The first World Romani Congress was organized in 1971 in Orpington near London, England, United Kingdom, funded in part by the World Council of Churches and the Government of India. It was attended by 23 representatives from nine nations (Czechoslovakia, Finland, Norway, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Spain and Yugoslavia) and observers from Belgium, Canada, India and the United States. 

Five sub-commissions were created to examine social affairs, education, war crimes, language, and culture. 

At the congress, the green and blue flag from the 1933 conference of the General Association of the Gypsies of Romania, embellished with the red, sixteen-spoked chakra, was reaffirmed as the national emblem of the Roma people, and the song "Gelem, Gelem" was adopted as the Roma anthem. Usage of the word "Roma" (rather than variants of "gypsy") was also accepted by a majority of attendees; as a result, the International Gypsy Committee (founded in 1965) was renamed the Komiteto Lumniako Romano (International Roma Committee).