History of REF

In July 2003, the first high-level regional conference on Roma: "Roma in an Expanding Europe: Challenges for the Future" was held in Budapest. Participating countries were Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovakia. It was co-financed by the World Bank, the Open Society Institute (OSI), the European Commission, UNDP, the Council of Europe Development Bank and the governments of Hungary, Finland and Sweden. The conference resolved to (a) establish a Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015, during which countries would focus on reducing disparities in key economic and human development outcomes for Roma; and (b) establish an international Roma Education Fund. At the conference the World Bank committed to undertake the technical work necessary to establish the Education Fund in a year's time, in consultation with international organizations and donors, Roma and other stakeholders. In December, 2004, based on this technical work an international donors conference was held in Paris which marked the establishment of the Fund. A total of approximately 34 million Euros was pledged for the period 2005-2015 from 8 bilateral donors ( Canada, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK), private foundations and multilateral agencies (CEB and WB). Approximately 8 million Euros are available in 2005 (this includes operations transferred from OSI). A substantial portion of these resources are earmarked by donors, with southeast Europe the primary focus of earmarked funds.

The 12 May 2005, the Roma Education Fund was registered as a Swiss Foundation and started operating with its office in Budapest. The 17 February 2006, the Roma Education Fund was also registered as Hungarian Foundation.