Office of the Press Secretary
(Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo)
|For Immediate Release||November 23, 1999|
Winning the Peace in Kosovo: A Progress Report
The United States and our European allies are committed to winning the peace in Kosovo by: addressing humanitarian needs and preparing for winter; easing ethnic tensions and protecting minority rights; and strengthening democracy and supporting civil society.
Meeting Humanitarian Needs and Preparing for Winter. Since the end of the conflict, the vast majority of Kosovars have returned home from refugee camps in Macedonia, Albania and Western Europe. During the conflict, Serb security forces drove 900,000 people out of Kosovo and destroyed nearly one third of the housing stock, creating an enormous challenge for both Kosovars and donors.
Though not all Kosovars will be able to repair their homes this fall, the objective of the international community is that no one will go without shelter. Nearly half of the 66,000 housing repair kits committed by USAID, UNHCR, and ECHO (the European Commission Humanitarian Organization) have already been delivered to villages throughout Kosovo. Stoves are being distributed by UNHCR, USAID, and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) while ECHO and CARE are providing firewood. Upon completion of these programs, over 450,000 people will be housed in warm, dry rooms in both rural and urban areas. The humanitarian community is also pre-positioning stockpiles of food and other relief supplies in and around some of the more vulnerable areas in Kosovo. UNHCR's Winter Emergency Team and a rapid response team from USAID will help ensure that any gaps in humanitarian assistance are quickly and effectively filled.
Easing Ethnic Tensions and Protecting Minority Rights. Violence in
Kosovo has steadily declined since the arrival of KFOR troops, the expansion of
UNMIK authority, and the deployment of UN International Police (UNIP), although
attacks on Serbs and other minorities continue to be a concern in parts of the
province where Serbs and Albanians live in close proximity.
UN International Police (UNIP) are beginning to assume law enforcement responsibility in Kosovo, starting with major cities and gradually moving outward. The first class of 176 Kosovar police recruits, including seven Serbs, started field training on November 1, following six weeks of instruction. Kosovar legal experts have drafted a new criminal code for Kosovo subject to Council of Europe and UNMIK review. Kosovar judges and attorneys are conducting detention hearings, and now the first actual trials, for individuals detained by KFOR and UNIP.
Public safety is first priority for KFOR. As of November 17, NATO allies and 13 other countries have deployed over 47,000 KFOR troops in Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania. Approximately 7,500 U.S. troops are in Kosovo. Half of KFOR's total available manpower is directly committed to the protection of minorities. Until international and local police forces are able to establish a law enforcement presence, KFOR troops are providing a security presence in Serb towns, villages, and neighborhoods, while checkpoints and patrols have been organized in key areas to enhance these security measures. KFOR also monitors border-crossing points and is involved in humanitarian assistance, establishing sanitation facilities, securing water supplies, and operating and maintaining the railway.
Keeping its commitment to the international community, the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) has demilitarized and ceased to exist as an organized force. The Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) is being created as a means to facilitate a return to civilian life for some former KLA fighters. The KPC, which will be formally initiated when UNMIK determines it has the full resources to do its job and all applications have been fully vetted, will be a multi-ethnic civil emergency service agency under overall UNMIK authority. KFOR will provide day-to-day operational direction. Other former KLA members are being reintegrated into civilian life in various ways, including vocational training, scholarships, and assistance to start small businesses.
Strengthening Democracy and Supporting Civil Society. The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is establishing the foundations of civil society in Kosovo, and has set up local administrative authorities in all 29 of Kosovo's municipalities. As a result of the November 17 donors conference, funding requirements for this year's administration costs have been fully met, with further funds already pledged for 2000. UNMIK's local administration has begun to provide police and other services to the people of Kosovo, ranging from emergency medical assistance to the licensing of vehicles. UNMIK has also begun to facilitate the process of revitalizing Kosovo's economy, as evidenced by the opening of shops and restaurants in Pristina and other towns. In conjunction with the IMF, World Bank, and USAID, UNMIK is devising a longer-term strategy to create institutions and regulatory systems critical for growth and employment.
Fostering a free and independent media in Kosovo is central to the international community's democracy-building efforts. Kosovo's print media now have half a dozen professional daily journals available to the public. Radio stations have started up in Pristina and in the municipalities of Djakovica/Gjakove, Urosevac/Ferizaj, Gjnilane/Gjilan, Prizren and Pec/Peja. UNMIK, KFOR and British Armed Forces Radio are also broadcasting. Radio/Television Kosovo (RTK) transmits a two-hour satellite program daily that can be seen throughout Kosovo. Work has also begun on preparing regulations, licensing new broadcast media, and establishing media standards. In addition to funding indigenous media, the international community is assisting with the repair of Kosovo's terrestrial broadcast system.
Lastly, the State Department's Office of International Information Programs, the International Organization of Migration, and USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives have formed an innovative public/private partnership to establish seven Internet information centers in Kosovo. With the first of seven centers opening this week in Urosevac/Ferizaj, the Kosovo Information Assistance Initiative will provide local communities in Kosovo with access to the hardware, software, internet connectivity, technical assistance and training necessary to begin to re-establish civil society.
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