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Report of UN Inter-Agency Assessment Mission to Southern Serbia

Format
Assessment
Source
Posted
Originally published


Executive Summary
A complex crisis has emerged in Southern Serbia (particularly the municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja) between the ethnic Albanian community there and the State. The crisis is partly a legacy brought about by the policies of the former regime, and fuelled by insurgency and insecurity, and accentuated by past isolation. The new Federal Yugoslav and Serbian Republic authorities have embarked on a process of redress and recovery with the local ethnic Albanian leadership. The highly sensitive nature of the crisis and its regional ramifications, merit the immediate and sustained attention of the international community. Therefore, to help support efforts at promoting peace and stability, a UN-led Inter-Agency Assessment Mission deployed to Southern Serbia from 6 to 16 February 2001 with the participation of 15 UN agencies/other organisations. This Mission Report sets out a series of broad-based observations and findings, and strategic multi-disciplinary recommendations for enhancing the stability and recovery of the region.

General Findings

The Mission found that the legacy of past systematic human rights discrimination, combined with socio-economic disparities, is prominent. Problems are aggravated further by structural underdevelopment of the region, characterised by poor infrastructure and high unemployment, and inadequate institutional capacities. The ethnic Albanian community expressed grievance on elements of discrimination, and on incidences of denial or abuse of human rights. The ethnic Serb community expressed grievance about socio-economic disruption and armed insurgency. Human security of all communities has been affected. Elements of tension between ethnic Serb and ethnic Albanian communities appear to be growing, yet community leaders on both sides express a desire to work together. The new Federal and Serbian Governments, through a joint Co-ordination Body, have taken steps to advance the process of redress, reconciliation, and recovery.

The new Federal and Serbian Governments and ethnic Albanian community leaders are making earnest efforts, to engage in dialogue and resolve the crisis. International efforts are being made to reinforce reconciliation between the parties, redress the legacy of grievance and discrimination, and restore security. The process must now gain strength. A key to that will be the willingness of insurgents to abandon the use of arms and violence, and to support peacefully a process of negotiation towards a resolution of the crisis. Whatever the sense of grievance, a period of momentous historical change is occurring in FRY, providing a window of opportunity that must now be used to further the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all.

Within the country, the dynamic of current reforms, administrative and judicial redress, and confidence-building measures needs to be maintained. Current restraint on security matters should continue to be exercised whilst upholding the rule of law, avoiding disproportionate use of force, and enforcing strict observance of human rights and international humanitarian law by all state institutions and security forces.

Beyond these issues, there is a need to encourage open civil society activity in PBM, where very few national NGOs or local community-based organisations currently exist. This is also an area where women of all communities, whatever their ethnicity, play no significant role in public life, political, social or economic.

The Report provides more specific findings and recommendations on issues that span a broad spectrum of governance, human rights, humanitarian, socio-economic recovery and human development concerns.

International influence and leverage

Notwithstanding current progress towards a peaceful solution to the situation in Southern Serbia, in light of growing instability to the south, the risk of rapid-onset escalation rippling through the southern Balkans warrants four basic considerations for international partners at this time:

  • Co-ordination, enhancing existing mechanisms, and increasing the flows of information;
  • Coherence with the rest of FRY, and with FRY's normalisation of relationships with neighbours;
  • Differentiation given special characteristics of this area compared to the country as a whole;
  • Flexibility to rapidly adapt to alternative scenarios, given ongoing volatility in the region.

Furthermore, the international community has a key role to play in putting its weight behind the peace process and taking resolute action, in whatever quarter, to identify and interdict the illicit flow of arms, materiel, and human and financial resources that fuel the insurgency. Equally, the interests of organised crime in the trafficking of human beings, narcotics, weapons, and contraband, need to be investigated, and prevented. In addition, steps are needed to strengthen, in a balanced way, the presence of interested agencies (including UN agencies), donors-funded programmes, and international and national NGOs. Such a presence can have a dampening effect on tensions by providing an influence dissuasive of acts of impunity, raising the level of confidence amongst all communities. External expertise and resources will also be required to support the process of redress and recovery in southern Serbia, including for urgent institutional reforms and decentralisation at municipal level, upgrading public services, and for social and economic development.

Recommendations for UN system and other international support

The overall strategic objective of international assistance should be to support the stabilisation and revitalisation of Presevo, Bujanovac, Medvedja and surrounding municipalities

In pursuit of this objective, UN system activities will be governed by and promote a set of basic principles:

  • Adherence to the Rule of Law
  • Respect for Human Rights
  • Impartiality and non-discrimination
  • Equity and Social Harmony
  • Inclusiveness and Cohesion
  • Participation & Consensus Orientation
  • Subsidiarity and Empowerment
  • Transparency and Accountability
  • Economy and Sustainability
  • Effectiveness and Efficiency

Some actions must be initiated immediately to help consolidate the peace process underway by demonstrating the international community's commitment, including through UN support, to the area. A common strategic framework should be developed. More comprehensive and sustainable actions can then follow to address medium and longer-term needs. The Mission envisages three follow-up phases:

  • Immediate (0-3 months) - strengthening ongoing activities and establishing a UN Inter-Agency Southern Serbia support office (IASO) that focuses on developing a common strategic framework to include human rights monitoring, promoting and supporting confidence-building measures including appropriate support to DDR processes (disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration of ex-combatants), capacity building and quick impact projects for employment, recovery and development , for Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja Municipalities.

  • Short term (3-6 months) - within a common framework, activating an area support fund for local initiatives including quick impact employment and infrastructure/service delivery projects, building confidence and promoting reintegration and social cohesion, and building up managerial and outreach capacities for local institutions in Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja Municipalities

  • Medium to long-term (6-36 months) - establishing an integrated area development programme that builds the capacity of municipal authorities to plan, manage, and monitor local social and economic development, support the establishment of more inclusive participatory mechanisms, and development of medium and longer-term employment and small enterprise development programmes potentially expanding activities for the larger area covering all municipalities in the counties of Pcinski (includes Presevo and Bujanovac) and Jablanicki (includes Medvedja).

Immediate actions can be implemented by focusing on this area some existing resources from ongoing UN programme activities1 supplemented where possible by additional donor support to the region. Close co-ordination will be necessary with other actors currently planning or implementing their own programmes. Additionally, grant funding to establish an area support fund for social cohesion and development should be explored during the immediate phase.

Overall, the nature, timing, and sequencing of UN system's activities in promotion of socio-economic recovery should be conditioned on progress with implementation of prerequisite security agreements and essential reforms. UN humanitarian and human rights activities will not however be subject to any such operational conditionalities, except for protecting the safety and security of UN system staff and associated personnel, international and national.

1. Introduction

A UN-led Inter-Agency Assessment Mission to Southern Serbia2 took place from 6 to 16 February 2001. The Mission's overall objective was to conduct an independent broad-based assessment of the situation primarily in the Southern Serbian municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja (referred to hereafter as PBM). This Report, as the product of the Assessment Mission, sets out a series of strategic multi-disciplinary and inter-agency recommendations for the Government, communities and the international community for enhancing stability and revitalisation of the region. Essentially, the Mission seeks to support the creation of an enabling environment for peace and human security, social cohesion, and economic recovery in the area.

1.1 Background

The three municipalities of PBM in the south-east of the Republic of Serbia are adjacent to the UN administered province of Kosovo3 and are inhabited by ethnic Serbs, ethnic Albanians, Roma and other groups. A majority ethnic Albanian population exists in the municipalities of Bujanovac and Presevo, whilst in Medvedja it is a minority. Exact population totals are difficult to determine, as ethnic Albanians did not fully participate in the 1991 census. Due to the economic and social dislocation caused by the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, and the policies of the former regime, the region suffers from structural underdevelopment, characterised by poverty and unemployment, poor infrastructure, and a very weak private sector that has affected all communities.

The territories lie within and outside of the current 5km wide demilitarised 'Ground Security Zone' (GSZ) in Serbian Republic territory that was established in accordance with the Military-Technical Agreement (MTA, also known as the Kumanovo Agreement) of June 1999 and which marked the end of the Kosovo war. Following the subsequent creation of the GSZ, ethnic Albanian armed groups began to appear, coalescing into an armed insurgency through the publicly announced self-styled Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) in January 2000. Over the past 14 months, the level of insurgency has fluctuated but had recently shown signs of intensifying. This not only has affected human security, but also threatens the stability of the Southeastern Europe region.

The Federal Yugoslav and Serbian Republican Governments have embarked on an ambitious course to promote stability, without according any special status to the region. They have, however, set up a 'Co-ordination Body of Governments of Yugoslavia and Serbia for the Municipalities of Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja' (Co-ordination Body) led by Mr. Nebosja Covic, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister, and Mr. Rasim Ljajic, Federal Minister for National and Ethnic Communities, as Deputy. The Co-ordination Body recently released the 'Programme for the Solution of the Crisis Created by the Activities of the Albanian Extremist Groups in the South of Serbia'. More recently, a cease-fire has been brokered to enable negotiations for a permanent resolution of the crisis.

1.2 Assessment Methodology

The mission was led by UNDP and UNOCHA under the guidance of the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator/Resident Co-ordinator a.i., and with logistical assistance from UNHCR. In addition to other UNDP, UNOCHA, and UNHCR staff, the mission also involved the participation4 of staff from several UN agencies in FRY (including Kosovo) and other agencies in the region including UNLO, UNICEF, WHO, WFP, UNOPS, IOM, FAO, and UNHCHR. The mission also included participants from the headquarters of the World Bank and the ILO,and from Swiss Development Co-operation , and Oxfam GB.

The field Assessment Mission took place following discussions with key Federal and Republican Government officials, including the heads of the Co-ordination Body. The Team Leader also briefed donors on the mission's objectives and plans prior to embarking on the field assessment. Four teams5 visited the area consecutively for consultations with key stakeholders6 and site visits (including to the most vulnerable populations). Movement into the GSZ by the teams was restricted due to the security situation and respect for UN security guidelines. Representatives from villages in the GSZ were therefore invited to meet with team members in the respective nearby towns. The assessment structure has been designed to fit within the UN System Common Country Assessment classifications in order to maximise the capacity, unity, and outcome of the process.

2. Mission Observations and Findings

As a general overview, the fundamental issues of the south-east Serbia region would appear to be of governance and socio-economic nature. The legacy of the past regime's systematic discrimination with regards to human rights and ethnicity, combined with the legacy of distortions and weaknesses of state and local administration, are particularly prominent. Systemic disparities continue in the distribution of political representation, public services, resources, and opportunity. The persistence of these, aggravated by years of international isolation, and the impact of conflict, continues to serve as a legitimate source of concern for many affected groups across the country. However, a brunt of this is felt most acutely in Southern Serbia by the ethnic Albanian community, yet despite dissatisfaction with the former regime's policies, ethnic Albanians did not systematically withdraw from State institutions as was the case in Kosovo in the early 1990's. Ethnic Albanians express grievance about their situation, but also largely recognise the positive efforts being made by the new Federal and Serbian authorities, to reach out, engage in dialogue, and advance the process of redress, reconciliation, and recovery. It is therefore a situation which can be redeemed.

The level of human insecurity that presently exists and the potential for its escalation are affecting daily lives, weakening further the already underdeveloped local economies, and risk endangering inter-communal relations across the region. The ethnic Serb and ethnic Albanian communities in PBM have generally co-existed peacefully. In essence, the two communities appear to be not so much in confrontation with each other, but rather with the inherent discriminatory practices of past regimes. What tensions do exist between both communities are more a reflection of the alienation of the ethnic Albanian community from a formerly repressive state, impacting on inter-communal relations. An element of fear among both ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians sides is increasing which can give rise to immediate and longer-term damaging consequences if not dealt with appropriately at the local level. Transforming the legacy of the State and redressing governance,human rights, and socio-economicissues, combined with explicit efforts to build confidence and restore equitable opportunities to people, will go a long way to fostering cohesion and co-operation. The current Federal and Serbian Governments are making attempts to rectify this situation, notably through the creation of the Co-ordination Body located in Bujanovac, welcomed by many ethnic Albanians.

Both Serb and ethnic Albanian local government and political representatives appear to strive for a political and peaceful solution to the insecurity situation in Southern Serbia. This is demonstrated by the Co-ordination Body's proposed 'Programme' for resolving the conflict and the recently issued ethnic Albanian 'Platform': "Prevention of the Armed Conflicts and Crises Solution in the Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac Region". Whilst both are cautious steps taken to resolve the conflict, there is a need now to extend public outreach, through awareness campaigns and galvanise broad-based popular support. The fact that past months have witnessed unprecedented attention by the Federal and Republican Governments, the media, and the international community, is indicative of the urgent need for stability and recovery in the region. Promoting local democracy, public dialogue, and expanding people's opportunities will contribute to these goals.

2.1 Cross-cutting issues - Human Rights and Security of Person, Democratic Governance and Social Inclusion, Reintegration, Gender

The principal human rights concerns noted in PBM are insecurity, lack of equitable participation in governance, discrimination, and restricted freedom of movement, which also affects the return of IDPs. These concerns and issues are inter-related and cut across all aspects of socio-economic activity in the region.

To provide an adequate foundation for effective remedy and recovery, the process of fundamental legislative, policy, and institutional reform in all sectors of state administration needs to be accelerated and deepened. This can be done in ways that promote principles of human rights, public service, non-discrimination, transparency, openness, communication, efficiency, subsidiarity, equity, participation, and accountability.

At the local municipal level, such reforms, in tandem with planned decentralisation, will give all concerned a share in the re-engineering of local government. Although this observation holds for the country as a whole, it has acute and immediate implications for the perception and credibility of the State in southern Serbia, and hence partly for the resolution of the crisis situation there.

2.1.1 Human Rights and Security of Person

Following the implementation of the MTA, the militarisation of Southern Serbia by special police and the Yugoslav Army seems to have increased due to the ensuing need to patrol the border of the GSZ, and the relocation of some troops who previously served in the 'Pristina Corps'. The presence of security forces in the area is generally deemed as protective by the ethnic Serb population, while many members of the ethnic Albanian community react with unease and fear. Although the UCPMB is alleged by some to be the protective of ethnic Albanians, both Serb and ethnic Albanian communities fear violent extremist activities. Both also increasingly fear for their personal safety and inter-communal tensions appear to be growing. The police and the Yugoslav Army have exercised considerable restraint and discipline given the situation.

The Council for Human Rights in Bujanovac reports daily of the human rights situation among the ethnic Albanian population to the Co-ordination Body, which has set up a special police team to investigate the incidents reported. A parallel Initiative Board for Human Rights Protection that operates for the Serb population in Pcinski county was set up in January 2001. Cases of abuse by the police7 against the ethnic Albanian civilian population include harassment, looting, intimidation and violence used during police investigations, arrests and questioning. However, whereas under the previous regime such incidents were systematic, the situation under the Co-ordination Body is improving with the introduction of official policies aimed at controlling abuses by police units.

Serbs living in the GSZ or who need to travel through the GSZ territory face increased safety fears and restrictions of movement in UCPMB controlled areas, particularly the villages of Lucane and Veliki Trnovac. Furthermore, feelings of insecurity are strong among Serbs when travelling the two primary routes (Gnlijane-Koculj-Lucane-Bujanvoac and Gniljane-Mucibaba-Presevo) that link Serbia to Serb enclaves in the Gniljane region in Kosovo. The UCPMB controls the checkpoints on both routes, and cases of kidnapping of Serb civilians on the Mucibaba-Presevo route have been reported. In cases to date, Serbs kidnapped by the UCPMB on the route were released after the intervention of KFOR. Even so, at the time of writing, several Serb and ethnic Albanian missing persons remain unaccounted for. Although most of the ethnic Albanians who fled the area during the violence in late 2000 have returned, very few Serb IDPs have been able to go back to homes in Kosovo. Freedom of movement is generally unrestricted for ethnic Albanians not affiliated with the UCPMB. Some property rights are challenged, particularly in the GSZ area, as police and Yugoslav Army units have occupied private property, schools, and health centres. In each municipality, 'Commissions for Damages' have been established to assess damages and recommend compensation to property owners in the event of damage.

Few institutional mechanisms for the objective reporting, investigation and resolution of human rights-related problems exist in the region. No ombudsman or other national or regional monitoring institution is present. The very few human rights NGOs that exist have little capacity or training and have not sought or been able to establish relationships or co-operate with other NGOs within and outside the region. As a result, no complaint-resolution process in which all parties have confidence is yet available, and data concerning human rights issues is sketchy.

2.1.2 Democratic Governance and Social Inclusion

Governance problems have been rooted in practices of exclusion and disproportionate representation in PBM municipalities, lack of participatory processes, and weak institutional capacities at the local level.

Unlike the former regime, the current authorities are decisively promoting inclusive democratic policies. Some municipal authorities and the incumbent Federal and Republican Governments have subsequently taken steps towards building mutual trust. This is especially important for the ethnic Albanian community who generally consider themselves an underclass in the region with regards under-representation in the municipal administration and civil service, judiciary, police force, and employment. Furthermore, ethnic Albanians insist that they cannot be expected to feel safe and to participate as full citizens of Serbia while they are unable to fully participate in the security and other municipal structures governing their lives.

The political composition of PBM municipalities is distinct from the norm at the Federal and Republican levels. The mayors of Bujanovac and Medvedja are also municipality presidents of respectively the Yugoslav Left Party (JUL) and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), whilst the mayor of Presevo is the only ethnic Albanian mayor in Serbia and is also president of the ethnic Albanian party, the Party for Democratic Action (PDD). All political parties represented in the region, present as their priorities the promotion of equal rights, respect for human rights, economic development, environment protection, religious tolerance, access to culture and advancement of women. Yet, none could illustrate a concrete plan for implementing their platforms due to lack of means or "political circumstances".

The political representation of the ethnic Albanian community and its apparent under-representation in Bujanovac is of particular concern, and appears to be due to gerrymeandering8 of electoral zones. Despite the ethnic Albanian majority (50+ per cent) in the municipality, it is not represented proportionally in the local government structure9. The power share of the PDD in the Municipal Assembly of Bujanovac is reportedly only 12 out of 41 seats in the municipality (it has a share of 8 seats today). Although the new municipal authorities claim to encourage co-operation and dialogue with the PDD, the PDD did not present themselves at the first and second constitutive sessions of the Municipal Assembly due to these discriminatory practices, and have in fact boycotted its work since 1997. Furthermore, the current municipal Executive Council of nine members (7 Serb, 1 Montenegrin, 1 Roma) does not include a single ethnic Albanian, notwithstanding the discretionary ability of the Municipal Assembly to appoint Council members who are not Assembly members.

Despite technical/professional criteria being applied when recruiting personnel, ethnic Albanians assert that they are prevented from entering the active workforce, particularly within municipal structures. Exclusionary practices are allegedly rooted in disparities in the quality of education provided from primary through to secondary, technical and higher education levels in favour of the Serb majority population. Ethnic Albanian and Serb students are separated from an early stage and the development path of young people therefore continues generally divided as ethnic Albanians are inclined to attend universities outside Serbia. A lack of regional co-operation and standardisation of university degrees, and especially the previously lower standards of Pristina University (during the parallel system), mean that ethnic Albanians face problems having their diplomas recognised or long delays for official approval. As a result, when ethnic Albanians are employed they tend to hold positions of low responsibility.

2.1.3 Institutions and Decentralisation

The gradual decentralisation of certain public sector functions - such as finance, education, health and social welfare - from central government to municipal, regional, and/or district level government is an objective of the current Republican Government. This would entail an increase in responsibilities, such as management of segments of education and health services, and of increased resources. However, the capacity to effectively manage these resources and produce development plans is limited. In the current situation, no significant debts were reported, and although very low, the salaries of the municipal employees are paid regularly. However, there exists some deficit in civil service professional expertise, such as agri-engineers, teachers, those with foreign languages, and lawyers, and if capacity is to be increased the number and quality of technical expertise will need to reflect these changes accordingly. Moreover, there is an absence of information technology in all municipal sites visited.

The Co-ordination Body has released some extraordinary funds to the PBM municipalities primarily for spending on public services. However, internal decision-making regarding the disbursement of these funds appears to be limited and lacks transparency. Information exchange between municipalities and between central and municipal level governments, policy dialogue, and public debate fora for engaging local actors for local solutions, seem generally inadequate.

2.1.4 Policing

According to Regional police authorities, special police units exist in Bujanovac and Presevo and are mobilised only in specific situations and for controlling the boundaries of the GSZ and the borders with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). They are not engaged in local policing. The District police unit, based in Vranje, is responsible for so-called 'anti-terrorist' activities. Medvedja municipal police report to the district police in Leskovac. Local police only are allowed to patrol the GSZ; they are lightly armed and engage in activities such as traffic control and administration. Until August 2000, the local police controlled checkpoints on the road to Gnjilane, in Kosovo, but following mortar attacks in 1999 and 2000 and their inability to defend themselves the special police took over. Recent efforts to strengthen co-operation between the regional police and KFOR/NATO in Kosovo have been made.

The issue of disproportionate ethnic representation in the police force is akin to that in local government. The Serbian authorities initiated a long-term discriminatory policy in the early 1990's, which accelerated during the Kosovo crisis. After resigning or being dismissed from the police force, potentially new ethnic Albanian candidates were discouraged (directly or indirectly) from joining, to the extent that an insignificant number of ethnic Albanians were serving in the police force. After invitations by the current Government to the dismissed ethnic Albanians to re-enter the police force, only six reportedly chose to re-enter in January 2001 in Bujanovac and Presevo.

The necessity of ethnic balance in the local police is regarded a key issue by both the Serb and ethnic Albanian communities. From the Serb side, there is a general concern that a decrease in numbers of Serbian police will lead to a corresponding decrease in protection for Serbs. Such an occurrence could trigger movements of Serbs to areas where the majority of the police belong to their own ethnic group. For ethnic Albanian representatives, the issue of ethnic balance in the police force is regarded a priority. The current situation does not provide satisfactory guarantees for their safety and protection. The primary obstacle, however, to achieving a more proportionate police force is training. To join the police force it is necessary to complete the police training as well as military service, which takes at least 18 months. For a long time, ethnic Albanians have been fearful of attending these courses due to the climate of the previous regime and fears for personal security. As a precondition for reaching an ethnic balance, some ethnic Albanian representatives insists that the Serb police who were transferred from other parts of the country (excluding Kosovo) to Presevo in 1998 should return there, and that ethnic Albanian police candidates should be trained under international supervision. On the issue of representation, women are also severely under-represented in the police force. They make up a mere 8-10% of the police force.

2.1.5 Civil Society

The concept of an active civil society is not widely developed or indeed known throughout the region, yet it has potential to aid a positive climate for inter-ethnic tolerance and relations, and to complement and strengthen the practices of democratic governance. The organisations that do exist currently have limited or no interaction between themselves or with local government or the corporate sector.

One small local NGO in Medvedja, Multi-ethnic Centre, (one of only two NGOs in the municipality) was recently set up by a group of young Serbs, Gorans10, Roma, and ethnic Albanians. (Note that some 40% of educated youth have left Medvedja in search of better employment opportunities). CESID (Centre for Free Elections and Democracy) has representations in Medvedja and Bujanovac and observed the Serbian Republic elections in December 2000. Otpor has a branch office in Bujanovac and has so far launched a joint promotion of books written by Serb and ethnic Albanian authors. Otpor is also interested in confidence building activities and multi-ethnic media. As mentioned in section 2.1.1, the Council for Human Rights in Bujanovac reports daily of the human rights situation among the ethnic Albanian population in the region. A parallel Initiative Board for Human Rights Protection that operates for the Serb population in Pcinj County was set up as an NGO in January 2001. Representatives from both organisations expressed their intention to co-operate.

Until recently, the Serbian Orthodox Church community in Bujanovac and Presevo had good relations with the Islamic Community. Attempts to hold a meeting to discuss inter-ethnic relations in late 1999 were unsuccessful. In Bujanovac, the Islamic Community is not very active. A Mother Theresa Society exists in Bujanovac.. The religious community might have a special role to play in enabling reconciliation between the different ethnic communities.

2.1.6 Media

Ethnic Albanians rely on foreign channels for radio and television in the Albanian language. Radio Bujanovac is the longest running radio station out of the three municipalities. The municipality funds the station and it broadcasts in Serbian language. Attempts have been made at producing news in Albanian language but none have proved sustainable. Radio journalists travel throughout the municipality and are available for reporting 24 hours a day. The radio station is beginning to install a series of computers and there are plans to create a website. (This could be a potential means of acquiring extra funds from the Serb and ethnic Albanian Diaspora.) Radio Presevo was meant to start operating in February 2001, but it is facing delays in acquiring the licence. It will broadcast in Albanian language but will not exclude the probability of broadcasting Serbian programmes. There are fears, however, that it might be misused,sothe Serbian Government hopes to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding outlining operation of the station to ensure the content is appropriate and not inflammatory. In Medvedja, the municipal authorities are planning a local radio station.

The ethnic Albanian community complains of not being able to purchase newspapers from Kosovo. Three local newspapers are published in Bujanovac and in Serbian language. They are financed by the municipality and by the SPS. Jehona, a bi-weekly magazine, is the only Albanian language publication in the region. After a six-year termination of production for financial and political reasons, Jehona was re-released in April 2000. Serb and especially ethnic Albanian journalists lack the resources for professional training

2.1.7 Gender

Women are not traditionally actively involved in public life and therefore the participation of women in decision-making processes appears to be low, particularly in Presevo where the majority population is ethnic Albanian. This is reflected in the structure of the municipal authorities12 (Municipal Assembly and Executive Council) where there is extremely low or non-existent representation. Municipal authorities claim to recognise this as an issue but none have yet established any specific course of action for women's empowerment and promotion of their role at decision-making levels. Where women are employed, it is normally at administrative levels; few are professionals. . Domestic violence tends to be reported by Serbs and Roma but not by ethnic Albanians, possibly due to the ethnicity of the police and/or cultural factors. It is therefore difficult to measure the extent of this problem. The fact that only one former women's organisation could be identified during the mission, the "Women's Forum", is indicative of the lack of awareness of gender issues and women's rights in the region. An additional note is that no reference to gender nor of the potential role of women in conflict resolution and confidence building measures was made in the Co-ordination Body's 'Programme' or the ethnic Albanian 'Platform'.

2.1.8 Refugees/IDPs and reintegration

There has been significant population movement in Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja over the last 2 years. While the three municipalities were not heavily affected by the Kosovo war, approximately one third of the ethnic Albanian population fled at that time mostly due to fear of an escalating conflict, as well as in some cases in response to treatment by State forces. Most, however, returned quickly to their homes. A smaller number of ethnic Albanians, mostly from small villages near the boundary with Kosovo, again fled in early 2000 as they feared a Government crackdown on the recently formed UCPMB. The major turning point in the region occurred in November 2000 when the UCPMB attacked several police positions and gained control of the larger villages: Veliki Trnovac, Lucane, and Koculj. It is estimated that over 10,000 ethnic Albanians fled to Kosovo as a result of the fighting and the threat that the Yugoslav Army would in response enter into the GSZ. While many of the ethnic Albanians that fled over the last 1½ years have returned, it is estimated that approximately 15,000 remain in Kosovo.

Within the PBM area itself, the refugee/IDP population reflects the last decade of conflict in the Balkans. Ethnic Serb refugees who fled Bosnia and Croatia, as well as Serb IDPs from Kosovo, are housed in collective centres in all three municipalities. A smaller number of ethnic Albanians who had been displaced from their homes in the GSZ are now living in Presevo and Bujanovac. While efforts to facilitate the return of Serb refugees to their homes in Bosnia and Croatia are on going, new Federal legislation on citizenship offers the possibility of integration for many refugees. A refugee registration process, which will complement the previous IDP registration exercise, is currently underway.

Serb IDPs from Kosovo in general express a strong desire to return to their homes. A 'Framework for Return' has been developed by UNHCR, with UNMIK and KFOR, and with the acknowledgement of the ethnic Albanian leadership in Kosovo for this purpose. Efforts are also underway to create the conditions and facilitate the return of ethnic Albanian IDPs in Kosovo to their homes in villages primarily in the GSZ area of PBM. The estimated 15,000 ethnic Albanian IDPs still in Kosovo, are mainly from scattered villages in the GSZ area of Presevo and from Medvedja from where an estimated 5-6,000 originate. The villages in the Karakak region, Presevo, make up the only area identified as having experienced significant destruction of property (approximately 100 houses) during the Yugoslav Army withdrawal from Kosovo in 1999. The new Serbian Government, at both the State and municipal levels, is favourable towards the return of ethnic Albanian citizens.

The number of refugees, and Serb and Roma IDPs from Kosovo accommodated in PBM is low compared to other more developed areas of FRY. Nevertheless, they remain among the most vulnerable sectors of the population, living in dire conditions and dependent on the humanitarian assistance provided. Limited repatriation and resettlement possibilities means that local integration remains the most viable option for the majority of refugees. For economic and legal reasons this is a very slow process. The majority of the internally displaced population continue to express their desire to return to Kosovo. Although they set out a series of 'traditional' conditions, (e.g. security, employment, access to basic services, freedom of movement) the recent security incidents and developments in south-east Serbia and Kosovo are expected to discourage many IDPs from considering the possibilities of return in practical terms. The issue of property remains contentious , especially for those whose houses are occupied in Kosovo and who have exchanged their property with ethnic Albanians who lived in PBM (this is particularly the case of Medvedja municipality). While initially difficult, IDP children, especially in Bujanovac, have largely been integrated into primary and secondary schools, the only exception being Roma children13.

In employment practices, local employers (including in socially-owned companies) tend to give preference to local recruits over IDPs. Therefore many IDPs will not be able to integrate effectively unless there is a significant expansion in local employmentor livelihood opportunities overall.

2.2 Services - Health and Welfare, Education, Public Utilities

In villages, priority needs are generally identified as: assistance to farming, schools rehabilitation, water infrastructure, telephone network, and sewerage system. Municipality-wide needs include rehabilitation of roads (major, local, and regional), water supply, irrigation networks, protection of the environment, and solid waste management. The Co-ordination Body has awarded some extraordinary funds to the three municipalities for these purposes.

2.2.1 Health and Social Welfare

Overall, the epidemiological situation can be considered perilous due to poor hygiene practices, unsafe water in rural areas, the lack of active public health surveillance, and limited preventive activities in areas with a large density of civilian population and exacerbated by restricted movement due to the security situation.

The rate of mortality is reported to be increasing in Medvedja, and decreasing in Presevo and Bujanovac. The causes of deaths are similar to those in other parts of the country: cardiovascular diseases, cancer, or obstructive pulmonary diseases. The infant mortality rate registered in Medvedja (25.2/1000) is not only the highest in the FRY (the national average is 11.8/1000) but also much higher than in Bujanovac (16.4/1000), and Presevo (5.7/1000). The fact that the data for Presevo is at half the national average is a strong indicator for both under use of offered services and underreporting on the part of the municipal administration. Maternal mortality is low. No gender discrimination is evident from the mortality data. Disease incidence reveals an increase in pulmonary obstructive diseases and behavioural disorders. Infectious diseases are a significant cause of morbidity, which are characteristic of underdeveloped and poor areas. Although the total number of reported infectious disease cases remains stable, some diseases, like tuberculosis, are on the rise. Diarrhoeal diseases are common, particularly during the summer season, and conceivably linked to the use of unsafe water (particularly in rural areas, where the water is collected from unprotected wells using surface water), and poor hygiene practices. The most vulnerable population groups are children, women, elderly and IDPs, and particularly these living in remote areas or in the GSZ. Chronic patients are the worst affected.

While the existing infrastructure and health services suffer from the same problems as the health system nation-wide, they are compounded further by poverty and insecurity. In general, primary health care is more curative than preventive oriented and in some areas the existing network fails to meet the needs of the population. Essentially, the present system is not sustainable without the further assistance of humanitarian organisations and larger support of the government. Access to health services is further limited to all communities alike due to the insecurity and restricted movement. Thus Serbs living in enclaves do not currently have access to primary or secondary services, while ethnic Albanians are reported not to be accessing State secondary health care due to lack of trust and the need to make long journeys into the major towns. In Presevo, there are indications that a private health system is beginning to develop (extent and quality unknown). Access is further restricted by the shortage of medical doctors, some of whom have left the region for better employment elsewhere.

Some health services require immediate support: emergency, psychosocial, home care and patronage services as the highest priorities. Maternity services are facing the most difficulties at the moment. In Presevo, there are approximately 1,100 deliveries per year with no maternity ward. In addition to limited funds, the lack of basic equipment and drugs are factors that contribute to a decline in the quality of health services. Although a number of international organisations are active and a significant amount of resources have so far been invested in the region, it could be argued that a lack of concerted activities has reduced the net impact of the humanitarian assistance provided so far.

The most underprivileged/vulnerable categories of the population are elderly families with only one source of income, especially in mountainous regions; families with sick children or with children with arrested mental or physical development, and foster families; single-parent families with irregular or below average income; refugee families, IDPs and host families; and individuals with irregular salaries who do not meet the requirements for receiving humanitarian assistance. There are approximately 3,500 social cases registered by the social welfare centres of PBM. However, the number of social welfare beneficiaries is small compared to the actual number of people in need of social welfare assistance. The current trend towards a decline in welfare beneficiaries, despite growing poverty can be explained by low payment levels, irregular payments and restrictive criteria for granting the rights to social welfare benefits. Social welfare allowances are reported to be insufficient for even the most basic subsistence requirements, which is why socially underprivileged people are more dependent on humanitarian assistance. This too is regarded insufficient to meet the needs as it is sporadic and repetitive. Following a decade of professional neglect, social welfare professionals lack the skills for proper assessment and identification of emerging social protection problems, and furthermore, they are not empowered to develop family and community based solutions.

2.2.2 Education

Access to basic education is near universal in FRY with the notable exception of Roma children. Although compulsory education, which lasts eight years, is free, the education system is in need of broad-based reforms. Education infrastructure is poorly maintained and in need of rehabilitation and refurbishment. The quality of education suffers from outdated curricula and teaching methods, insufficient in-service teacher training, outdated and short-supplied teaching aids and shortage of general school supplies. Low teacher morale resulting from inadequate teacher remuneration and lack of professional development opportunities further affect the provision of quality education. The disparity in salary payments to Serb and ethnic Albanian teachers that existed before the incumbent Republican Government has recently been adjusted.

Similar to elsewhere in the Balkans, education is highly politicised as it is viewed as the "gatekeeper" to individual and collective development of the different communities. Any disparities affecting access to and quality of education are therefore considered as serious grievances reaching far beyond the school environment. In PBM, the school system appears to be conceived along ethnic lines and languages, i.e. in the few mixed schools that exist, students are not just segregated during language and history but also during science classes, a segregation that is further emphasised due to the lack of bilingual teaching. Despite this segregation, there is a relative absence of inter-ethnic tensions within the schools.The national curriculum is followed in all schools, regardless of ethnicity and there are currently no indications for a parallel system.It is therefore not too late to consider a more integrated and balanced approach. However, curriculum and textbooks are perceived as culturally dominating by the ethnic Albanian community as they do not include elements of Albanian culture and tradition. In addition, there is a shortage of textbooks in Albanian language due to a decision by the previous government to stop their printing in Kosovo.

As with other sectors, the under-representation of ethnic Albanians in the decision-making positions in the school system is an issue. Although the overall teacher:student ratio in PBM is comparable to the national average, the numbers are misleading since the ratio between Serb teachers and students is disproportionately better. This is in part due to a lack of qualified ethnic Albanian teachers following the exodus of ethnic Albanian professionals to Kosovo in pursuit of more lucrative positions. Another reason cited is that degrees from universities outside Serbia (especially Kosovo) are not recognised and subsequently Albanian graduates from these institutions become employed as 'unqualified' teachers. While Albanian school officials are concerned about their lack of participation, reactions to the proposed decentralisation by the Ministry of Education were favourable across district, municipal and local levels, as well as across ethnic groups. The marginalisation is even more pronounced for Roma who are estimated to make up some 30% of the population in Bujanovac town. Very few Roma children have been integrated into school classes and there do not appear to be any Roma teachers or other Roma staff. Reasons for non-attendance of Roma include a combination of poverty and lack of parental guidance.

Access to education is increasingly becoming an issue for Serb and Albanian students as concerns for physical safety are rising, especially for those living in or near the GSZ where freedom of movement is restricted. Children from Lucane attending secondary school in Bujanovac, for example, live in Bujanovac rather than undertake the daily commute for security reasons. Some schools in the region have either been taken over by security forces or closed for security reasons. Prevailing impoverishment and the current security situation are having a negative impact on pupils' overall learning environment and achievement (school and home). Although student achievement is relatively low in FRY overall, achievement rates are particularly low in PBM. Repetition rates in Bujanovac (14.6%) are ten times the national average, which is 1.5%. Typically, the school environment is characterised by the poor condition of school buildings: insufficient water and sanitation and heating facilities, building security, electricity, environmental safety, dilapidated and insufficient school equipment and furniture. Parents must purchase schoolbooks and materials, leaving poorer children at a disadvantage and frequently lacking books and school supplies. There is an apparent disparity between rural and urban schools as well as between Serb and ethnic Albanian schools. This latter disparity is more pronounced in urban areas where unequal distribution of furniture and equipment and lack of building maintenance funds, as well as lack of interest for community involvement and lack of community based co-management, are apparent. The repair of schools - urgent in some cases - is identified as a priority in all PBM municipalities, particularly in rural areas.

2.2.3 Public Utilities

Investment in road infrastructure and public utilities - water supply, electricity, heating, sewerage, waste disposal, solid waste management - for the past 50 years, and particularly the last 10, has been meagre. The problems are common to all three municipalities as well as to Southern Serbia as a whole, and have affected all communities.

The quality of water is generally good, although the water from individual well sources in villages has not been tested and is not subject to quality control. The water supply is usually stable to the municipal towns but is more of a critical nature in villages. During the summer months, the water supply enters a critical period and significant water reductions and restrictions are normally introduced in response. Poor maintenance of existing water systems leads to leakage and some closure of wells.

Between 60-80% of the towns of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja are connected to the municipal sewerage systems. The systems vary in quality and coverage, but common to PBM is the absence of a wastewater treatment plant, meaning that untreated wastewater is discharged directly to water courses. Landfill that is currently in use does not satisfy minimum standards. Fires are quite regular and hygiene conditions are poor, leading to more generalised public health hazards.

The energy supply generated by hydropower to PBM is generally sufficient. The use of electricity is mainly limited to lighting and household use, with some small enterprises also consuming electricity as part of their production process. The energy density in the area is therefore low. The electrical network is comprised of a single supply line, standard distribution system but most of it uses wooden poles as the basic structure and their condition is poor. An estimated 50% of the network (structure and power lines) is in need of rehabilitation due to long-term general economic neglect to the region. There is little to no central heating available to homes in the region, and consequently most households use wood as the primary source of heating. The central heating system in Bujanovac is in need of rehabilitation and spare parts. Another source of heating available in the region, but also hardly used, is the natural thermal springs and underground water in the area. One of the largest of such sources is the Sijarinjska Banja (Spa) in Medvedja. However its potential has not yet been realised.

2.3 Economic Development - Poverty Eradication, Employment, Sustainable Livelihood, Agriculture and Food Security, Drug Control and Crime Prevention

2.3.1 Poverty Eradication, Employment, Sustainable Livelihood

Southern Serbia is one of the poorest areas of the country. Agriculture is the main economic sector in PBM, but is poorly organised and inefficient. The service sector is underdeveloped and mainly composed of traditional small shop holders. Only few linkages between the rural and urban economies exist. The security situation in the region is affecting further the already heavily weakened local economy and is endangering some livelihoods (e.g. production capabilities of the farming sector), particularly in Presevo and Bujanovac.

The industrial sector (e.g. wood, plastics and textiles) is well represented in the region by predominantly socially-owned companies (SOCs). As elsewhere in the country, the local economy suffered from the general economic breakdown of the last ten years due to conflict, loss of markets (in particular with former Yugoslav republics), standstill in the early transition to a market economy, international sanctions, isolation, and inflation. The SOCs consequently retain obsolete technologies and equipment and seriously reduced production capacities (30-70% in the year 2000). This is compounded further by banks imposing stringent conditions for credit to public and private companies due to the persisting instability. Some enterprises have also experienced difficulties obtaining spare parts, especially from foreign manufacturers. Directors of the SOCs tend to manage in a top-down corporate culture, and focus on recovery of the company's pre-war productivity and full employment through large investments in new machinery. Many of them are not informed about recent law changes in privatisation and their expectations are often not realistic. With the recent lifting of sanctions, companies again see market opportunities but are confronted with serious domestic and international competitive weaknesses in the fields of corporate planning and marketing, applied technologies and management systems, and knowledge of potential markets.

Unemployment levels are very high across PBM with over 50% recorded in Presevo and Bujanovac. Some is hidden as underemployment since redundant employees remain on the payrolls of the SOCs and continue to receive part of their salary and/or social benefits14. Many families are forced to seek additional income through the informal sector (grey economy/black market activities). Many also live from self-subsistence agricultural activities on very small plots of land (see following section 2.3.3). Remittances from Serb and ethnic Albanian family members in the Diasporaalso provide a means of supplementing income; in fact, it appears that mostlyethnic Albanian communities have survived thanks to remittances. This has proved a prevalent economic coping mechanism, and in some villages, such as Veliki Trnovac, (100% ethnic Albanian town in Bujanovac) a significant percentage of the population lives in Western Europe.

Migrant remittances (of refugees and economic migrants) constitute an important, though difficult to quantify, source of income to the local economy. According to the county authorities, over 5,000 (CURRENT TOTAL AROUND 6,000!) inhabitants from the area are working abroad, some 3,000 from Veliki Trnovac alone, mainly in West European countries (e.g. Switzerland, Austria, Germany). Some 3-3,500 ethnic Albanians from Presevo work abroad but they tend to send their remittances to relatives in Kosovo rather than directly to Presevo, particularly since 1998, meaning that this source of income to the municipality has diminished significantly. There is no legal tax base or alternative for the municipalities to receive additional funds from remittances. However, the municipal authorities in Presevo request monthlyvoluntary contributions of around 200DM (6,000 dinar).

Many companies in the region have a mixed ethnic Albanian and Serb labour force although the ethnic composition of the employees does not appear to always reflect the ethnic composition of the municipality (the tobacco factor in Bujanovac is an exception where the majority of the workforce is ethnic Albanian). As mentioned in section 1.1.2, the non-recognition of formal qualifications by employers and authorities alike presents an obstacle to suitably qualified ethnic Albanians from entering the active workforce at the appropriate level. Coupled with general economic underdevelopment in the region, and greater employment opportunities and salary levels often existing elsewhere, many ethnic Albanians work abroad and leave behind children and elderly relatives. Whilst this trend can distort the level of ethnic representation, it does not disguise the marginalisation of ethnic Albanians in the area of employment.

The municipal authorities in PBM have conducted economic development planning exercises and have recently submitted their programme proposals to the Co-ordination Body and to the Serbian Government. The immediate developmental priorities lie in the area of agricultural development, promotion of small and medium sized enterprises and rural infrastructure development (e.g. roads and sanitation). No strategic vision for the medium to longer-term was conveyed.

2.3.2 Private Sector/Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

The private sector is weak and not well organised. Micro, small and medium enterprises exist in the trading, agro-food, restaurant/catering and wood processing sectors. Women appear to be under represented in such private undertakings.15 At first sight, there appears to be important potential for small enterprises that target the local/regional market. Although local purchasing power is very low, there exists a demand for food products, household items and clothes that are currently mainly imported from neighbouring countries. The wood-processing sector has a potential external market that could be explored further, and agriculture (including cash crops) may hold potential.

An enabling business environment (institutional, financial, legal & regulatory and policy framework) is a pre-requisite for the promotion of the private sector. The lack of economic support institutions - development agencies, business support centres, and local banks for SMEs - is a significant obstacle to the development of micro and SMEs. The Regional Chamber of Commerce in Leskovac is responsible for assisting SMEs, but there is little evidence that it is reaching out and addressing the needs of potential entrepreneurs at local level. Entrepreneurs reported problems accessing appropriate credit, a lack of assistance with the formulation of business plans, and unfavourable tax regulations (particularly regarding the import of foreign raw materials and equipment).

2.3.3 Agriculture and Food Security

Presevo and Bujanovac are characterised by the Morava River plains to the east, elevation 400m, to mountains in the west rising to an altitude of 900m. Medvedja is a more mountainous, highland municipality, interspersed with small river normally dry during the summer months. Agriculture is the predominant rural activity, producing livestock and dairy products, wheat, maize and tobacco. Farming is more intensive along the river plains and livestock in the eastern and western hillsides. Fruit production and processing and forest products are more predominant in Medvedja, where many small/medium agricultural related projects are emerging, such as bee keeping, and the production of medicinal and traditional plants. In the three municipalities, wheat and maize are generally produced for self-consumption, while tobacco and vegetables are considered cash crops even though increasingly farmers are reducing tobacco surface and vegetables are traded only to local markets. Some farmers expressed a real interest in chicken-farms and fish farms. Farm unit size is between 1and 5ha, although in Presevo 5-10ha is nearer the norm. An increasing proportion of the younger generation is leaving farming and many farmers especially in Medvedja have second jobs and consider farming as a secondary activity.

The widespread effect of the continuing drought on agricultural production, which started in April/May 2000, is being severely felt throughout the area, resulting particularly in shortages of livestock feed and lower cereal crop yields. Like other industrial sectors, mechanisation in the State and small scale farmer sectors is aged and of out-dated technology. There appears to be a shortage of workable equipment amongst the smaller poorer farmers, and in general the lack of horsepower is not conducive to achieving land preparation of acceptable quality. Crop yields are further depressed by poor seedbed preparation, seeding capability and follow up crop treatment technology (fertiliser application and spraying).

In general, the short-term food security situation can be considered reasonable even if last year wheat and maize production was well below average due to the drought. Maize prices have since doubled, whilst flour and bread prices have remained unaffected. Reports of increasing slaughter of animals were reported despite the stable price of meat, due to the possibility of export of surplus production to Kosovo. Local food production is normally sufficient to cover the needs of the population. In all three municipalities, per capita wheat production is around 200 kg/person, and livestock units are on line or above national average. Vegetable and dairy production can cover local markets needs. Tentative concerns though surround the longer-term food security situation if the security situation worsens and the harvest is affected, and summer drought recurs.

2.3.4 Illegal Trafficking and Drug control

The mission identified that illegal trafficking of people16 and drugs may constitute a significant problem in the region. Serbia is a country of destination for illegal migrants, but also a transit route to the neighbouring countries and the EU. The municipalities of Presevo and Bujanovac in particular include the roads used by traffickers to reach the FYROM and then Albania, Greece, Turkey or the Middle East. The large presence of police and military forces in the two municipalities and the tighter control of the administrative border with Kosovo, have certainly reduced the illegal trafficking to and from this province but has not affected the area bordering FYROM. These roads are continuously and possibly increasingly used by traffickers. The figures of approximately 2,000 migrants arrested17 in the year 2000 trying to illegally cross this border and the arrest of 80/100 of them in one single operation are just some of the elements that indicate the dimensions of the problem. The alleged involvement of some elements of the police and military forces in theseissues together with a general lack of resources and specific training has a negative impact on the prevention of these illegal activities. Regarding crime unrelated to the security situation, although the local police force is predominantly Serb, all ethnic communities within the area report minor incidences. Across the three municipalities concerned incidents of public disorder are extremely rare, only 2 cases between Serbs and ethnic Albanians were recorded in Medvedja in 2000.

2.4 Assessment Limitations

The UN Inter-Agency Assessment Mission Report was a carefully focussed exercise which does not aim to provide a comprehensive assessment in that due to time and scope, not all villages and facilities in PBM municipalities were visited, and in that certain types of information and statistics were either insufficient or unavailable. Moreover, the security situation limited the ability to assess areas within the GSZ, which the mission team was unable to visit at the time.

Further assessment is needed in the areas of agriculture, water and sanitation for educational and health facilities, an inventory of basic schools and health clinics, environmental protection, the nature and impact of small arms and mines, illegal trafficking of narcotics and people, demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants, and governance issues and basic services related to the Roma population.

Most importantly, local capacities need to be built-up to enable municipalities themselves to conduct such assessments, identify needs and priorities, and to elaborate these into coherent and well-focussed service delivery, development, and investment plans and programmes.

3. Framework, Strategy and Recommendations

3.1 Framework for Inter-Agency Support to Stability & Recovery in Southern Serbia

The UN Inter-Agency Assessment Mission to Southern Serbia (Presevo, Bujanovac, Medvedja municipalities) identified needs that require action by the international community. Detailed recommended actions are set forth in the individual sector assessments found in the Annex to this report and are summarised below. In examining the range of possible interventions, the development of a coherent framework to define and implement priority actions at the local level is essential to guide priorities, maximise impact and facilitate synergies. Additionally, financing of immediate, short, medium and longer term actions must be addressed, firstly by directing funding available via the existing UN Consolidated Appeal for humanitarian and transition activities in 2001, through other direct UN funding and by creating additional funding mechanisms. A common framework for action includes:

(1) Basic principles governing UN and other international assistance to the region;

(2) Specific strategies and recommendations aimed at fostering stability and recovery of the region;

(3) A set of immediate interventions to help build confidence during the first 3 months;

(4) A broad based programme of actions and financing mechanisms for short-term (3-6 months) and medium to longer-term (6-36 months) perspectives to address specific recommendations of the assessment.

3.1.1 Strategic Objective

The overall strategic objective of the programme is to support the stabilisation and revitalisation of Presevo, Bujanovac, Medvedja and surrounding municipalities.

3.1.2 Basic Principles

In pursuit of this objective, UN system activities will be governed by and promote a set of basic principles:

  • Adherence to the Rule of Law
  • Respect for Human Rights
  • Impartiality and non-discrimination
  • Equity and Social Harmony
  • Inclusiveness and Cohesion
  • Participation & Consensus Orientation
  • Subsidiarity and Empowerment
  • Transparency and Accountability
  • Economy and Sustainability
  • Effectiveness and Efficiency

3.1.3 StrategicGoals

The following are proposed as particularly relevant core elements of an overall international and national strategy to deal with the situation in Southern Serbia:

  • Promotion of activities that support sustainable peace and restore human security to all;
  • Promotion and protection of human rights, in accordance with international instruments and standards
  • Promotion of international development targets espoused in the UN Millenium Declaration

  • Fostering confidence building and promotion of dialogue, reconciliation and social cohesion
  • Promotion and empowerment of inter-communal initiatives and co-operation
  • Capacity-building for local ownership and broad-based inclusive participation at all levels;

  • Promotion of non-discriminatory practices and participation by communities in democratic institutions
  • Redress of past discriminatory practices in employment, service delivery and infrastructure investment.
  • Equitable access to opportunities and active roles for women in civic, political, and economic life

  • Enhancement of open civil society & NGO roles, and emergence of inter-community networks
  • Open communication and the broadening of social and economic connectivity;
  • Public outreach, awareness-raising, and mobilisation of broad-based support

Moreover, international assistance can be initiated, fully implemented and effective only in a secure and safe environment for international staff and nationals working in the region. Thus any actions by the international community must be initiated with due consideration to the security environment.

3.2 Specific Recommendations for International Support

Some actions must be initiated immediately to help consolidate the peace process and demonstrate the international community's commitment, through UN support, to the region. More comprehensive and sustainable actions can then follow to address medium and longer-term needs. The Mission envisages three phases: immediate (0-3 months), short term (3-6 months) and medium to long-term (6-36 months). Immediate actions can be implemented by focusing some resources from existing UN programme activities to the region funded by the UN Consolidated Humanitarian Appeal for 2001, and from other UN agency resources, however these and other initiatives may need to be supported in individual cases by supplementary donor funds. Close co-ordination will be necessary with other actors who can do the same with their current resources or who are currently planning or implementing their own programmes. Additionally, grant funding to establish an area wide support fund should be explored during the immediate phase. Following are the major recommendations arising from the UN Inter-Agency Assessment:

3.2.1 Co-ordination and Security

(a) A policy and programming dialogue with Federal and Serbian Governments on follow-up to this report should be initiated immediately, including on issues raised in this report, and on ways in which the international community can provide support for progress in efforts to stabilise and revitalise the area.

(b) Building on existing activities in the area, the UN system should strengthen its presence to jointly engage in information gathering and sharing, project identification, implementation and monitoring while the medium term sub-regional programme is being developed. Security considerations and co-ordination also underscore the importance of a joint team approach.

(c) A portfolio of project proposals should be rapidly developed, in consultation with the Serbian Ministry of International Economic Relations, for consideration by interested donors, and with a view to securing endorsement and funding - including possibly in the context of current preparations for the FRY Donors Conference planned for May 2001;

(d) In light of latest developments, the UN system and Government should explore ways in which the process of eventual disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants can be pursued in tandem with efforts at weapons collection and the reduction of small arms proliferation - within the overall context of the new cease-fire and an eventual agreement on a settlement of the crisis.

(e) International assistance should be offered to the Federal and Serbian governments for support for restructuring and retraining of police (including border police) as a top priority.

(f) UN system agencies and international donors should provide support and technical assistance for the implementation of confidence building measures, including those of the Federal and Serbian Co-ordination Body and other local initiatives.

(g) The early warning and conflict prevention capacities at Federal and Serbian Republic government levels and for the joint Co-ordinating Body for PBM in Southern Serbia, should be strengthened.

3.2.2 Governance and Human Rights

(a) Support the dissemination of legal information, the provision of legal assistance and on-going human rights monitoring in key municipalities within the sub-region.

(b) Support the promotion of non-discriminatory policy dialogue and participation in municipal level governance structures and planning initiatives.

(c) Support initiatives for electoral reforms including revision of electoral districts, where necessary, to reflect an equitable demographic balance without regard to ethnicity;

(d) Provide technical support and training for municipal government and participatory structures to improve management, planning capabilities and fiscal control, including information management.

(e) Support a broad range of civil society initiatives (e.g. human rights, women's organisations, youth groups, peace-building activities, cultural programmes, and advocacy).

(f) Support inter-disciplinary training for educators, health and social workers, school pedagogues and psychologists as well as police about child rights and youth-friendly practices.

(g) Support the development of awareness campaigns connected to local media and organisations, schools and religious establishments, (e.g. drug use, trafficking of illegal migrants, mine awareness, STDs, domestic violence, and women's rights).

(h) As a practical and confidence-building measure, some form of affirmative action should be considered to enable ethnic Albanians to participate in public institutions and services, acknowledging any appropriate qualifications they may have obtained elsewhere, and providing accelerated upgrading of skills where necessary to meet public service standards;

3.2.3 Health

(a) Support the co-ordination of assistance in essential drugs, basic equipment, medical material and rehabilitation for all local health care facilities, with special attention to Mother and Child Health Care Services (MCH) and the most vulnerable population groups (children, women, elderly, IDPs and population living inside the GSZ). Opening of communications and improving transportation capacity will contribute to better access of isolated population to emergency health care and other services.

(b) Support to the reorientation/reform of health service from a curative to a more preventive approach. Passive surveillance of diseases and local statistical and reporting system should be strengthened and active surveillance introduced.

(c) Establish new health promotional and educational programmes with the aim not only to improve attitude and existing practices, but also to diffuse local fears regarding the use of health services.

3.2.4 Social Welfare

(d) Support the elaboration of human poverty and development indicators for each municipality, and for the formulation of a broad-based participatory poverty eradication strategy and partnerships

(e) Promote involvement of Social Welfare Centres and social work professionals in monitoring and protection activities for vulnerable populations;

(f) Use the local social welfare system and facilities as a model for the on-going reform and capacity building of the republican social welfare, in tandem with reforms envisaged under the new Civil Service Council, and supported by the multi-donor Capacity Building Fund;

3.2.5 Educationand Youth

(a) Ensure that on-going winterisation and schools repairs programmes cover the needs of all schools; provide basic furniture, school equipment and teaching aids for all schools to ensure basic conditions for learning.

(b) Improve access for all segments of population, with special focus on education and adult literacy with a view to increasing access for all ethnic groups and minorities.

(c) Carry out psycho-social assessment of pupils in all schools and appropriate follow-up.

(d) Advocate that armed forces vacate occupied school buildings, guaranteeing access for all children to schools.

(e) Support innovative programme for participatory education with special focus on culturally sensitive and inclusive curriculum and textbook review, community participation, bilingual education, equalisation of services and participation in management by minority groups and women.

(f) Support for teacher training and provision of educational materials to achieve equalisation of services.

(g) Support sports, music and other recreational programmes and establish inter-school sports/music and other exchange programmes.

(i) Support to youth groups and youth centres as "safe spaces" for joint activities for youth from all communities; medium to long-term assistance will be required to help youth groups form and sustain themselves.

3.2.6 Public Services

(a) Support investment in water and heating systems, sewage, solid waste management, social infrastructure repair, roads and materials/equipment for improved social service delivery as these needs are assessed and prioritised within a framework of the local village, municipality, and as well as broader sub-regional issues.

(b) Explore ways in which greater synergies can be obtained through selective pilot out-sourcing to private sector suppliers and service providers, under appropriate guidelines and controls of cost-effectiveness, accountability and performance.

3.2.7 Economic Development and Employment

(a) Provide short-term job opportunities for the unemployed (especially young people) in order to rebuild small-scale infrastructure, carry out labour intensive environmental projects or small farm related projects, or similar activities.

(b) Promote an enabling environment for business development (especially SMEs) to organise business services, trade fairs, training, and a forum for public-private dialogue on economic development issues.

(c) Promote access to information & communications technology (ICT) for education, professional and SME networking, community inter-action, and business development

(d) Build capacities for market surveys, marketing and distribution, and export promotion

(e) Support preparations for privatisation, SME development, and investment promotion

(f) Increase the availability of credit for small business, commercial enterprises and the farming sector, including farmers associations.

(g) Provide technical and financial support to establish and strengthen vocational training opportunities for young people.

(h) Support employment counselling and retraining programmes for former police officers and other civil servants, linked to restructuring and reform.

(i) Further study of the agricultural sector and possibilities areas for support, especially in cash crops, livestock and animal feed production.

(j) Support increased veterinary services for livestock, especially in GSZ.

3.3 Geographic Scope of the Proposed Programme

The immediate actions should be addressed to the three municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja, which were the primary focus of the assessment. However, it is recommended that programmes eventually have a broader geographical coverage to broaden impacts. The counties of Pcinski (which includes Bujanovac and Presevo) and Jablanicki (includes Medvedja) could eventually be the focus for an integrated Southern Serbia programme. There are thirteen districts and approximately 500,000 people in this sub-region18.

4. Implementation Approach and Mechanisms

It is recommended that an integrated approach to planning and implementation be adopted.

4.1 Immediate Actions (0-3 months)

(a) Establish UN Inter-Agency support office (IASO) in South Serbia , which would build on the established UNHCR field presence in Vranje and UNHCR and other UN agency offices in Kraljevo and Nis. The IASO would be staffed initially with expertise from a core group of UN agencies operational in FRY (e.g. UNHCR, UNDP, OCHA, UNHCHR, and UNICEF), which would continue to support activities and monitoring already being undertaken under the UN's humanitarian mandate, but which would also build beyond this to advance the process ofrecovery and development in the area. Other agencies, such as UNLO and WHO may conduct ad hoc missions and co-ordinated with the IASO. In the immediate period, the IASO would focus on human rights monitoring, promoting and supporting confidence-building measures, capacity building and institutional reform, and quick impact projects for recovery and development in Southern Serbia, focusing on Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja. The support office, IASO, would also liaise closely with the joint Co-ordination Body for Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja and co-ordinate activities with other international organisations and donors in the area.

(b) Implementation of some field activities could begin immediately by using existing resources and additional donor funding raised through the UN Inter-Agency Humanitarian Consolidated Appeal for 2001, as well as through recourse to other UN agency programme funds, which will need to be supplemented with additional donor resources. Work should begin to establish an Area Support Fund for Southern Serbia to provide a more sustained flow of additional resources to priority activities.

4.2 Short Term (3-6 months)

(a) Strengthen/expand ongoing activities already underway in the region whilst ensuring co-ordinated response and maximum use of existing mechanisms.

(b) Activate the Area Support Fund to fund quick impact employment-generating infrastructure/service delivery projects that aim to build confidence and promote social cohesion, and build up managerial and outreach capacities for local institutions within the region. The Fund and Programme would be managed through the UN inter-agency support office (IASO)or jointly with the Co-ordination Body. Municipal agencies, public services, NGOs, INGOs and UN agencies could receive support through the Fund for programme activities. The Fund could eventually evolve into a mechanism for an integrated area development programme.

4.3 Medium to long term (6-36 months)

(a) Establish an integrated Area Development Programme as a flexible and responsive facility to:

1) Build capacity of municipal authorities to manage and plan local social and economic development

2) Support establishment of more inclusive participatory mechanisms (Municipal Development Committees) to assess needs, identify priorities and formulate investment and development plans

3) Manage funds for social cohesion, human rights,and local development for Southern Serbia;

4) Establish legal information centres to disseminate legal information, provide assistance to clients and promote a broader understanding of the rule of law.

(b) Develop an integrated programme for SME development with expanded credit provision (incl. agricultural), business development services and establishment of a local economic development agency in each district.

(c) Development of an investment promotion and employment programme for Southern Serbia.

The above mechanisms are suggested as possible approaches to ensure an effective application of international resources to support the objective of establishing and maintaining a stable human environment and to facilitate reconciliation and recovery in Southern Serbia.

Overall, the nature, timing, and sequencing of the UN system's activities in promotion of socio-economic recovery should be conditioned on progress with implementation of prerequisite security agreements and the pace of essential reforms. UN humanitarian and human rights activities will not however be subject to any such operational conditionalities, except for protecting the safety and security of UN system and associated personnel.

Footnotes:

1 e.g. such as those funded through the humanitarian UN Consolidated Appeal for 2001, or from other UN agency resources, such as regular programme funds.

2 The Terms of Reference of the Assessment Mission are included in Annex 1

3 See map in Annex 3

4 A list of participants is included in Annex 14

5 See Terms of Reference in Annex 1

6 A list of people met and the schedule of meetings is included in Annex 15

7 For further details of policing see section 2.1.4

8 The demarcation of electoral districts in Bujanovac is said to be not necessarily consistent with, nor proportional to the population demography (, for example, the election of one counsellor, the share is 2,000 ethnic Albanians compared to only 2-300 Serbs). Yet, a simple majority is required to get a motion through.

9 The municipal government structure for the municipalities of PBM is set out in Annex 7

10 Gorans are Muslim Slavs originating from the Gora region in south-west Kosovo.

11 See section 2.2.2 for further details

12 See Annex 7

13 See section 2.2.2 for further details

14 In the present employment statistics, youth with high educational background are over represented (according to the Chamber of Commerce in Leskovac). It is expected however, that once the SOCs will be restructured and privatised, many older workers (including women) will become "officially unemployed".

15 In the SOCs women workers are generally well represented although not often in management functions.

16 See Annex 2 for further details

17 The majority of the illegal migrants arrested in this area originate from eastern Europe and CIS states and enter Serbia via Romania hoping to find a job in FRY or to travel further to the EU.

18 See Annex 9 for breakdown of population and ethnicity

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed by the inter-agency mission team in this report do not necessarily reflect the official perspectives or position of the United Nations or any of its agencies, programmes, or funds.