1. Conference details

1.1 The conference 'Kosova/Kosovo: return, reconstruction, respect,' organised by the ECRE/ICVA Reference Group on former Yugoslavia, took place on Friday 28 January 2000 at the King's Fund, Cavendish Square, central London. The 102 participants included representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), and refugee community organisations (RCOs).

1.2 The conference's aims were to:

  • allow participants space to debate key issues, learn from each other and hear from expert speakers;
    develop recommendations on policy and practice regarding Kosova/Kosovo and Kosovan refugees;
  • explore what lessons can be learned from international involvement in the wider region, and their relevance to Kosova/Kosovo.

1.3 This report is intended to provide participants with a practical record of the content of the conference, picking up the main issues and keynote information. It also provides evaluation feedback from participants and a contact list of those who attended on the day. It is not intended as a full account of all the proceedings.

2. The introductory session

2.1 The conference was opened by Nick Hardwick, Chief Executive of the British Refugee Council. His remarks touched upon the history of the ECRE/ICVA Reference Group, first established in 1993 to provide a common space and focus for NGOs working with communities in exile and those active in humanitarian assistance on the ground in the region.

2.2 This conference was the 10th organised by the Reference Group since its inception, and provided an unrivalled opportunity to debate key issues, get the latest from key players in the unfolding drama, and make useful links with colleagues from across Europe. In recent years, local NGOs from the region had become more and more involved in its work.

2.3 The 20th Century had been described by a leading commentator as the 'century of the refugee;' at the end of the century, hardly anybody was in the place they had started in at the beginning. The century had begun with a major refugee crisis, and now had ended with one. Now we must look closely at what lessons we can learn from international involvement – this conference comes at a crucial time for us to reflect and look to the future and how we best work together.

3. Presentation by Dennis McNamara, followed by Q&A Session

3.1 Nick Hardwick then introduced the first keynote speaker: Dennis McNamara, UNHCR Special Envoy to the former Yugoslavia and Albania, and Deputy Special Representative responsible for humanitarian affairs in the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

3.2 Mr. McNamara prefaced his remarks by pointing out that the conference's title: return, reconstruction and respect accurately presented the three main areas of concern for UNHCR in Kosova/Kosovo. Return had been the major preoccupation of the last few months; reconstruction remained a controversial and difficult issue; and respect – for the rule of law and minority rights - was the major community problem.

3.3 Mr. McNamara went on to say that the Kosovo crisis has challenged all humanitarian actions, and raised fundamental questions with regard to the scope, structures, methods and relationship with the military. Kosovo was in a post-war situation but not a post-conflict one.

3.4 Addressing the background to the crisis, he said that, while matters had undoubtedly improved over the last month or so, many complex problems remained. One of the major issues of the last year was an existing large population of refugees from Kosovo even prior to the NATO action. Once the bombing started, some 900,000 Kosovars fled in a short space of time. After 12 June 1999, when KFOR entered Kosovo, Kosovars then returned at a rate of approximately 50,000 per day. It was the fastest and largest ever refugee movement in both directions, with a very high public profile and per capita accompanied by one of the largest ever relief operations (an example is the World Food Programme providing food aid to over half the population).

3.5 The exceptional and generally well co ordinated efforts of NGOs had averted a humanitarian crisis this winter in Kosovo. Humanitarian agencies had returned to Kosovo on the second day after KFOR entered. Today there remains an urgent need for other civilian actors, and Kosovo was in a state of internal collapse. Key elements of functioning civil society are non-existent and there is a complete vacuum of law and order.

3.6 The humanitarian effort in Kosovo had had to start from scratch, with mine clearance and supply lines an immediate priority. The speed of returns put tremendous pressure on the humanitarian effort, and surveys of damage to housing after KFOR entered indicated it was worse than expected. The shelter programme was therefore the next immediate priority; but it faced logistical problems and border bottlenecks. However, it had met its basic objectives – all Kosovars had some form of shelter this winter (host families, warm rooms or temporary accommodation). Winter would be very difficult for most Kosovars.

3.7 One of the most pressing problems in Kosovo now remains the treatment of minorities. The harassment, murder, and eviction of non-Albanians – especially Serbs and Roma – continues, and there is probably less than half the pre-war population left. Until July 1999, there had been an average of six murders per day of non-Albanians. This had now declined – but attacks on minorities continue. Minorities live in a virtual state of siege in mono-ethnic enclaves. The prevailing atmosphere of impunity is the most pressing concern.

3.8 There is a lack of law and order and violence goes unchecked. Soldiers are not trained to be and should not be police. Only 1,800 out of a promised 5,000 – 6,000 international police have arrived. This was not an adequate number and there was a lack of trained local police. Arrests were made, but not followed up and trials are not held. The judicial system was not operating, and this was the single most crucial gap in Kosovo today. It makes it extremely difficult for UNMIK to achieve its mission of real social and political development. Former victims of violence, refugees in some cases, have been allowed to propagate a vicious circle by committing violence themselves.

3.9 Shared responsibility between Kosovans and UNMIK is needed to overcome these problems, and the parallel political structures, which are KLA-backed. Much of the slowness in the international effort has been due to ambiguity of the UN Resolution empowering UNMIK and the peace settlement. The resolution states that there will be substantial authority for Kosovo, but it also recognises the authority of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Kosovars reject FRY's rule and do not want to be a province of Serbia. In the next few months it will be crucial to maintain the involvement of Kosovars and Serbs who have yet to agree be in the process. Only then can UNMIK pay salaries, hold elections and administer Kosovo. There are few precedents for this type of administration.

3.10 Turning to the humanitarian effort, the present level of aid should not be needed after the winter. UNHCR are preparing to phase out by mid-2,000. The European Union (EU) will take over many of the aspects of the humanitarian effort and the OSCE will address more protection issues. There will continue to be a role for local and international NGOs as a result of the damage to civil society. Humanitarian activities will be phased out and longer-term development will begin. Equal attention needs to be paid to minority protection, the rebuilding of law and order, and fostering tolerance.

3.11 Mr. McNamara then outlined the challenges UNHCR faced in the next few months

  • that investment since the war has been minimal politically and economically compared with during the war;
  • there was a lack of trained essential public service staff, from education to customs collection;
  • there continued to be an absence of law and order;
  • a functioning judicial system was needed, with arrests followed by fair and fast trials;
  • witnesses needed support in testifying against the accused;
  • there was a need for trained international judges and prosecutors for ethnic crimes;
  • the problem of Kosovars missing or detained in Serbia must be resolved;
  • the establishment of a domestic War Crimes Tribunal needed to be considered, to complement the work of the International Tribunal;
  • the rhetoric of tolerance from the Kosovar political leadership needed to be put into action on the ground at community level;
  • the expectation that the international community will do everything needs to be replaced by sharing responsibility.

3.12 In spring, the number of returns is expected to increase – some result of deportation. After spring, most Kosovar Albanians should be able to return, except those with special circumstances. Issues to consider in this context are the prevalence of violent crime, shelter, social welfare, and the economic effects of large-scale return (many Kosovars continue to be sustained by remittances from abroad – the EU estimates this amounts to $1 billion). The ability of Kosovo to sustain returnees must be taken into account, and minorities should on no account be returned. Except in enclaves, their safety simply cannot be guaranteed. UNHCR is under pressure from Belgrade to advocate for the return of Serbs to Kosovo.

3.13 Lessons from the international response and from previous crises have not been learnt. The relief frontline must include other civilian actors if systems such as law and order are to be revived. Only humanitarian actors entered immediately after the war.

3.14 What does humanitarian action include and what is excluded? In Kosovo, humanitarian action encompasses the protection of minorities and reconstruction. After the winter, relief will move into development. There are questions about the collaboration of military and humanitarian actors, and we must ensure that the humanitarian actors remain impartial. There are questions about the impartiality of the humanitarian response being raised by Kosovars.

3.15 The prevalence of bilateral actions undermined the multilateral effort. Asylum countries need to be patient to ensure sustainability for Kosovo. Premature, large-scale returns can work against stability and development. The sustained involvement and support of donors and NGOs is crucial to longer-term sustainability.

3.16 Mr. McNamara then took several questions and comments from conference participants. These are set out in Q and A format below.

3.17 Q: What actions will UNHCR take to prevent premature returns?

3.18 A: if they are refugees – that is have refugee reasons for not wanting to return – then UNHCR will resist their return. An example is the Roma from Kosovo. UNHCR cannot make the same case for FRY.

3.19 Q: Will there be capacity within UNMIK to take over the humanitarian action pillar that UNHCR currently oversees?

3.20 A: The humanitarian pillar will not phase out. Agency programmes will continue to be absorbed by UNMIK – though reconstruction is a problem because of the magnitude of the task.

3.21 Q: How many Kosovans were killed during the war? How many since the 12 June? How many are in prisons in Serbia? How many have died since their release from prison? What about medical cases? What about Serbian groups still active in Kosovo? How much investment is there in Kosovo and who controls it?

3.22 A: I do not have the figures for many of those cases, and I'm not sure any organisation has accurate figures. The number of murders recorded since KFOR entered Kosovo are 3,000 – 4,000, with equal numbers being Serbs, Roma and Albanians. So minorities do figure in that disproportionately. The problem of detainees in Serbian prisons needs to be acted upon by the UN. NATO tell us that there are no Serb paramilitaries in Kosovo.

3.23 Q: Some Serb paramilitaries entered Kosovo near Poduva and burnt the houses of ethnic Albanians. How are the borders being sealed by KFOR?

3.24 A: KFOR tries to maintain a presence along the borders – but these are not international borders but administrative lines.

3.25 Q: What is the UNHCR line with regard to the prevalence of attacks, kidnappings and trafficking when looking at returns this Spring?

3.26 A: Our line remains as set out before. Return is viable except in special circumstances, and any minority should not be returned.

3.27 Q: Accountability for war crimes is important. Could you expand on the plans for a domestic tribunal?

3.28 A: The International War Crimes Tribunal can only deal with a limited number of 'big names.' The Kosovo War Crimes Tribunal would complement the work of the ICTY. KFOR and others believe that there are perpetrators of war crimes still in Kosovo – though there is debate over this.

3.29 Q: The goal posts have moved for the humanitarian response. International staff do not suffer from power cuts, but if the aid budget is cut will it go to the right people? There are still 1 million people in tents.

3.30 A: There are not 1 million people in tents in Kosovo. Very few people are living in tents and those without homes are being housed in temporary community shelters or with host families. International staff are in the same position as everyone else with regard to living conditions like power cuts.

3.31 Q: You didn't mention the media in your speech and it is very important for Kosovan public opinion.

3.32 A: Yes, the media is crucial but I'm no expert. There has been a proliferation of media, especially Albanian. These range from brave journalists like Veton Surroi, who speak out against minority attacks, to those who are frankly extremely racist. UNMIK is looking at legal action to stop the latter, though it is difficult to get the balance right between freedom of speech and control of the incitement to violence. [Arne Piel Christensen: Freedom of speech is an ideal. UNMIK is preparing regulations to stop hate speech, but this is a difficult area and it is going back and forth between Kosovo and New York].

3.32 Q: How well can the Albanian politicians who've joined the Interim Executive Council co-operate, and what about the Serbs?

3.33 A: I have no idea about what co-operation exists between Rugova, Thaci and Qosja. So far there has been a sort of agreement on who will administer which department. It is fragile, potentially volatile, politically risky but necessary. As for Serb involvement – the question is who, how, when and the reaction of other Serb factions. If the joint administration works, as of 31 January 2000 all parallel political structures should merge. It is difficult to put human rights and democratisation into the joint structure.

3.34 Q: Could you elaborate on civil society and the role of local NGOs – will they play a decisive one?

3.35 A: UNHCR works with local NGOs, and we have also set up a consultative group of representatives of Kosovar civil society. There is a lot of potential for local NGOs and an increasing role. Many local organisations have needed time to get back on their feet. There is no question but that UNMIK must be pro-active in bringing in local NGOs.

3.36 Q: In Kosovo, the plan is to phase out humanitarian aid and move to development. However, the lessons have not been learnt in Bosnia – the move from emergency aid to development has been difficult, due to lack of trust from donors in local structures. Any recommendations for donors?

3.37 A: Many agencies are moving into development stage, and donors have pledged $1 billion for Kosovo. The message to donors is to invest in the process. Kosovo is different to Bosnia in that there is a UN administration of the entire province, and we have to try to make it work in this relatively small area. There is a need for more direct implementing partners.

3.38 Q: You've mentioned that premature return is a threat to stability, and there's anecdotal evidence of people being intimidated because they have been in exile. Any comments?

3.39 A: Premature and large-scale returns could pose a threat to stability. However, 75,000 Kosovars have already returned from Europe since June and by and large this has been manageable. I'm not aware of protection problems for returnees in the sense you mean – but we always need to be aware of the intimidation of moderates.

3.40 Q: Will the security situation improve with more international police, considering the inefficiency of police over there? In the spring, some 40,000 Kosovars will have to return from Switzerland – will the situation have improved by then enough to prevent destabilisation?

3.41 A: International police, in any numbers, can never fill the security gap. Trained Albanian police are needed, responsible community leadership is needed. UNHCR currently have the figure of 13,000 returns from the Swiss Government, and we consider this figure over a few months to be manageable.

3.42 Q: What about UNHCR's regional work, and the Kosovan Albanians in Serbia?

3.43 A: UNHCR has a major role in the region. We have a programme of over $70 million for Serbia and Montenegro this year. FRY has the biggest refugee and IDP population in the region and so merits increased attention from UNHCR.

4. Presentation from Sarah Forster of the World Bank on the economic and financial aspects of reconstruction in Kosova/Kosovo

4.1 In her presentation, Ms. Forster focused on three main topics:

  • the main challenges faced by Kosovo from an economic perspective;
  • a brief description of the Reconstruction & Recovery Programme for Kosovo and donor financing, including the role of the World Bank;
  • regional perspectives and the prospects for the Stability Pact.

4.2 Ms. Forster went on to provide an economic background to place today's situation in context. During the 70s and 80s, Kosovo received significant investment from the Yugoslav central government. This investment was as much for political as for practical reasons – the thinking was that an infusion of economic aid and industrialisation would curb separatist tendencies among the Albanian population. However, the industrialisation brought few benefits for the population at large. Financing was largely targeted at large-scale industries and mining which produced raw materials and semi-finished product for the rest of the country – this created relatively few jobs. The majority of the population – some 60% - were involved in subsistence agriculture.

4.3 Despite high levels of investment, once the effects of rapid population growth were taken into account – and given the fact that Kosovo started from a much lower economic base than the rest of the country – the province remained the poorest in Yugoslavia, with average incomes up to ten times lower than the richer republics of Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia.

4.4 In 1989, the autonomy of Kosovo was taken away. Over the next ten years Kosovo went into drastic decline as the central government stopped any major investment and Kosovar Albanians were excluded from mainstream political and economic life. They developed their own parallel government structures, tax systems and health and education services. Economically, the last ten years have been characterized massive lack of investment and neglect of operations and maintenance of the economic infrastructure and utilities, such that today the economic problems of Kosovo are as much about making up for this lost decade as about post-conflict reconstruction and recovery.

4.5 That said, the economic consequences of the conflict were severe. Industrial production collapsed and agricultural output plummeted, with livestock herds lost or killed and last year's planting season missed. Actual conflict-related damage is mainly to housing in the west of the province and to some infrastructure.

4.6 The World Bank sees Kosovo as facing four major economic challenges:

  • meeting immediate needs. During this winter the key issue has been to provide sufficient food aid, shelter, heat and power, as well as employment opportunities and temporary social assistance. UN agencies, particularly UNHCR, UNICEF, KFOR, UNMIK and NGOs have played the lead role in this effort; though there remains many gaps;
  • putting in place effective public institutions and policies. Building democratic institutions will be key to success in Kosovo. The challenge of moving from a temporary international administration to representative new local structures is very great, both from a political perspective and a human and financial perspective. For the past decade, the majority ethnic Albanian population has been largely absent from official government institutions. Over this period, there has been both substantial erosion of skills as well as emigration of many qualified personnel. Further public sector institutions, now and in the longer term, will require funding which implies generating tax revenue from a growing economy. UNMIK has taken a major step towards building locally-owned institutions by recently establishing joint administrative structures but there is still a long way to go. The budget here is key, and donors have to step in. There is still a long way to go.
  • repairing conflict damage. Conflict-related damage to housing and infrastructure will need to be quickly repaired. But physical damage goes much beyond such direct destruction. Many areas of the economy suffered from a decade of neglect of basic maintenance and an inability to provide for proper operational expenditure. The power cuts in Kosovo today are just one example of the effects of this – arising from old power generating installations in desperate need of repair and upgrading. Ensuring physical rebuilding is effectively and efficiently implemented will require sound priority-setting and close co-ordination among donors and between donors and authorities.
  • restarting economic activity and beginning transition to a market economy. There is evidence that many Kosovars would like to move quickly beyond relief to restarting economic activity – especially Kosovo's many farmers and small private trade and service outlets. For me, one of the most startling characteristics of the Kosovar conflict is the speed with which people returned and the entrepreneurial spirit and determination of people to make up for lost time and rebuild their own country. Small private enterprises are likely to be an important catalyst for economic restart and employment. To be successful, the recovery programme will have to be accompanied by reforms that will bring increased private-sector opportunity – this cannot happen in isolation. Improved economic links with its neighbours in the region will also be key to Kosovo's future prosperity. However, it is clear that long-run economically sustainable growth will also depend critically on the restoration of growth in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

4.7 Ms. Forster then turned to the Reconstruction and Recovery Programme for Kosovo. This is an effort to put together a framework to guide donor investment in Kosovo, to set investment priorities and identify financing needs. The report was put together by staff of the World Bank and the EU, with inputs from many other institutions – including UNMIK, IMG, UNHCR, WHO, EBRD, and USAID. It was presented at a donor's conference last November.

4.8 The programme has three main objectives:

  • to develop a thriving, open and transparent market economy which can quickly provide jobs – this will require the revival of agricultural production and the rural economy, encouraging the development of the private sector and addressing the issues of public enterprises;
  • to support the restart of public administration and to establish transparent, effective and sustainable institutions, including central and local government institutions and functioning police and legal systems;
  • to mitigate the impact of the conflict and to start addressing the legacy of the 1990s, with a focus on restoring adequate living conditions, rehabilitating infrastructure and upgrading social service delivery.

4.9 The principles of the programme are that:

  • donor effort should seek to complement Kosovar initiatives rather than replace them, building on local capacity. Donor resources should leverage local resources wherever possible, e.g. by mobilising remittances from the diaspora;
  • private initiatives should be encouraged and supported;
  • cost-effectiveness is critical and programmes should be judged based on their economic viability;
  • careful attention should be paid to the sustainability of donor-funded activities;
  • Kosovars should be closely involved early on in the design and implementation of the programme. Ensuring local participation and building ownership is the key to success. This will require a review of how we work; the World Bank cannot afford to leave Kosovars out of the decision-making process.

4.10 The report sets out a $2.3 million programme that aims not to rebuild Kosovo's economy as it was before 1989, but rather to repair conflict-related damage and the impact of a decade of economic neglect to provide a reasonable basis for future sustainable economic growth. This includes investments in all key sectors over the next four to five years, as well as for budgetary support necessary until the province develops its own revenue base from taxes. US$500 - $600 was pledged last July along with US$1.5 billion for emergency humanitarian needs, and a further US$1 billion was pledged last November (60% of this money was already pledged but not being used).

4.11 The World Bank's role in Kosovo is relatively small in financial terms. This is because Kosovo is not a sovereign country and so cannot borrow from the Bank. The World Bank has pledged US$60 million for the next two to three years. The Bank's programme involves three areas: technical assistance; policy advice; and financing for certain projects.

4.12 The technical advice and policy support is primarily to UNMIK. Eventually this will be to local government, on economic policy matters such as budget formulation, the development of appropriate frameworks for private sector development, and developing Kosovo's human resources and social services. The Bank has seconded staff to UNMIK.

4.13 Looking at project support, the Bank has made available a total of US$27 million from the post-conflict fund and net income. The amount is small, so the aim is to design core strategic projects that other donors can also finance. Two projects are already underway: a community development fund, established as a local institution in partnership with the Soros Foundation; and funding for Kosovo's 1999 budget. The Community Fund provides financing for infrastructure and service improvements in poor communities. In addition, the Bank is preparing another five to six operations that include additional budget support for 2000, an agriculture restart, private sector development initiatives (including a credit line for small and medium-sized enterprises), support for water supply and sanitation repairs and work on the power sector.

4.14 Turning to regional perspective, Ms. Forster addressed the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. Launched in summer 1999, the objective of the Pact is to achieve lasting peace, prosperity and stability for South-Eastern Europe. Membership of the Pact is broad. It includes all G8 countries, Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, and FYR Macedonia, Turkey, as well as virtually all major international organisations and regional initiatives which are active in the region. The aim is to develop a shared strategy for stability and growth in the region and co-operate to implement that strategy.

4.15 The Stability Pact has a Regional Co-ordinator, appointed by the EU, who chairs what is known as a regional table. Under this there are three working tables: democratisation and human rights; economic reconstruction, development and co-operation, and security. The World Bank has a formal role in the second working table.

4.16 The Pact also assigns specific responsibilities to the European Commission and the World Bank. In particular, the World Bank and the European Union are mandated to co-ordinate a comprehensive regional approach to development in the region. In response a regional economic development strategy has been developed, which will be presented at the regional donors' conference in late March in Brussels. The World Bank and the European Commission are responsible for co-ordinating economic assistance to the region. A joint World Bank/European Commission office has been established in Brussels to facilitate interaction between the European Commission and the Bank, and the region.

4.17 The main beneficiary countries of the Pact are currently Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, and Romania. The FRY remains outside the Pact at present. It should be noted that all these countries are extremely different – in terms of population and levels of income, and social development – so developing a regional approach is challenging, yet key to the future.

4.18 From an economic perspective, the Bank sets two preconditions. Firstly, there must be a stronger commitment to reform and co-operation by the South-Eastern European countries themselves. This needs to be toward both political and social stability within the region, and a determined effort to implement consistent economic reforms (e.g. promoting trade, privatisation, and financial sector development). Equally, commitment needs to be shown toward democratisation and protection of human rights.

4.19 Secondly, the Pact partners argue that an approach focused on country-by-country reform and regional integration is necessary, but not sufficient to achieve stability and prosperity in South-Eastern Europe. Success hinges on a parallel commitment to a certain and credible path to integration with European and global structures – particularly the EU. The certainty of integration will anchor expectations and provide both an incentive for reform and regional co-operation. Politically, a credible commitment to integration for this generation will give a strong incentive to today's political leaders to move forward rapidly to improve governance and undertake reform. Integration also raises the cost of bad policies or improper governance. Economically, ample evidence demonstrates that economic integration with developed economies can speed growth, lend credibility to reforms and provide a securer environment for investors. The economic strategy is therefore built upon the assumption that a credible commitment to integration with European and global structures – specifically the EU – is a critical ingredient for success.

4.20 Is the Stability Pact all talk and no action? A series of meetings and diplomatic resolutions with lots of nice words that ultimately make no difference to the lives of people in the region? It is too early to tell. Clearly, a long term perspective is needed – but for the Pact to lead to regional change commitment to reform by the countries concerned is crucial. This also involves the international community making sure that these countries are brought fully into all discussions and are aware of reform choices and what is expected of them. Further, it requires bringing in not only governments, but civil society and giving all people a stake.

4.21 Secondly, a clear investment strategy linked to the Pact's goals is required. To date, most project preparation work is ongoing in the areas of regional infrastructure and private sector development. These are two important areas for economic growth. But a stronger focus needs to be given to institution-building if peace and stability is to be achieved. Without democratic institutions, there cannot be sustainable economic growth which brings with it widespread prosperity. But how do you build transparent and accountable institutions in places such as Kosovo? It is sometimes far less tangible, something that is as much about processes and values as about investments and projects. But, ultimately, without strong government and civic institutions that are representative of people and provide all with equal rights and opportunities, it will be hard to achieve the lofty goals of the Pact.

5. Notes on information sessions and workshops

5.1 This section aims to provide a brief account of the main points arising from each information session and workshop held during the conference. As well as direct notes from the sessions, the main messages as set out in the concluding synthesis are given under each session rather than in the body of the synthesis in section 7.

5.2 ECRE workshop on settlement and integration issues for Kosovar refugees in Europe.

5.2.1 This workshop was chaired by Areti Sianni, Integration Policy Officer at ECRE, and featured a scene-setting presentation by Ali Bassett, Manager of the British Refugee Council's post-reception support team for Kosovans in north-west England. The reporter was Andrea Accardi, Integration Policy Intern at ECRE.

5.2.2 The purpose of this workshop was to provide access to updated information on the settlement and integration issues Kosovar refugees are facing in their countries of exile in Europe.

5.2.3 The first key question the group considered was: is it possible to consider integration within the context of temporary protection? The group agreed to look at whether integration measures had been implemented in any of the countries represented.

5.2.4 Following a discussion of approaches and projects in England, Scotland, Switzerland, Germany and Bulgaria, the group agreed the following principles, which needed to underpin any reception/settlement programmes in a temporary protection context:

  • all work should promote the independence and self-reliance of the client group, in order to avoid 'institutionalisation' and develop skills which would be useful on return;
  • ready access to good information by the client group was key; both on their rights in the country of asylum and on developments in the country of origin;
  • stress should be laid in developing refugee community organisations and community leadership;
  • work should emphasise increasing access to mainstream services for the client group, backed up by education in the host country language;
  • local communities in the areas of reception/settlement should be kept informed and involved;
  • special needs, such as psychological support and tailored women's projects, should be addressed.

5.2.5 Independence for the client group was a central issue of the workshop. The development of strong community structures was linked to the issue of self-reliance and the development of skills Kosovars could use if they returned or stayed in the country of asylum. Several workshop members reported great difficulty in building self-reliance while strong messages were being sent out by host governments that Kosovars would be returned in the near future.

5.3 Operations update: presentation by a representative of the International NGO Council

5.3.1 The operations update session was chaired by Ed Schenkenberg, Co-ordinator of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) in Geneva. Presentations were given by Paul Currion, the ICVA Information Officer of the International NGO Council, and Michael Menning, Senior Desk Officer in the South-East Europe Operations division of the UNHCR. Ilir Hamiti, Information Officer of the UK Kosovan Programme of the British Refugee Council acted as reporter. As UNHCR updates are freely available via Web resources, we are replicating only the main points of the presentation on behalf on the International NGO Council. Key websites are www.reliefweb.int/hcic and www.un.org/peace/kosovo.

5.3.2 Mr. Currion first outlined his position as an ICVA Information Officer seconded to the International NGO Council, based in the Humanitarian Community Information Centre in Pristina. The International NGO Council was formed by the major international NGOs (INGOs) in 1999, prior to the NATO action. It operated in Macedonia during the bombing, then relocated back to Kosovo on the signing of the Military/Technical Agreement in early June 1999. The Information Officer has three roles in supporting the work of the INGO Council: co-ordination; advocacy; organisational development.

5.3.3 Mr. Currion highlighted the fact that Kosovo has been flooded by NGOs and funds – yet there was a danger that UNMIK was not using this vast resource in the most effective way. This presentation looks at issues INGOs feel are important in the next period of work in Kosova/Kosovo.

5.3.4 The over-riding need on return of the INGOs to Kosovo was shelter: some 120,000 buildings destroyed or damaged (roughly one-third of all the houses in Kosovo). While 'winterisation' largely complete it has meant many families staying with friends, family or in collective centres.

5.3.5 The major achievements of the international community in the last six months have been: no major epidemics; no widespread starvation; most people have shelter this winter.

5.3.6 The big questions was whether the vast resources mobilised during 1999 have been justified by the results for the people of Kosovo. The question applies to all major actors and has yet to be answered.

5.3.7 The humanitarian situation has now been largely stabilised. What are the key issues for the long term? Reconstruction is the one issue which occupies the minds of most people in Kosovo – both physical and social.

5.3.8 The key issues within the move toward reconstruction were:

  • extensive damage to the infrastructure, on top of a decade of neglect;
  • the lack of a defined solution, political uncertainty and the potential for 'aid dependency' were shaking Kosovan society;
  • the position of minorities was a major concern, with the international community moving from 'reintegration' to 'co-existence' models.

5.3.9 Co-ordination of INGO activity in Kosovo was difficult – over three hundred INGOs were registered (though the number is thought to have fallen considerably now), and it was impossible to keep track of so many INGOs. Each organisation worked to different priorities and capacities. The way in which some donors had distributed their funding has also had an impact on co-ordination activities, with an unprecedented level of 'bilateralism' outside the control of UNMIK.

5.3.10 However, the level of co-ordination has overall been impressive, particularly when compared with the situation in Macedonia and Albania. UNHCR has been better resourced to act as lead agency. and most NGOs have shown an interest in co-ordinating activities.

5.3.11 The issue of military/humanitarian co-operation has been a difficult one for INGOs – and this has not been changed by the fact that NATO and KFOR are the 'good guys.' With NATO and KFOR present in such numbers, most NGOs had to work within context provided by military. The concerns of INGOs were: the effects of the different working cultures in the military and in INGOs; the variation in the effectiveness and engagement with humanitarian action across the different KFOR areas; questions over the accountability of KFOR to the UN structures; questions on the maintenance of impartiality and ability to work with minority groups such as Serbs; how far is NGO activity compromised when its work is funded by governments also funding KFOR troops?

5.3.12 INGO work in Kosovo was now entering a crucial period, as emergency relief ended and reconstruction and development work began. Pillar 1 of UNMIK (led by UNHCR) was scaling down its operations and handing a large part of its responsibilities to other pillars within the UNMIK system (mostly pillars 2 and 4, led by OSCE and the EU respectively).

5.3.13 Planning for the move to reconstruction/development has already begun, but it was an internal UNMIK process and was excluding INGOs. Many NGOs feel that this is a major missed opportunity, and symptomatic of wider attitudes within UNMIK. While UNHCR had experience of working with NGOs as implementing partners, other pillars within UNMIK were not so experienced. NGOs are under-valued within the UNMIK bureaucracy.

5.3.14 This lack of consultation was already creating problems – there is uncertainty when UNMIK will take over from UNHCR in certain areas, leading to concerns over possible gaps; there is a proliferation of meetings and bodies – and more co-ordination bodies can often mean less co-ordination; and there are questions over the extent of the control UNMIK seeks over NGOs.

5.3.15 Mr. Currion ended by pointing to the vacuum in law and order as the single greatest challenge in Kosovo during 2000. Though not an issue on which INGOs could have a direct impact, it was one that affected every aspect of their work – and also the fabric of society in which they work, negating efforts to build a functioning democracy.

5.4 Placing protection work in the NGO mainstream in Kosova/Kosovo

5.4.1 This information session was chaired by Julia Purcell, Inter-agency Co-ordinator of the Kosovan Programme in the UK. Presentations were given by Jan Shaw, Refugee Officer at Amnesty International (UK) (and formerly Protection Liaison Officer for the International Save the Children Alliance in Kosova/Kosovo) and Louis Gentile, Refugee Law Training Officer for the UNHCR in the UK and Republic of Ireland (who worked as a protection officer in Macedonia and Gjakova/Djakovica March to November 1999).

5.4.2 Mr. Gentile pointed out that, despite enormous progress in international law, we have not been any more successful in protecting human rights than before World War 2. The situation in Kosovo is a proof of the international community's failure. Despite the presence of the world's strongest military force, a large number of NGOs, a UN administration and other representatives of the international community, human rights have been severely abused. There are several reasons for this – the collapse of civil society, no judicial structure, the feeling that justice will not be done.

5.4.3 Protection can only be achieved properly if co-ordinated well. First of all, the local population must be persuaded that it is important. Protection work cannot be done by UNHCR alone – the work of NGOs must be integrated. The characteristic of past relationships – information shared by UNHCR with NGOs only on a 'need to know basis' – must be changed.

5.4.4 This new approach consists of three components:

  • real transparency in information-sharing: exchanging all available information and this should be a 'two way street.' The input of NGOs is just as important as that of the UN. Information should be immediately translated into action;
  • stakeholding in UN and human rights protection: the UN belongs to the world and to every individual – so we are all responsible;
  • we all have to be literate about human rights: programmes should be human rights compatible, even when dealing with urgent humanitarian situations. All NGO staff should be aware of international standards and obligations and human rights should not be neglected when dealing with emergencies.

5.4.5 Examples of putting this into practice include – while Kosovars were being expelled into Macedonia, there were some border crossings where the media were not present, and where refugees were being shot at or forced back into Kosova/Kosovo. Very few NGOs were present as the situation was too dangerous. The question was how to protect people from persecution. Medecins du Monde went to the border and set up a network of NGOs and local villages. Whenever there was a large group of refugees who were not allowed into Macedonia, NGOs and ICRC were made aware of the situation – they in turn called in Human Rights Watch. This often resulted in refugees being allowed access in 24 hours. If UNHCR or MDM had acted on their own, this would not have worked.

5.4.6 Example 2: a protection check-list was set up in Gjakova/Djakovica in June 1999. This list gave details of relevant NGOs which deal with issues with human rights elements, and was regularly updated. When people approached UNHCR, they could be referred directly to relevant NGOs. Information was also shared through local radio – who was doing what. Combining this approach with protection issues helped decrease attacks on a local Roma community. The involvement of local community leaders was also key.

5.4.7 Jan Shaw then began by pointing out that, in situations like Kosova/Kosovo, human rights protection is not high on the agenda. Protection gains less attention than humanitarian aid. While delivering aid, the question for INGOs was: if they witness violations of human rights or gain information on such, what should they do? Local NGOs were focused on issues important to them, such as missing persons and detention. It is important to get people to report violations, but also to do something.

5.4.8 One problem was that there was very little exchange of information and good practice between local NGOs and INGOs. It is important to try and prevent patterns of human rights abuses developing – but in Kosova/Kosovo it is difficult to know where to report abuses as there is no judiciary. Another problem was the variation in effectiveness among different KFOR troops. Human rights violations took place despite the presence of large numbers of troops. Soldiers were not police, but they do urgently need training on human rights issues and how to protect civilians.

5.4.9 In response to the need for information-sharing on protection issues, UNHCR had sponsored the establishment of a protection network. Save the Children Alliance had now got funding to appoint a Protection Liaison Officer longer-term. This work underscored the crucial nature of active outreach work on protection issues among the NGO community, and the importance of establishing transparent information-sharing mechanisms.

5.5 Workshop on return issues for Kosovar refugees in Europe.

5.5.1 This workshop was chaired by Simon Russell, Policy Officer at ECRE, and featured a presentation by Ruth Valentine, Manager of Oda (the UK Kosovan Voluntary Return Programme). The reporter for this session was Richard Williams, Policy Officer for the British Refugee Council's Kosovan Programme.

5.5.2 Ruth Valentine started the workshop by outlining the case study of a woman considering return to Kosova/Kosovo. Ms. Valentine went through the issues she would have to look into:

  • what are the necessary conditions in Kosova/Kosovo for her to return? (including security from attack on ethnic or gender grounds; mining; infrastructure questions – education, water, electricity etc.;
  • how has the experience of exile affected her attitude toward return? (including attitudes to Kosova/Kosovo in light of life in UK; has experience of asylum damaged her self-esteem or led to 'de-skilling'?);
  • how has the experience of flight affected her feelings toward return? (including regaining sense of strength and self-worth; opportunities to think through decision to return; getting enough information to make an informed choice).

5.5.3 Government policies should aim to strengthen refugees' and asylum seekers' sense of self-worth, rather than undermine them with coercive structures or mislabelling as 'bogus.'

5.5.4 The following information was raised during the discussions in the workshop:

  • Denmark is expected to apply 'cessation' to Kosovars brought there under the Humanitarian Evacuation Programme (HEP);
  • In Norway, about 3,600 Kosovars have returned voluntarily. The remaining 5,000 talk of needing 'another couple of years.' They would have to stay in reception centres and apply for asylum;
  • In Finland, the government has not yet decided on whether or not to extend temporary protection. Out of 1100 evacuees, 400 have returned. Most of the remainder, including Kosovan Serbs and Roma, have indicated a wish to stay in Finland;
  • Pressured involuntary return is impractical, and likely to force people to flee to countries neighbouring the host country;
  • In Switzerland, most people with refugee status who had returned had a house, family or job to go back to. The Swiss government had phased return by reducing the grant available to refugees after a certain date;
  • A Kosovar member of the group highlighted employment prospects as a mjaor factor influencing return. Host countries would be best advised to encourage return (and its durability) by offering job creation schemes in the context of a comprehensive package including (if necessary) temporary accommodation, help with the reconstruction of their house, vocational training etc.;
  • This approach was supported by experience in Bosnia and in return to Chile. A survey by the Norwegian Refugee Council found that the main advice to would-be returnees from those who had already returned was: 'make sure you have a job to go back to.' Giving people relevant skills was also key;
  • Documentation remained a major problem for returning Kosovars. People were actually still getting utility bills for destroyed houses;
  • Voluntary return remained key – it was more durable than involuntary return. In any forced return by states, attention must be paid to the vulnerability of potential returnees.

5.6 The situation of the Roma in Kosova/Kosovo and in exile

5.6.1 This information session was chaired by Mike Young, Co-ordinator of the Reference Group. It featured a presentation by Claude Cahn, Publications Director of the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). The reporter was Alice Webb.

5.6.2 Mr. Cahn started by pointing out that, until June 1999 the Roma had not been singled out for targeted ethnic persecution in Kosova/Kosovo. After this, as Serb forces withdrew and KFOR entered, anti-Roma rumours began to incite sustained and serious persecution.

5.6.3 There were estimates of up to 10,000 Roma killed during this persecution (June 1999 to end January 2000), with large numbers of rapes and attacks on housing reported. The Albanian majority had engaged in organised attempts to force the Roma community out of Kosova/Kosovo. Again, estimates suggested that about 20% of the Roma community had been forced to flee, although the lack of reliable data made this hard to verify.

5.6.4 There is currently widespread intimidation of non-Albanians in Kosova/Kosovo, with little effort by the police or KFOR to offer meaningful protection. Attempts had been made by the Albanian community to keep the Roma isolated from the international community. Witnesses or victims of human rights abuses were intimidated and afraid to come forward.

5.6.5 Although attacks against Roma had decreased recently, this was probably the result of the exodus of a large number rather than an improvement in the human rights climate in Kosova/Kosovo. It is difficult to envisage the return of Roma to Kosova/Kosovo in the near future. The issue of Roma collaboration in Serb attacks remains a difficult and destabilising issue – while there was evidence that Roma were ordered by Serbs to help with certain tasks (burying the dead, helping in looting) there seemed little evidence that they actively committed atrocities.

5.6.6 The international and local political leadership need to send out clear signs that the Roma can return in safety and will not be targeted as a group for collaboration. Sadly, the international media' efforts to find reasons for Albanian attacks on minorities have served to further ostracise the Roma.

5.6.7 There were currently some 10,000 Roma forced migrants in Macedonia, as well as large numbers in Italy. The ambiguities of international refugee law meant that it was difficult to obtain protection for Kosovan Roma in Macedonia. It was likely that the Macedonian authorities would attempt to return them to the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There were also reports of skinhead gangs targeting Roma IDPs in FRY. The forced return of Roma refugees to either Kosova/Kosovo or FRY was not an option currently, as their human rights could not be guaranteed.

5.6.8 In response to a question from the audience, Mr. Cahn expanded that return of any Roma seeking asylum from the FRY was not, in his opinion, a viable option at the moment. Roma had legitimate fears of police brutality and ethnic-based persecution in FRY. Although very little information is coming out of FRY on the situation for the Roma, what is clear is that they generally suffer bad living conditions and that little humanitarian aid reaches their communities.

5.6.9 In response to another question from the audience, querying the extent of the involvement of Roma community leaders in supporting the Serbian regime and its actions in Kosova/Kosovo, Mr. Cahn responded by saying that no level of collaboration justified the brutal expulsion of the Roma community from Kosova/Kosovo. He acknowledged that the Roma had occupied a relatively 'elevated' social position in Kosova/Kosovo, compared with other countries. He knew that most Roma desperately wished to return home to Kosova/Kosovo, but felt that it was still unsafe to do so.

5.7 Civil society projects in Kosova/Kosovo: two case studies

5.7.1 This information session was chaired by Robert Possnett, Regional Director of ICVA in Bosnia-Hercegovina and FRY. It featured presentations by Paal Nesse and Ake Bjorke of the Norwegian Refugee Council on their Civil Rights Project, and by Agon Demjaha of the Kosova Civil Society Foundation on building civil society in Kosova/Kosovo. The reporter for this session was Kirsten Walton, Information Officer at the British Refugee Council's Kosovan Programme.

5.7.2 The Norwegian Refugee Council first described their Civil Rights Project. This project began in Slovenia in 1996, and has now expanded to cover Serbia, Bosnia and most recently Kosova/Kosovo. The aim of the project was to try and make human rights work operational in practical terms.

5.7.3 The project operated in Kosova in a context where:

  • international humanitarian law is applicable;
  • 'national' law is effectively in a confused and fragmentary state;
  • it has to deal with the reality of an external organisation working in the field;
  • it works with numerous other actors, often doing the same kind of work, putting a premium on co-ordination without threatening the project distinct identity.

5.7.4 The project had two main aspects – individual legal rights assistance, delivered via six offices and a mobile team, and advocacy. Its main beneficiaries were returnees, IDPs, 'at risk' groups, and 'remainees.' The project is regional and employs around 100 multi-ethnic staff (mainly either lawyers or law students).

5.7.5 The project works on documentation and property issues, with direct links to some 180,000 Serb and Roma IDPs in Serbia proper. It works across administrative borders. It has handled some 100,000 cases in the first two years, 12,000 of which had follow-up. Some case go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

5.7.6 One of the main problems in working on civil rights in Kosova/Kosovo was that administrative decisions are made without any real legal foundation. There is no recourse to challenge without the courts. The objective was to contribute to the formulation of regulations so that they have a sound legal foundation – though this was very difficult as the law applicable in Kosova/Kosovo was so uncertain.

5.7.7 The advantages of an INGO running this kind of project were that it is often easier for internationals to run regional projects, that, in a fresh post-war situation, neutrality was a bonus, and in terms of security it was often easier to work with clients.

5.7.8 Agon Demjaha then gave a presentation on the 'paradoxical strengths and weaknesses of civil society in Kosova.' He began by pointing out that there was an impression that civil society in Kosova should be strong, due to the years of resistance to the Serbian authorities and the establishment of parallel structures. Kosovan Albanians also had strong links abroad. Yet observers state that the opposite is true: the NGO sector in Kosova is ineffective, weak and thin on the ground.

5.7.9 Why was this? Possible answers included the consequences of a decade of authoritarian rule, the legacy of the Yugoslav system, the dissolution of economic and civil life, and the destruction caused by the war in 1999.

5.7.10 Mr. Demjaha said that, in his opinion, local NGO networks were ill equipped to deal effectively with the post-war situation, especially competition with INGOs, which took the cream of the work. Professionals in the Kosovan Albanian community felt disillusioned and frustrated. The middle classes, which were not being paid, were considering migration. Those who could assume power were being sidelined by the international community. The structures which served well during repression were not adequate for democratisation and society-building.

5.7.11 The Kosova Foundation for Civil Society aimed to support the development of the NGO sector in Kosova and promote civic values. Its activities covered grant-making to local NGOs, information-sharing on donors and producing a monthly newsletter on NGO activity in Kosova, maintaining a website, and running training programmes for local NGO workers. A comprehensive directory of local NGO and civil society organisations was also to be published. All these activities were underpinned by the principle of shifting resources toward the local community.

5.7.12 In the following question and answer session, these points were raised:

  • How can civil society bridge the gap between different ethnic groups in Kosova/Kosovo? Mr. Demjaha said that he thought multi-ethnic projects were just not feasible right now. Better to build up separate community-based NGOs which hold to values of tolerance and pluralism, and then look to co-ordination and integration once they have reached a certain level of development.
  • Concern was raised about the ability of the 3rd Pillar of UNMIK in building civil society. Surely this belonged outside the administration? Mr. Demjaha said he agreed. However, the OSCE (lead agency in Pillar 3) was starting to engage with local groups so they may manage. Proper elections were the real key, but these seemed far off.
  • How seriously does UNMIK take civil society? What needs to happen to create an environment in which local NGOs become stronger and gain better support? Mr. Demjaha reiterated that civil society cannot be imposed, and that currently it was a difficult period following the euphoria of peace and liberation. However, there were other factors than money such as supporting local structures in educating people in human and civic rights and responsibilities and taking them seriously into the development of administrative planning.

5.8 Learning lessons for international involvement

5.8.1 This session was chaired by Barry Measom, Regional Manager of the British Refugee Council. It featured a presentation by Nick Scott-Flynn, an independent consultant and former Regional Director of ICVA in Bosnia-Hercegovina and FRY.

5.8.2 The main points of Mr. Scott-Flynn's presentation and the subsequent discussion were:

  • that the international community has not learnt many lessons from the last ten years – the situation in Kosova/Kosovo was an example of this;
  • that the other actors on the front-line of humanitarian involvement – technicians, police, administrators, the judiciary – were as crucial in any humanitarian action as direct relief;
  • there was an urgent need to define the relationship between humanitarian actors and the military to ensure the civilian and impartial nature of the work;
  • there was a need for greater clarification of the limits of humanitarian work, particularly in the crucial move from emergency relief to longer-term reconstruction and development (this move should happen as soon as possible);
  • co-ordinated, multi-lateral action was an important element in responding to refugee emergencies of this kind in the most effective way possible. We must be tough on the apparent move away from multi-lateralism to biliateral action by individual states;
  • the way we communicate to each other is key. INGOs and the UN bodies must be accountable to the people they profess to serve. There needs to be respect for the culture of civil society in the region.

6. Panel on civil society issues in Kosovo

6.1 The panel for this session comprised Arne Piel Christensen, Head of Democratisation for the OSCE Mission in Kosova/Kosovo (who gave the keynote address), Gordana Igric, Associate Editor of the Institute of War & Peace Reporting, Snjezana Tarle and Sonja Nikolic-Jusufi of the Kosovan Serb NGO Civic House, Agon Demjaha of the Kosova Foundation for Civil Society, and Albert Musliu of the Macedonian NGO, Association for Democratic Initiatives. The chair was Peer Baneke, General Secretary of ECRE, and the reporter Rod Harbinson, Senior Information Officer for the British Refugee Council's Kosovan Programme. 

6.2 The main points of Mr. Christensen's presentation were:

  • there was currently a lack of common understanding of civil society values in Kosova. The OSCE is carrying out institution-building based on ideas of human rights and democracy based on common European ideals. How, then, should communities in Kosova be guided to embrace these common values?
  • This task is complicated in Kosova because the society is so traumatised and introverted. Non-violent resistance to repression is widely seen as having failed. This has led to disillusionment and the attraction of solutions outside the human rights framework;
  • the creation of a UN protectorate has not been attempted in this way before. The point of UNMIK is simply to try and facilitate a structure which will help define and deliver the future of Kosova as part of the family of Europe;
  • The OSCE views the development of local democratic political structures, sanctioned by the people, as key in this process. We want elections as soon as practically possible. However, there are numerous complicating factors – the difficulties involved in registration of voters; the need for political movements to have a space to mature and develop into properly-functioning political parties; and the vacuum in law and order. Establishing an independent judiciary was particularly difficult: Albanian judges may release offenders and refuse to pass on evidence to KFOR;
  • The former parallel structures in Kosova have now all but collapsed – this is due both to former KLA/UCK structures not being recognised by UNMIK, and to the 'brain drain' of capable people to INGOs. All parallel administrative structures were due to dissolve on1 February, when the agreed Interim Executive Committee and Joint Interim Administrative Structure – involving local political leaders – comes into being;
  • Elections – to local authorities – were unlikely before the last quarter of 2000. It was important to recognise that political power in Kosova came from the local level.

6.3 In responding to Mr. Christensen's presentation, other panel members made the following points:

  • it was impossible to build real civil society structures while the final shape of the Kosovan settlement remained so unclear. This also represented a severe impediment to attracting private investment;
  • UNMIK must act to reduce the influence of Belgrade on the community leadership in Kosovan Serb enclaves;
  • there was an urgent need for widespread human rights education;
  • there was a need to strengthen the role of genuine civil society organisations in a situation dominated by large, transient NGOs;
  • that Kosova did not experience the transition from communism in the way that countries in Central and Eastern Europe did – transition was frozen under repression from the Serbian authorities;
  • that it was unlikely that the international community would engage seriously with the issue of Kosova's final status in the near future; they were buying time and waiting to see what happens to the Milosevic regime;
  • The vital requirement in any final settlement for Kosova is that the Albanian people must be actively involved in the debate and the solution;
  • Some observers have commented that Kosova's geography and economy are not suited to maintain a viable and prosperous independent state.

7. Concluding synthesis: Philip Rudge, independent consultant on international refugee issues

7.1 The conference was concluded by Philip Rudge, an independent consultant. Mr. Rudge delivered a synthesis of the main messages and themes of the conference, including the information sessions and workshops. These have been included in the reports on each session/workshop given in section 5 above. This section provides a summary of Mr. Rudge's general remarks made during the concluding synthesis.

7.2 Mr. Rudge began by highlighting the ambitious nature of the meeting, covering as it did numerous complex issues, from global politics to the difficulties faced by individual Kosovar refugees and returnees, from the terror still faced by minorities to the brave work of colleagues taking initiatives in Kosova/Kosovo.

7.3 Respect, part of the title of the conference, was key. Participants at this conference, from many different backgrounds and communities, showed respect in their engagement with the issues discussed at the meeting, in the use of different languages, in the methods of the meeting itself. This was the tenth meeting organised by the Reference Group on key issues arising from the ongoing refugee crisis in the former Yugoslavia – and there was great value in the process itself, in the bringing together of so many different actors – from international humanitarian agencies and bodies to grassroots community groups in exile and representatives of regional civil society.

7.4 Mr. Rudge drew from the information discussed at this meeting three key messages participants could take and broadcast to a wider audience, including governments, media and colleagues:

  • Kosova/Kosovo was post-war but not post-conflict, facing grave political, economic and human rights problems, with a new Balkan exodus and potential for further conflict in Montenegro and southern Serbia. The central challenge of this next period of involvement was to establish the rule of law in Kosova/Kosovo, build and support an independent, functioning judiciary, and endure the resources were there to pursue justice on war crimes. The role of the media was also crucial in this period leading up to elections. The investment in peace was disappointing compared to the cost of the war – we cannot allow the energy of Kosova/Kosovo's people to be lost in disillusionment, trauma and introversion. The fact that there is no endgame or agreed conclusion for Kosova/Kosovo adds further difficulty;
  • premature large-scale returns of Kosovars still in exile could be very counter-productive. The message to European states is that only sustainable return makes sense. The return of any minorities to Kosova/Kosovo at this time – including Serbs, Roma and others – is out of the question;
  • we must continue our commitment to a multi-ethnic Kosova/Kosovo; no matter how unrealistic this may appear now. The rights of minorities remain a central concern. We must support the process of dialogue with the Roma and Serb communities, and the participation of Serb representatives in administration.

8. Evaluation feedback by conference participants

8.1 The conference was attended by 102 participants. 60 participants returned completed evaluation forms (59% of the audience). A summary of the responses given on the evaluation forms is given below.

8.2 In answer to the question 'Did you find the organisation of the conference very good, good, fair or bad?', 50% of respondents answered 'Very good,' 43% answered 'Good,' and 7% answered 'Fair.'

8.3 In answer to the question 'Did you find the keynote speakers: very good, good, fair or bad?', 73% of respondents answered 'Very good,' 18% answered 'Good,' and 9% answered 'Fair.'

8.4 In answer to the question 'How did you find the morning information sessions and workshops?', 37% found them 'Very Useful' and 17% 'Very interesting,' 50% found them 'Useful' and 'Interesting,' 13% found them 'Not very useful,' 18% found them 'Not very interesting,' and 5% found them 'Not interesting at all.'

8.5 In answer to the question 'How did you find the afternoon information sessions and workshops?', 30% found them 'Very Useful' and 27% 'Very Interesting,' 33% found them 'Useful' and 47% 'Interesting,' 30% found them 'Not very useful' and 18% 'Not very interesting,' while 7% rated them 'Useless' and 8% 'Not interesting at all.'

8.6 In answer to the question 'How did you rate the conference in general?', 27% found it 'Very useful' and 23% 'Very interesting,' 72% found it 'Useful' and 73% 'Interesting,' 1% found it 'Not very useful,' and 4% 'Not very interesting.'

8.7 Comments made by participants on the evaluation forms included:

  • 'A very good analysis. The discussion on building civil society in Kosova was interesting and useful.'
  • 'Very good – but more time for everything!'
  • 'Maybe more from people from Kosova and the other parts of the region. I'd rather have heard more from them than the usual (Western) suspects!'
  • 'A very clear exposition.'
  • 'Make it longer next time.'
  • 'Well organised, well chaired – with sufficient time for a broad range of questions (though not always the answers!)'
  • 'I particularly appreciated hearing the World Bank representative, as you don't hear enough from the financial/economic side … '
  • 'Maybe more thought given next time to more concrete outcomes for the meeting – speakers should be pinned down on what practical measures could be taken, e.g. in reconciliation.'

9. List of conference participants

9.1 This conference report is accompanied by a separate document giving a full list of participants on 28 January 2000. If you do not have the list of participants but would find it of value, please contact the ECRE/ICVA Reference Group.

10. Conference administration

10.1 The conference was organised by the ECRE/ICVA Reference Group on former Yugoslavia. Administrative support at the conference was supplied by volunteers from the British Refugee Council: Francesca Fadda; Stephanie White; Maureen Boggins; Alice Webb; Mary Holmes; and Mimi Vicentijevic. Administration was co-ordinated by Mike Young, Beba Parker and Vesna Vukmanic. Interpreter support was supplied by Violeta Godwin (Albanian), Almir Koldzic and Marica Prelec (Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian).

11. Contact details

11.1 The ECRE/ICVA Reference Group can be contacted at our London office via:

telephone: + 44 207 820 3080/3055

fax: + 44 207 820 3107

e-mail: [email protected]

11.2 At our Sarajevo office via:

telephone: + 387 71 210 201;

fax: + 387 71 668 297;

e-mail: [email protected]

all correspondence for the attention of Vesna Vukmanic, Regional Support Officer.

A conference for NGO and IGO representatives, organised by the ECRE/ICVA Reference Group on former Yugoslavia, 28 January 2000, the King's Fund, London

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.