Restoring Property Rights in Kosovo: Post-Conflict Disaster Management

Article excerpt

In the aftermath of conflicts or civil wars, the defeated parties often continue to be victimized through a loss of personal freedom, possessions and property. Such is the case in the Former Yugoslav province of Kosovo. In June 1999, following the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's intervention in Serbia and Kosovo, and subsequent persecution of the population by extremist nationalists, many of Kosovo's ethnic minority families fled to Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and beyond. Almost immediately, their homes and businesses were occupied by the remaining population.

By Security Council resolution 1244, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was established to provide a temporary governing body during the transition from Yugoslav rule to a more clearly local democratic government. The protection of property rights for all Kosovars is one of the key priorities for UNMIK. At its request, UNCHS (Habitat) prepared a strategy for ensuring these rights in Kosovo. UNMIK Regulation 23 of 1999 established the Housing and Property Directorate (HPD) and the Housing and Property Claims Commission (HPCC). The mandate of these semi-autonomous institutions is to resolve rights lost during Kosovo's post-autonomy period (1989-1999), regularize informal trades in property during that period and restore property rights to those whose possessions have been illegally occupied.

The rights to property are one of the preconditions for the return of families displaced by war to Kosovo. There are others, including the right of freedom of movement, the right to trade freely without duress, and the right to participate in government. UNCHS (Habitat) is working through HPD/HPCC, together with UNMIK, the international security force (KFOR), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to restore and assure these rights for all residents of Kosovo. …