed Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Steven Allen, has challenged governments and international partners to improve living conditions for Roma children.

“Every government is committed to build a socially inclusive society. But that cannot be achieved unless every single child is included,” he told an international conference held in Serbia aimed at improving the lives of Roma children.

“The school and education system becomes a crucial space for bringing about social change. Children from the mainstream gain by learning from different cultures. This helps breakdown stereotypes, and builds understanding and appreciation of diversity.”

Mr Allen was addressing the International Conference on the “Right to Education for Every Child: Removing Barriers and Fostering Inclusion for Roma Children”, in Belgrade on 2 -3 June, 2009.

Those attending this conference included senior officials and experts from the Ministries of Education of Roma Decade Countries, Roma civil society representatives, international and local education experts, representatives of UN and other international organizations, European Commission Delegation in Serbia, Council of Europe, and bilateral partners.

The aim of the Conference was to analyse policies, identify successful practices, lessons learnt and to agree upon strategic steps. These included: the importance of starting and including children early in education; ending segregation and fostering inclusion; supportive classroom and school environment and public financing for vulnerable children.

Mr Allen continued: “Enough reports have been written, many left on dusty shelves, or in long forgotten computer files. Enough meetings have taken place without clear follow-up action. The denial of the rights of Roma children to education has been going on for too long.”


Before arriving in this post, Mr Allen served as Director, Division of Human Resources in UNICEF New York Headquarters, where he had been since November 2004. In this capacity he has been responsible for providing strategic leadership and oversight of UNICEF’s human resources management and accountabilities.

Mr Allen joined UNICEF in September 1977 as an Assistant Programme and Supply Officer in Khartoum, Sudan.  In May 1981, he was transferred on special assignment to Juba, Southern Sudan as Programme Officer. In July 1982 he transferred in the same capacity to Yangon, Myanmar. In October 1985, Mr Allen was assigned to Hanoi, Vietnam, as Senior Programme Officer in charge of UNICEF's health programmes.  From April 1989 to September 1992, he was Senior Programme and Planning Officer and Deputy Representative in Islamabad, Pakistan. He served as UNICEF Emergency Coordinator and UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Northern Iraq from September 1993 to November 1994. Mr Allen served as UNICEF Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo from November 1994 to December 1996, followed by an assignment as UNICEF Representative for the Republic of Rwanda from December 1996 to May 1998.  

Mr Allen served as UNICEF Special Representative for the Balkans, based in Sarajevo and Belgrade, from June 1998 to August 2002, where he led and managed UNICEF’s advocacy and programme operations in countries of former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and FYR Macedonia, as well as Albania exceptionally during 1999 Kosovo crisis. Concurrently with this assignment Mr. Allen served as UN Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Coordinator, in Belgrade, from August 1999 to March 2002.

From August 2002 to October 2004, Mr. Allen served as UNICEF Representative for the Republic of Indonesia. In this capacity he was responsible for the broad range of UNICEF programmes to improve the status of children and women in Indonesia.

Mr Allen is a national of the United Kingdom. In 1974 he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics and Politics from the London School of Economics, University of London, UK, followed by his Master of Science Degree in Medical Demography from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1993.

For more information, please contact:

Communication Officer Mervyn Fletcher on +41 22 909 5433



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