We skipped the December issue of the IDP Bulletin, and this issue is coming out late in the month, because 1) OCHA moved offices (We're now at UNDP, and note our new address and phone number in the letterhead) 2) OCHA programme officer Alex Todorovic became a father in December, and 3) Not much happens during Yugoslavia's long holiday season. As such, this issue of the Bulletin is longer than usual as we have many new developments to report.
In addition, we would like to welcome Bahkim Susuri to the OCHA team. He is now single-handedly handling OCHA responsibilities in Prishtina.
I. IDP Calendar of Events
February 27-28 - UN Guiding Principles Workshop on Internal Displacement will be held at the Grand Hotel in Prishtina.
This workshop will be similar to September workshop in Belgrade, which reframed the debate on returns to emphasize the human rights component instead of the political component of return.
The workshop will be jointly sponsored by UNHCR, Prishtina and UNOCHA. UNMIK and ORC will not participate in the planning for the workshop, but have agreed to promote and participate in it.
The workshop will be primarily oriented toward government officials and local NGOs, with participation by relevant UNMIK officials at the regional and central level. Heads of the UNHCR Field Offices will act as the principle facilitators for the group discussions, and that one NGO active in each of the regions will facilitate in each of the regional table discussion groups.
Invitations will be sent out in the first or second week of February.
February 24-27 - The local NGO HUMANA, which informs and educates on IDP issues, will be hold a three day seminar on human rights and advocacy training to 15 IDP associations. Many young people will attend from Kosovo towns and enclaves, including Orahovac, Velika Hoca, Gracanica, Silovo and Mitrovica, as well as southern Serbian towns Vranje and Bujanovac. For more information or to attend the event, please call Dejan Kostic at HUMANA at 011-437-071.
February 25 - The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Yugoslav Red Cross will launch a 6 month campaign that will advocate on behalf of the 200,000 IDPs from Kosovo currently living in Serbia and Montenegro.
The advocacy campaign which will be launched simultaneously in FRY and Geneva includes a series of public relations events centered on the daily lives and testimonies of displaced persons, as well as TV and radio spots and 2 itinerant photo exhibitions which will be displayed in 30 locations in Serbia and Montenegro.
As part of this campaign, the ICRC and its partners (UNHCR, RCS, RCM, Ministry of Social Affairs of Serbia, and Ministry of Social Affairs of Montenegro) will publish the results of a joint IDP needs assessment mission currently being carried out in both republics. In addition to the above mentioned partners, the Commissioners for Refugees of Serbia and Montenegro as well as ECHO have agreed to act as observers during this exercise.
Serbs in Caglavica, Laple Selo and Preoce, in the third week of January, blocked the Prishtina-Skopje road for one hour due a chronic shortage of electricity in the region. Officials at the Kosovo Electric company said that additional electricity reductions for those villages are a result of high electricity consumption. We note that a recent report by the Council of Europe's Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights noted that minority communities in Kosovo have chronic problems with access to utilities.
Serb leaders in Northern Kosovo in January established a Union of Serb Municipalities, which will be headed by Selimir Kalicanin, the organization's elected president.
Marko Jaksic, a deputy in Serbia's Assembly, said, "The goal of this union is to include all Serb areas and not only municipalities." He called upon displaced Serbs to establish municipalities in exile and to join the union. After the union was formed, Mr. Jaksic was critically injured in a car accident on his way from Mitrovica to Belgrade and is presently recovering.
Kosovo's PM Bajram Rexhepi and other Kosovo leaders said the Serb Union violates UNSCR 1244 and the Constitutional Framework. Deputy SRSG Francesko Bastaglio visited with Mitrovica mayor Faruk Spahija in an effort to convince him that the Union is illegal and not supported by the international administration.
A Security Council delegation that visited Kosovo last month (December) found "notable progress" in the province, but also noted that much work still needed to be done in several areas, including establishing the rule of law and the return of minority communities.
The report issued by the delegation noted that progress achieved so far has been driven to a large extent by the international community. The delegation "has the firm impression that local ownership and commitment to these processes has been less than could have been expected."
Speaking to the 15-nation Security Council, Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby of Norway, the head of the delegation, said that the formulation of benchmarks by UNMIK for the realization of standards is a constructive approach to the further development of Kosovo towards a democratic, multi-ethnic society.
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic surprised many in mid-January when he announced that he favors early discussion of Kosovo's status. Djindjic said if there is no discussion, Kosovo's status would be solved de facto. Djindjic's sudden change of position met with favorable reaction from Kosovo Serb leaders, who have also supported addressing Kosovo's final status sooner rather than later.
Michael Steiner delivered an important policy speech on Kosovo television stations on January 20th. The speech, titled "Taking Responsibility for 2003" outlined Steiner's main objectives which were improving the economy, fighting organized crime, and improving the situation of minorities in Kosovo.
Steiner said he would transfer as many competencies as possible to Kosovo's government, while he will take responsibility for security and fighting organized crime. "Believe me, I will insist on fair treatment of minorities," he told Kosovo. Regarding Belgrade, Steiner said, he would never allow a return to the past where Kosovo affairs were decided in Belgrade and he said, ""Cooperation yes - interference no."
Steiner said he would ensure that fines and punishment against media who promote hate speech are enforced.
Regarding the status of minorities, Steiner said "Kosovo needs to prove that this huge international investment of people and resources was worthwhile. It needs to prove that it is creating a society where every Kosovan refugee, regardless of ethnic origin, can live in security and dignity."
The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Council of Europe, as part of their joint programme "Roma and Stability Pact in South Eastern Europe" hosted a roundtable in Sarajevo from January 18-20, on the topic of "Roma, Ashkalie and Egyptian refugees and internally displaced persons in South Eastern Europe."
As part of the programme UNMIK and OSCE in Kosovo presented a case analysis on the different programmes of repatriation and the regulations of claiming lost properties in Kosovo.
The conclusions of the roundtable are not yet ready, but the aim of the roundtable, as it pertains to IDPs, was to:
1. Provide a comparative analysis of RAE refugees and IDPs in each South Eastern European country.
2. Evaluate the joint action plan of the UNHCR, OSCE/ODIHR and Council of Europe on Roma refugees and IDPs in the Balkans (adopted in Skopje in September, 2000).
3. Facilitate the creation of a regional network of refugees and IDPs, for better communication and coordination.
For more information about the conclusions and outcome of this event, please contact Gabriela Piotrowska at ODIHR's Warsaw office at email@example.com
IV. Organization activities
UNHCR Belgrade launched an IDP Unit this month, whose main purpose is to focus on the process of facilitating return to Kosovo in the context of the 2003 UNMIK Return Policy. The Unit will pay particular attention to strengthen co-ordination mechanisms that were established last year and work, in co-operation with OCHA, on producing the IDP Bulletin, which you are reading now, and on creating the Who's Who database, which will be completed in February.
As part of the IDP strategy, UNHCR has started to run a weekly TV show on IDP and Kosovo-related issues every Friday at 11:30 on RTS 1. With respect to this TV show, if anyone has suggestions on topics to address, please contact the IDP Unit at UNHCR at 063-312-395.
In addition, the Unit will also dedicate resources to assist IDP associations, in co-ordination with NGOs and related agencies. The Unit will continue its activities with respect to Go-and-See Visits and the organization of return movements, in co-ordination with relevant NGOs. The Unit consists of the following persons:
Mathijs le Rutte (Co-ordinator)
Milena Petrovic-Brauten (IDP Associations)
Marco Vucinic (NGO co-ordination and return movements)
Ivana Zujovic-Simic (information strategy)
Lindsey Cameron (consultant)
They can be reached at UNHCR Belgrade or at the cell phone number 063-312-395
Since the publication of the last IDP Bulletin, many new institutional bodies have been formed in Kosovo whose overall intention is to make the returns process more efficient and establish uniformity in the returns process.
In previous Bulletins we told you that the Office of Returns and Communities (ORC) has been reorganized, and that the high level Task Force on Returns (part of SRSG Michael Steiner's office) met for the first time in early November.
We've also previously spoken of Municipal Working Groups (MWG) and Regional Working Groups (RWG) as being the bodies where key decisions in the returns process are made. They may be thought of as the building blocks of return.
In early December, the ORC chaired the first Returns Coordination Group in Prishtina. The RCG includes the same organizations as the Task Force on Returns (ORC, UNHCR, Office of the Prime Minister, OSCE, UNMIK, KFOR, SRSG Office) but it is an operational level body whereas the Task Force includes the heads of offices and agencies. Both the Task Force and RCG are supposed to coordinate approaches between key actors on returns (UNMIK, UNHCR, PISG, and KFOR). The RCG is the Task Force's operational arm, and will, among other activities, review proposed return project lists submitted by the Regional Working Groups, as well as update Kosovo-wide Prioritized Projects Lists as outlined in the Returns Projects Process Guide.
The RCG will also create a centralized information management system that will be set up to allow the ORC to act as an information clearing house. In addition, the RCG will ensure that members have a common approach toward donors.
If you've understood this much, now we'll tell you about the Technical Advisory Board, which held its first meeting at the end of December. The TAB is a group of experts who provide technical expertise in the review of concept papers (for return projects) submitted to MWGs (Municipal Working Groups), and then makes recommendations on those concepts back to the RCG (Returns Coordination Group).
One more, and then we're done. We now also have the NGO Returns Coordination Group (NRCG), which also met for the first time in January. This body strives to coordinate approaches and ensure transparency among NGOs engaged in the returns process. The NGO Returns Coordination Group:
- Facilitates information exchange
- Serves as a forum for frank discussion of return-related issues
- Serves as an NGO point of contact for UNMIK, UNHCR, PISG (Provisional Institutions of Self Government and KFOR)
- The group nominates representatives to serve on the TAB and RCG.
For more information about all of this, get in touch with Anne Sophie Laenkholm at DRC Kosovo at firstname.lastname@example.org
We do not want to torture readers with too many acronyms and working groups, but it is important for IDPs to understand how the return process is organized and who the decision makers are.
Now test yourself to see how proficient you are in the returns process. Explain to a friend who knows nothing returns the roles and mandates of the CCK, MWG, RWG, PISG TAB, RCG, NRCG, UNHCR, ORC, and Task Force, not to mention the BPRM programme partners, all interact and cross-cut in order to return IDPs to K&M.
The Office of Returns and Communities, an advisory body to SRSG Michael Steiner, has prepared its Manual for Sustainable Returns, which is presently being translated but should be launched in mid-February. The Manual will spell out how the returns process is supposed to work on the Kosovo side.
V. Services to IDPs
A regular bus line has been established from Brezovica-Prizren, beginning January 17. The bus remains in the Prizren city center to allow minorities to buy goods and visit with friends. Minority Serbs have shown strong interest. Contact UNHCR, Prizren for more information.
A new IDP association has been formed - Alternativni Dom - which consists mostly of IDPs from the Prizren area. They distribute humanitarian aid and focus on activities that prepare IDPs for return. Alternativni Dom is located at Krunska 2. Call Vesna Jankovic at 063-455-817 or Snezana Aleksic at 011-652-272.
ICRC will publish within the next two months a legal booklet for family members of missing persons from Kosovo. The booklet will provide important legal information on procedures related to missing persons. This project is the product of a study that is to be completed in February on legal issues surrounding missing persons. The study will also identify legislative gaps on the issue of missing persons and made recommendations to national authorities.
ICRC continues its programme of support discussion groups for families of missing persons. The project aims to help family members deal with the difficult and ambiguous feelings of loss, and of not knowing the fate of their loved ones. Each group has a maximum of 15 persons, and consists of six bi-weekly sessions of three hours. If more people are interested, a second group may be created at a later stage.
Below you will find the groups and contact numbers beginning at end of February, beginning of March:
Cacak: contact Dusan Vujasanin and Mirjana Misovic, call ICRC Kraljevo at 036-334-684
Krusevac: Dusan Vujasanin andMirjana Misovic at ICRC Kraljevo, 036-334-684
Leskovac: contact Jelena Marjanovic at ICRC Nis, 018-547-633
Palilula: contact Miroslava Popovic at ICRC Belgrade, 011-457-728
Podgorica: contact Marijana Vukovic at ICRC Podgorica, 081-238-071
Stara Pazova: contact Zorana Camber at ICRC Novi Sad, 021-624-947
Vranje: Jelena Marjanovic at ICRC Nis, 018-547-633
Zvezdara: contact Mirjana Petrovic at ICRC Belgrade, 011-457-728
The International Catholic Migration Commission, ICMC, is an international NGO that focuses on individualized minority returns. ICMC, through its Individualized Minority Return Assistance programme (IMRA) has facilitated the return of 141 people and has assisted 272 individuals since January, 2002.
The goal of the IMRA programme, funded by the US State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, is to identify IDPs in Serbia and Montenegro who are committed to returning to Kosovo, but who are prevented from doing so by logistical obstacles and/or a lack of personal resources to make return sustainable.
In coordination with UNHCR, ICMC conducts housing, security and return community assessments, reconstruction agencies and UNMIK. IMRA includes help to returnees such as home rehabilitation and repair, payments for emergency medical care and the provision of tools and agricultural seed to increase self-sufficiency and decrease reliance on aid. Returnees may also receive aid through ICMC's Kosovo Enterprise Project which provides micro-credit loans to groups and individuals in order to start or expand business activities. You can reach ICMC in Belgrade at 011-3065-858
In Peja/Pec the first meeting of the Municipal Working Group on Returns ended with a walk-out of Albanian representatives when a Serbian participant used the Serb geographical term "Metohija" to refer to that part of Kosovo. Disagreements over geographic nomenclature highlight ethnic tensions in Kosovo and the difficulty in finding a common language for dialogue in Western Kosovo, where ethnic tensions remain high.
The following update was taken from the minutes of the December 31 meeting of the Returns Coordination Group, which met at UNHCR in Prishtina.
Mitrovica - A returns project is being developed in Vushtri Municipality in Novo Selo vellage by the UNHCR Lead Agency.
Prizren - Returns are being planned in three main areas: Zhupa Valley, Novake and Rahovac. These have not yet been fully endorsed by the Municipal Working Groups and potential implementing partners are preparing concept papers.
Gjilan/Gnjilane - Returns are being planned (Albanian and Serb) to Podgorce, in Abdulla Preseva Streen in Gjilan for Roma and Albanian families. No new concept papers are being submitted in January.
Prishtina - A concept paper is expected to be submitted to the RCG in January for returns to Obilic from the Plementina Camp.
Peja/Pec - Plans for future return activities are ongoing in Peja/Pec and Istok (K. Serbs and RAE). Project concepts for the RAE in Istok/g may be forthcoming to the RCG.
VII. Recent Reports
Returns & Re-Integration: Lessons Learned from NGO Experience in Kosovo 2001-2002 (November 26, 2002)
Produced by Alliance for Rights and Tolerance, a coalition of international NGOs working in Kosovo. You can receive the report by e-mail by contacting: email@example.com
The paper was produced on the basis of field experience of international NGOs who work in Kosovo. It stresses the importance of inter-ethnic dialogue and reconciliation activities in returns process. "Return and re-integration programmes must be designed in such a way that inter-ethnic dialogue becomes and integral and integrated intervention within all project activities," the paper notes. ART is presently putting together a list of programmes that have successfully promoted inter-ethnic tolerance so that they may be used as an example.
The second half of this 23-page paper includes regional profiles with general information on access to education, social and health services, access to housing and utilities as well as economic opportunities.
Return to Uncertainty. Kosovo's Internally Displaced and the Returns Process (December 13, 2002)
Produced by the International Crisis Group, a non-profit multinational organization with 80 staff members on five continents. The organization was founded because of the wars surrounding the break-up of Yugoslavia.
ICG's Kosovo report briefly overviews the history of returns policy since 1999, and then looks at how the returns process has differed between the Gjilan/Gnjilane region and the Peje/Pec region. As is widely acknowledged by those who work on returns, Gjilan/Gnjilane is an example of how it should be done, while returns to Peje/Pec have been more problematic. The report notes about the Peje/Pec region: "Villages lacked access to essential services, dialogue with the receiving community did not take place, and income generation and access to public services were not addressed until after returnees arrived."
In general, the ICG report is common knowledge for those working in returns.
Written by Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles, Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe
This report makes bold recommendations to correct the Human Rights situation in Kosovo. Regarding IDPs, Mr. Gil-Robles states: "Organised returns to locations other than the precise place of previous residence, are, in contravention of the right to freely choose one's place of residence, actively discouraged."
The most trenchant comments concern the enshrined power of the international peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. "The very structure of the international administration, as well as certain powers retained by its various branches, substantially deviate from international human rights norms and the accepted prinicples of the rule of law." He was referring to the broad executive powers retained by the SRSG, the lack of separation of powers, detention of prisoners, international peacekeepers' immunity from local prosecution: Mr. Robles states that such powers can no longer be justified.
OFFICE FOR THE COORDINATION OF HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS
Belgrade office: 011-3444-400
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Prishtina office: 038-241-509,
Bashkim Susuri , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.