Saferworld has been working in Kosovo for over 12 years, focusing on improving security provision and small arms control at the local and national levels and making them more inclusive and people-centred. This includes enhancing public participation in development and implementation of security policies and initiatives, and improving the transparency, accountability and responsiveness of security providers. 2014/15 has seen a formal transition of our work in Kosovo to a more regional focus on conflict prevention and peaceful political integration within the Western Balkans. As a result, our work focuses on promoting dialogue and joint action by civil society organisations (CSOs) in the Western Balkans on unresolved ethno-national, regional and local disputes, and on EU-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.
Empowering CSOs in Kosovo to contribute to security policy and decision-making processes
It is clear that the involvement of CSOs contributes to the building of strong and sustainable connections between state actors and the wider population, which then impact upon a state’s social, economic, and political development. These connections are crucial to strengthen state institutions, increase accountability, and ultimately contribute to peacebuilding.
At the moment policy and decision-making on security issues is mostly dealt with by state institutions, with limited involvement and contribution from CSOs. Saferworld’s work in Kosovo concentrates on empowering CSOs to become effective contributors to these areas. An 18-month joint project with Saferworld, Forum for Civic Initiatives (FIQ), and AKTIV, financed by the European Union, helped empower CSOs in Kosovo to become effective contributors to policy and decision-making processes. CSOs’ skills were built so that they can work in municipalities to undertake high quality research, with the intention of influencing security policies to respond to the concerns of local people on key peace, security, and conflict-related issues.
Supporting community security policy design and implementation
In November 2012 our partner FIQ, together with five local partner CSOs and supported by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, organised public consultation meetings on the design of the National Small Arms Light Weapons Control and Collection Strategy and Action Plan of the Republic of Kosovo 2013-15. The consultation process has informed the public about the government’s new approach to the control of illegal weapons and made the ministry more aware of citizens’ concerns on this issue. This has enabled them to address these concerns through the development and implementation of the strategy. Saferworld has supported FIQ and the local partners to actively promote a strategy development process that is transparent, inclusive, and participatory.
During 2013, Saferworld continued to support the ministry on the implementation of the National Strategy and Action Plan on Community Safety 2011-16. As part of the Government Steering Group providing expertise on this strategy, FIQ and Saferworld contributed technical input for an amended Administrative Instruction which will strengthen the functioning of Municipal Community Safety Councils (MCSCs). MCSCs are mandated to work with communities to identify local safety issues and develop action plans to address them. FIQ and Saferworld reported to the Steering Group that MCSCs had not been consulting adequately with communities or developing action plans. The revised Administrative Instruction, addressing these shortcomings, is now in force and is leading to a more genuinely participatory approach to addressing security and justice needs.
Promoting community-based approaches to security in the north
Saferworld and our partner in the north, AKTIV, have been implementing a community safety project in an ethnically mixed and tense area in the north of Kosovo, through which the Kosovo Police have been encouraged to take a more participatory approach to addressing security problems. A significant outcome has been a 2013 campaign against illegal small arms possession, which brought together ethnically mixed community members and the police to talk about the issue. According to AKTIV, young people expressed their concerns to police representatives, and the police followed up by encouraging the public to continue the dialogue with their local police stations. This campaign has provided a positive indication that a more participatory approach to security provision is possible in northern Kosovo.
After the war in Kosovo ended in 1999, a UN Security Council Resolution transferred governance to the United Nations, finally leading to the independent state of the Republic of Kosovo in February 2008.
Kosovo and the wider region have seen substantial political progress made over the past years, with the International Steering Group for Kosovo ending supervised independence in September 2012. Not long afterwards, on 19 April 2013, as a result of a series of European Union (EU)-facilitated talks, Serbia and Kosovo reached an encouraging agreement on the principles governing the normalisation of relations between the two countries.
This agreement marked the most significant step towards normalisation since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999. And it is expected to enhance European accession prospects for both countries and contribute to peace and stability in the region. In April 2015 the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement for Kosovo, which entered into force on 1 April 2016. This is the first contractual relationship between the EU and Kosovo.
However, concerns still exist. Despite the presence in Kosovo of the largest civilian mission ever launched under the European Security and Defence Policy – the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) – the rule of law in Kosovo is undermined by low levels of trust in EULEX and leading security and justice institutions including the police and the judiciary. These institutions are perceived as inefficient, unaccountable, and corrupt. Instability is further exacerbated by continuing tensions in the north of the country. Other potentially destabilising factors include the lack of economic development, delays in EU integration, and a lack of progress in fighting organised crime and corruption.