"Kosovo/a Initiative" Assessment Mission
R E P O R T
DRC Job no. 503-556
Supported by FRESTA
The armed conflicts in the Balkans during the period of the last ten years have created the largest forced displacement crisis in Europe after the Second World War. It is estimated that approximately 2,500,000 people were forced to leave their homes, and approximately 1 million still is in need of a durable solution. There are still over 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Kosovo/a accommodated in Serbia and Montenegro, some 22,000 minority IDPs in the Kosovo/a province and 9,000 IDPs in Macedonia. All these people are living under precarious conditions and have very poor access to relevant information and appropriate structures responsible for return and reintegration processes.
The process of return to Kosovo enters into a crucial phase in 2003 and 2004: for the first time since 1999, a net minority return to Kosovo has been registered, just as the waiting lists of IDPs wanting to explore the possibilities for return are increasing. DRC has also noticed an increasing donor interest in this process, and has recently started conducting go-and-see visits to Kosovo/a as an attempt to involve itself in facilitating the IDPs' decision-making process, as well as in the actual return for those who wish to pursue this option.
The return process of refugees from Macedonia to Kosovo showed better results, however the problem still remains to be completely solved, particularly when it comes to the return of non-Albanian refugees from Kosovo (mostly Roma and a small percent of Serbs). Quite a number of local and international NGOs in Macedonia, as well as UNHCR, are actively involved in resolving these issues.
Another pressing issue in Kosovo is the return of Kosovar refugees from Western countries. This poses many problems in terms of protection, housing, employment and ensuring that the returnees are accommodated and taken care of in an appropriate way. This concerns all relevant stakeholders, such as UNHCR, UNMIK, international and local NGOs, as well as the local communities to which these people are returning.
Given the complex nature of the overall situation in the region, and particularly in Kosovo/a, it is highly important that efforts are made in establishing links between the communities that will contribute to the creation of an environment that is conducive to return of IDPs and refugees. This calls for a high degree of cross-boundary communication and activities relating to bringing people together to discuss concrete issues and problems that are obstacles for return, since return continues to be the preferred option of most IDPs, provided that the basic conditions for a dignified and sustainable life have been secured.
In that respect cross-boundary cooperation between representatives of the civil society, more precisely non-governmental organizations (NGOs), from the entities in the South Balkans region could add value to the already existing efforts in facilitation of the process of return of IDPs, and thus contribute to the process of restoring long term peace and stability in the region.
Local NGOs from the Balkans region (FYR Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Kosovo) became actively involved in addressing the complex problem of internally displaced from the beginning of the crises. At present the activities of local NGOs are primarily focused on providing assistance to IDPs and returnees in their present location and are limited to providing information related to the possibilities for return. Only recently have local NGOs become more directly involved in supporting the actual minority return of IDPs. In addition, particularly during 2002, NGOs from the South Balkans region began with establishing mutual contacts and links in order to better prepare for assistance related to the eventual larger scale return. The NGO Transition and Development Programme in Serbia and other FRESTA-sponsored initiatives (especially SEE-RAN) have significantly contributed to initiating and developing this cooperation. However, contacts and cooperation between NGOs in this region are still in the initial phase. Given the complexity of the return process of IDPs and the process of integration of the returnees, a more solid cooperation network between NGOs from the South Balkans needs to be established.
Following the recent discussions between the FRESTA Secretariat in the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and DRC, and the mutually observed need for strengthening the civil society cooperation on facilitating the return of IDPs in the region in general and to Kosovo on particular, it was agreed that an assessment mission should be carried out in order to analyze possibilities for setting up a co-operation based on activities of local NGOs from Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia which can focus on providing assistance to the process of return of IDPs to Kosovo and to establishing inter-ethnic dialogue between communities in the region.