Reaching the Individual: EU Accession, NGOs, and Human Rights
Can human rights institutions influence individual behavior? This paper tests the ground level effectiveness of two strategies that aim to eliminate discrimination: a powerful, top-down combination of incentives and norm promotion and a bottom-up NGO-based effort. The study uses a hard case, that of discrimination against the Roma (commonly known by the disfavored term “Gypsies”), spans three towns, Murska Sobota and Novo mesto in Slovenia and Cakovec in Croatia, and includes altogether 600 subjects. Levels of discrimination are estimated via trust games played with money, which are particularly appropriate because the Roma are widely stereotyped as cheaters and thieves. The findings suggest that the EU accession process, widely regarded as a strong incentive-based and norm promoting rights change mechanism, may not substantially reduce discrimination on the ground. Instead, they suggest that ground level organizing aimed at improving relations between Roma and non-Roma helps reduce discrimination.