Starting from Scratch in Kosovo
Starting from Scratch in Kosovo
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue
How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue
Report 83 / Europe & Central Asia

Starting from Scratch in Kosovo

After an unprecedented, multilateral military intervention in Kosovo succeeded in expelling Serb forces and enabling the return home of more than a million displaced persons, the international community embarked on the ambitious, long-term project of securing, rebuilding, and establishing the rule of law in Kosovo, while setting the territory on the path to self-governance.

Executive Summary

After an unprecedented, multilateral military intervention in Kosovo succeeded in expelling Serb forces and enabling the return home of more than a million displaced persons, the international community embarked on the ambitious, long-term project of securing, rebuilding, and establishing the rule of law in Kosovo, while setting the territory on the path to self-governance.  Visionary promises were made to the people of Kosovo, and careful planning was undertaken at NATO and United Nations headquarters and in many European capitals.  But six months into the mission, the international community has so far not been able to deliver on its promises.  No Kosovars of any ethnicity feel secure, tens of thousands of people remain without adequate shelter as winter sets in, civil registration has yet to get underway, there is as yet no agreed-upon, functional system of justice, and criminals – including suspected war criminals – continue to operate with effective impunity.

There are many reasons for the slow start, ranging from widespread failure on the part of donors to meet their commitments, to intractable delays at the Macedonian border, which severely crippled the delivery of assistance, to the reluctance of NATO troops to vigorously enforce their mandate, spelled out in the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, to protect all Kosovar citizens until such time as an effective, trained police force is in the field.  The lead international organisations have yet to stop violent hard-liners and corrupt, self-proclaimed local officials from threatening local populations, or to set aside their own counterproductive, internal turf struggles. 

While Kosovars remain grateful to NATO and the international community for the peace and their new-found freedom from direct Serbian oppression, their faith has been strained of late by the absence of tangible progress despite the international community’s overwhelming presence.  Many Kosovars’ frustration has been aggravated by the feeling that they are not being sufficiently consulted by the international community and that, after a decade of disenfranchisement and apartheid instituted by the Serbs, they are again being shut out of the process of rebuilding their homeland.  This frustration, compounded by people’s widespread experience of physical insecurity, could jeopardise Kosovars’ willingness both to work together with the international community toward inventing their own future structures and to be patient with the inevitable difficulties of trying to rebuild after a devastating and traumatic war.

The story of the international community’s involvement in post-conflict Kosovo, however, is far from over. If action is taken now, there remains time enough to correct some early mistakes and to repair any ill will.  With concerted leadership, a rapid infusion of sufficient funding, and the authority to make the decisions necessary to getting Kosovars back on their feet, the situation can improve very quickly, and this monumental international collaboration can result in success.

In this paper, the International Crisis Group (ICG) examines the performance of the international community in five key areas: security, the provision of basic services, civil registration and documentation, elections, and justice and the rule of law.  The paper recommends ways to improve that performance, including: more robust enforcement by NATO’s Kosovo Force of its protection mandate and the accelerated deployment of adequately trained international and local police; the acceleration as well of donor follow-through, the provision of basic services, civil registration, the creation of identity documents, voters’ lists, and applicable criminal and civil legal codes; and a re-examination by the aid community of how best to achieve its desirable goals and outcomes in Kosovo.

Brussels, 10 December 1999

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