Updated: 06-Dec-2000 NATO Review

Web edition
Vol. 47 - No. 3
Autumn 1999
p. 12-15

The challenge of rebuilding Kosovo

Bernard Kouchner
Special Representative of the Secretary General and
Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)

Bernard Kouchner speaks to the press before swearing in new ethnic Albanian and Serbian judges in Kosovska Mitrovica on 31 August.
(AP photo 49Kb)

The international community has embarked on an enormous task in helping to rebuild Kosovo. With KFOR's assistance and under the umbrella of the UN, key international organisations are working together to re-establish civil and administrative functions and prepare the province for elections and eventual self-government. However, as Dr. Kouchner - the most senior international civilian official in Kosovo - points out, its future will not just depend on the efforts of the international community, but will require overcoming the intolerance that has plagued this region for so long.

In committing itself to rebuilding Kosovo, the international community took on an enormous challenge. It is not just the recovery of a lost peace and the return of a war-ravaged displaced people, but the rebuilding of a shattered society, the creation of a democratic environment, the development of a crippled economy, and the rebirth of a subjugated culture.

With the assistance of the NATO-led Kosovo security force, KFOR, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo - known as UNMIK - has begun to lay the groundwork for meeting those objectives. And I must underline that the excellent relationship we have with the KFOR Commander, Lt. General Sir Mike Jackson, and his team, is key to the success of this mission. By 21 September, KFOR had demilitarised the region and all the former combatants had complied with the deadline for handing in weapons.

The measure of the mission's success, however, will not come from whether those objectives were achieved in the shorter term, but whether the democratic values and structures this mission is attempting to define for this region leave an indelible legacy.

The situation in Kosovo today is not satisfactory. How could it be? The mission and KFOR are going through an extremely sensitive and dangerous period, which is to be expected following the end of conflict. There continue to be security concerns for the minorities, particularly the Serbs; the population is still without adequate infrastructure; and the region remains economically impoverished. And after years of oppression and numerous massacres and atrocities, the situation cannot be expected to be much better here, nor can the mentality of the people be changed overnight.

Our job is not impossible. But it takes time. UNMIK is a unique operation set up by the United Nations Security Council to prepare Kosovo for elections - scheduled for next spring - and then self-government. To reach that target, UNMIK is acting as a transitional administration for the region, which means it performs, and coordinates with the people of Kosovo, all the basic administrative functions such as policing, banking, customs, health service, education, and post and telecommunications.

In this way, and by working with the people of Kosovo, UNMIK is overseeing the development of democratic self-governing institutions, as well as economic reconstruction and humanitarian assistance. To meet these objectives, UNMIK is working with other international organisations, as full partners under UN leadership, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union (EU).

Key tasks ahead

Recently recruited police cadets from both the Kosovar Albanian and Serb communities, with manuals in hand, assemble for the first day of training in Vucitern, Kosovo on 7 September.
(AP photo - 52Kb)

We have substantial key tasks ahead of us, among them facilitating a political process to determine Kosovo's future.

The Head of UNMIK is the most senior international civilian official in Kosovo. The authority of my position comes from the UN Security Council, which established UNMIK on 10 June 1999 under resolution 1244, and which also authorised KFOR to enter Kosovo. Ultimately, our job is to provide this region with a vision. UNMIK is trying to do that through its "four pillars": four international organisations and agencies working together in an unprecedented structure under the umbrella of the UN. They implement, together with the Kosovo people, the civilian aspects of rehabilitating and reforming the region.

These four pillars are: civil administration, under the United Nations itself; humanitarian assistance, led by the UNHCR; democratisation and institution-building, under the OSCE; and economic development, managed by the EU. At the same time, UNMIK works closely with KFOR in coordinating their joint efforts. I meet daily with KFOR Commander General Jackson.

Working with the people of Kosovo

Dr. Kouchner and KFOR Commander Lt. General Sir Mike Jackson give a joint press conference in Pristina on the situation in Kosovo on 25 July.
(Reuters photo - 54Kb)

Significant gains have been made in the past 11 weeks in all these areas, and we have set up structures to include the Kosovo people, not only to provide expertise but also to share responsibility and accountability for the development and future of the region. Leading this is the Kosovo Transitional Council, established on 16 July, which meets weekly in Pristina. This council is the highest political consultative body under UNMIK. It gives the main political parties and ethnic groups - including the Kosovo Democratic League, the Kosovo Liberation Army, members of the Serb, Bosniac and Turkish communities, independents and other Kosovo representatives - an opportunity to have direct input into UNMIK's decision-making process. It is also a forum for achieving consensus on a broad range of issues related to civil administration, institution-building and essential services. The fact that this multi-ethnic council was established within weeks of the end of the conflict in Kosovo can be regarded as a significant achievement.

Policing Kosovo

UNMIK is deploying 3,150 armed UN civilian police in the region from dozens of countries. The two main goals of the UN International Police (UNIP) are to provide temporary law enforcement, and to develop a professional and impartial Kosovo Police Service (KPS), trained in democratic police work.

As of 1 September, there were 866 international police in Kosovo, of which 713 had been deployed. Of these, there were 360 in Pristina, 38 in Mitrovica, 25 in Pec, 31 in Prizren, and 25 in Gnjilane. More than 150 were undergoing induction training. UNIP has deployed 84 border police and a further 26 are used for KPS training. The first permanent police station has opened in Pristina and sub-stations have been set up in parts of the capital designated as "high-risk" areas. UNIP officers have begun joint patrols with KFOR and UNIP is taking over KFOR's detention duties.

UN: Civil Administration

A Pakistani member of the UN International Police (UNIP) stands beside eight newly-appointed judges to the district court of Pec-Peja - seven Kosovar Albanians and one Serb - as they are sworn in on 7 September.
(AP photo - 47Kb)

Already, the Civil Administration has, among its achievements, provided stipends for thousands of public employees - including judges, prosecutors, health workers and custom officials; opened border control points on the Albanian and Macedonian borders, including customs offices; established a legal Advisory Council to review existing legislation and draft new laws which would eliminate discrimination; set up a trust fund for small-scale "quick impact projects" that will help Kosovo's people return to normal life; assisted in the return to work of Serb railway workers; started radio broadcasts from Radio-Television Pristina; reopened the main Post and Telecommunications office and five sub-offices in Pristina; and, set up a garbage collection and disposal system in Pristina. International civil administrators and staff are working throughout the five regions of the territory - Pristina, Pec, Mitrovica, Gnjilane and Prizren - which cover 29 municipalities.

UNHCR: Coordinated humanitarian assistance

The UNHCR, responsible for the second pillar of UNMIK, is coordinating the work of the humanitarian community, ensuring that Kosovo's people will have adequate shelter, food, clean water and medical assistance. A priority of UNHCR is to drive the preparations for winter. The lead humanitarian agency has helped deliver tents, mattresses, blankets, soap, kitchen sets, jerry cans and stoves to the people of Kosovo, and as part of its "winterisation programme" it is providing tools and materials to residents of damaged homes, so that families have at least one weatherproof room for shelter this winter. Also, UNMIK is planning a special "cash for housing" scheme in which it will provide money to individuals ready to do their own immediate housing repairs.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has completed an assessment of 718 schools, and found 446 have been damaged, of which 113 have been completely destroyed and 147 have been severely damaged. But from 1 September, 383 schools reopened throughout Kosovo, with more than 100,000 students attending classes. Working with implementing partners, UNICEF is also rehabilitating school buildings and has already supplied many schools with several thousand notebooks, pencils, chairs and desks. The World Health Organisation (WHO), along with UNICEF and various non-governmental organisations (NGOs), has distributed drug kits for distribution throughout the territory, and WHO has been a crucial player in the reintegration of the Pristina hospital.

OSCE: Democracy and institution-building

Children attend a maths lesson on the first day of school in an unfinished classroom in Negrovce on 1 September. The main school building was burned down by Serbs during the Kosovo conflict.
(AP photo - 83Kb)

Under the third pillar of UNMIK, the OSCE has set up a police school to train members of the new Kosovo Police Service. It is also monitoring human rights, organising the judiciary system and media development, and training local administrators. Because security has been an urgent concern, the setting up of UN International Police and establishing the KPS have been priorities. Candidates for the KPS have been recruited from Kosovo's different ethnic communities. The new OSCE-run KPS School at Vucitrn opened on 21 August and the first multi-ethnic intake of 200 male and female trainees began basic training in early Sep-tember. OSCE is also deploying human rights officers to monitor the human rights situation throughout Kosovo. They have unhindered access to all areas to investigate human rights abuses.

EU: Developing the economy

The fourth pillar of UNMIK, run by the EU, is working on creating a modern, well-functioning market economy. This includes constructing and operating a budget that allows for basic public functions to be performed; instituting a payments system; dealing with issues such as the use of multiple currencies and exchange rates; creating an appropriate regulatory environment for the banking system; kick-starting industry with grants and credits; ensuring that charges are collected for public utilities; and, setting up regulators in sectors such as telecommunications to grant licences.

The fourth pillar is also addressing immediate needs for shelter, power and water supplies during the coming winter and coordinating the efforts of donors in these areas. It is progressively taking over from the humanitarian pillar, particularly in reconstruction of damaged housing, and from KFOR in public utilities, notably power and water. A major donor is the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, which has established a "Task Force in Kosovo", with a budget of $150 million in 1999, of which the first tranche of $48 million has already been allocated to the most urgent projects. A detailed damage assessment, including a study of infrastructure problems in various sectors, will be the basis for a medium-term development programme. This will be presented at a donors' conference in October.

Rebuilding lives and restoring hope

Substantial progress has been made on the civilian side, and KFOR is making commendable efforts under extremely problematic conditions to provide a safe security environment. In fact, the number of cases of harassment, beatings, murders and other crimes has diminished in the past month. Those crimes were occurring at a much higher rate in the first few weeks of the mission's deployment, when the region was swamped by an enormous return of refugees and displaced persons, many bent on revenge. However, crimes still occur and they cannot be controlled until we have an effective policing system. For that we require ongoing international involvement in both support and training.

Kosovo's security and prosperity, however, will depend not only on the success of KFOR and policing efforts. It will also depend on ensuring that the workforce has jobs; that the young return to school and university; that people have the means by which to grow and develop; and that they have reason to hope. It will be a slow process, and it will emerge only after the heavy cloud of intolerance darkening this region finally clears.