Municipal Returns Strategy Policy Paper
Standard on Sustainable Returns and the Rights of Communities
"Members of all communities must be able to participate fully in the economic, political and social life of Kosovo, and must not face threats to their security and well-being based on their ethnicity. All refugees and displaced persons who wish to return to Kosovo must be able to do so in safety and dignity."
Under the Standards Implementation Plan, each municipality is expected to develop and effectively implement a Municipal Returns Strategy annually beginning in 2004. The purpose of the Strategy is to enable municipalities to assume responsibility for returns in a manner consistent with European standards.
The violence of 17-20 March 2004 was a significant setback for the returns process and highlighted the needs for returns must be framed within the larger context of achieving greater protection of the rights for all ethnic communities in Kosovo. The Municipal Returns Strategy will remain fundamental to the Standards Implementation Plan as now, more than ever, new approaches are required to create a tolerant environment where the rights of all communities are protected. The Municipal Returns Strategy, therefore, must be part of an overall approach to building a tolerant and secure environment for all communities.
The Strategy will provide a framework for the returns activities of the Municipal Working Group, and should include both broad municipal objectives and specific activities with regard to returns. The Strategy will also facilitate transparency and consistency in returns-related work, and will enhance coordination of returns efforts by all those involved in the process. In addition, development of the Strategy will support efforts by municipalities to identify needs and access resources and technical assistance particularly given donor community focus on community integration and returns.
Development of the Strategy should be based firmly within the municipality with Municipal Assembly Presidents and Chief Executive Officers assuming the leading role. The Municipal Assembly President may choose to establish a special committee for this purpose, a Municipal Returns Strategy Committee. This Committee would be chaired by the Municipal Assembly President and would include the Chief Executive Officer and the Municipal Returns Officer (see attached Terms of Reference). As integral representatives of the minority communities, Additional Deputy Presidents and Heads of Municipal Community Offices would be invited to participate. While the strategy development process should be led by the Municipal Assembly President, the municipality may draw upon the support and expertise of UNMIK, UNHCR and other interested organisations. UNMIK Municipal Representatives, Local Community Officers, and Regional Returns Units will be prepared to participate actively in the process of strategy development.
The Chief Executive Officer is expected to assume direct responsibility for the preparation of the Municipal Returns Strategy. Under the Standards Implementation Plan, the post of Municipal Returns Officer is expected to be created within the office of the Chief Executive Officer in those municipalities with ongoing and/or projected returns. In these municipalities, the Municipal Returns Officer would, as a member of the Municipal Returns Strategy Committee, assist the Chief Executive Officer in preparation of the Strategy. It should be noted that as Municipal Returns Officers may not be in place for several months, Chief Executive Officers should be prepared to task staff members currently within their offices to assist in the preparation of the Strategy.
To ensure that the municipality's approach to returns is consistent with and part of an overall approach to the integration of communities, members of the Municipal Returns Strategy Committee are encouraged to seek the input of the existing communities structures within the municipality including Communities Committees and Mediation Committees. To further ensure a broader communities focus, members of the Municipal Strategy Committee may liaise with central PISG communities structures including the Prime Minister's Advisory Office on Communities and the Office of the Inter-ministerial Coordinator on Returns.
The Municipal Returns Strategy should be presented by the Municipal Assembly President (or the CEO) to the Municipal Working Group on Returns for its endorsement. The endorsed Strategy would serve as the framework for the activities of the Municipal Working Group during the year. Municipal Assemblies are generally not expected to play a direct role in development of strategies, but can provide support for the process through endorsement of the strategies or adoption of general resolutions upholding the protection of the rights of communities and the right to return.
Given the need for prompt action consistent with the Standards Implementation Plan, it is recommended that municipalities begin work on their strategies as soon as possible, and that 2004 Municipal Returns Strategies be prepared and presented to the Municipal Working Groups for endorsement by 31 August. For 2005 and subsequent years, the annual Strategy should be presented to Municipal Working Groups for endorsement by 31 December of the previous year. An annual review of the Strategy should be conducted in October, so that the results can inform the development of the following year's Municipal Returns Strategy.
The following guidelines and sample questions are suggested to assist municipalities in the development of the Municipal Returns Strategy. They are intended to be neither restrictive nor exhaustive but instead to highlight many of the key areas that deserve consideration during Strategy development.
It is recommended that the Municipal Returns Strategy be completed in narrative form and be divided into the following five sections:
Areas of Focus
Part I: Current Situation
This section would provide an overview of where the municipality currently stands with regard to returns-related issues.
The section could summarize, for example, the overall returns environment and the level of community integration. Freedom of movement, access to basic services, and other current conditions faced by both existing communities and returnees could be described. The section could note the level of municipal engagement in communities and returns structures including Municipal Working Groups as well as the level of engagement by communities, returnees and IDPs in municipal life.
This section should also specify active and potential returns locations, returns projects under development/implementation, municipal initiatives supporting returns, and existing links with IDP communities.
Municipalities may wish to draw upon the available resources of UNMIK (e.g., ORC Municipal Returns Overviews) and UNHCR (e.g., monthly returns estimates) in gathering information for this section.
Part II: Areas of Focus
This section would highlight the municipality's areas of focus for the year given current information and expectations on returns. It would require information gathering and analysis based on the pattern of displacement and the pattern of return.
Identified areas of focus could emphasize, for example, needs in past, present and projected returns locations that may reflect needs of communities generally. These could include facilitating the integration of communities/returnees in the key sectors of health and education, improving freedom of movement, ensuring greater participation in Municipal Working Groups and Task Forces by IDPs/receiving communities/municipality, supporting interethnic dialogue initiatives, improving public information about returns, engaging specific municipal directorates in concept paper design and implementation, and improving links to IDP communities interested in return.
Part III: Challenges
This section would provide an overview of the challenges envisioned in the areas of focus described above.
Identified challenges could, for example, include absence of dialogue between communities, receiving community concerns regarding returns, IDP concerns about security, lack of consensus on returns among political parties, existence of parallel structures, lack of accurate information available to the displaced about the community of origin, lack of information about the displaced, lack of participation by municipal officials in MWGs, GIVs and GSVs, or slow resolution of IDP property claims.
It should be noted that conditionalities, i.e., conditioning return on the resolution of other issues such as missing persons or final status, contravene returns policy and basic human rights principles and should not be listed as obstacles to returns. If groups within a municipality seek to link such issues to returns, those groups and their efforts could be noted as a challenge in this section of the strategy. In those cases, efforts to eliminate support for such linkages and build understanding of the right to return should be included in Part IV below.
Part IV: Proposed Actions
This section would describe the proposed actions necessary for the municipality to undertake in order to address the challenges described above and move the returns process forward in the identified areas of focus.
Proposed actions could include, for example:
Targeting improvements to the quality of life of existing communities generally while addressing the specific needs of returnees
Facilitating links between existing and returning communities
Tasking focal points in each municipal directorate to participate in the design and implementation of returns projects;
Ensuring the participation of the senior municipal officials in GIVs and GSVs;
Scheduling regular town hall meetings with receiving communities to raise awareness and promote tolerance;
Undertaking training of municipal and community leaders on communities issues and returns principles;
Developing and implementing projects to rehabilitate infrastructure which facilitate access to community areas or return locations
Developing and implementing joint community projects;
Contracting local NGOs to initiate dialogue activities;
Ensuring that Municipal Working Group and Task Force agendas and minutes are translated in local languages and distributed in advance of meetings;
Requesting the assistance of central PISG representatives to consolidate support for communities issues and returns at the municipal level;
Requesting the Ministry of Education to finance a project to construct a multi-ethnic school or pursuing the creation of education facilities financed by other sources;
Requesting the Ministry of Health to expand the services of an already existing ambulanta to cover the needs of new returnees.
Developing specific plans to maximize use of fair-share financing allocation to benefit community areas
For each proposed action, the CEO would be responsible for ensuring that an implementation plan specifying key activities, taskings, and timeframes is designed and executed by the appropriate directorate or municipal authority. The CEO will be assisted by the Municipal Returns Officer, once in place, in coordinating and monitoring these tasks.
Part V: Resource Requirements
This section would identify possible resource requirements associated with the proposed actions.
Identified resource requirements could include, for example, estimates of funding necessary for the implementation of proposed municipal returns projects or the hiring of specialized staff such as translators or trainers. This section could also include the municipality's plans to use its own budget to undertake the proposed actions, to pursue other sources of funding, and/or to revise the following year's budget submission to the Ministry of Economy and Finance given the newly identified needs of communities and/or returnees.
The following sample questions may be used to assist development of the Municipal Returns Strategy.
What information does the municipality currently have with regard to those displaced from their places of origin?
What are the patterns of displacement and return?
What is the breakdown of returns to rural versus urban areas?
For which locations has demand for return been expressed?
What contact do municipal staff have with IDPs or IDP representatives outside of MWGs and TF meetings?
What is the breakdown of IDPs and returnees by community?
What is the breakdown of organized, facilitated and spontaneous returns?
Returns Structures and Process
Which municipal officials participate in MWGs and TFs?
What has been the level of participation of IDPs in MWGs and TFs?
Which concept papers have been endorsed, funded, and/or implemented?
Which concept papers are under development?
What are the active spontaneous and organized returns locations and ongoing returns projects in the municipality?
What are the projected returns locations?
Which NGOs are currently working on returns in the municipality?
What information has been provided to receiving communities on returns?
Municipal PISG Involvement
What is the level of participation of municipal official in MWGs?
Which departments and local structures have been active in providing support to returns?
What departments are responsible for monitoring and addressing the needs of returnees?
What municipal resources have been allocated to support returns?
What have political leaders done to promote a tolerant and multi-ethnic climate?
Which community areas and returns sites have been visited by majority leaders?
Have municipal officials participated in GIVs and GSVs?
Have municipal officials intervened to remove obstacles to return?
Have municipal leaders publicly supported returns?
Security and Sustainability
What is the situation with regard to FOM/escorts of minority and returnee communities?
What is the security situation generally and is there a trend regarding number and severity of inter-ethnic incidents?
What is the situation with regard to employment and economic sustainability?
What is the situation with regard to access to Health, Education, Social Welfare, Public Utilities, Access to Judiciary?
How many minorities are working in the municipal structures? Where, and at what level?