Analysis: The UN in Kosovo – success or failure?

r233517_935991The United Nation’s achievements in Kosovo can be described as mixed at best. The organization responsible for guiding Kosovo out of the chaos of a crippling civil war, UNMIK, became somewhat of a detested figure within the region, and eight years after its start in 1999, decided to abort their mission and let the EU take over in Kosovo. But did the UN fail to deliver?

After the end of the NATO bombings and subsequent fall of the Milošević regime, the UN decided to take over within Kosovo. A resolution was drafted in June 1999, called the UN resolution S/RES/1244. Two organizations were placed within Kosovo: UNMIK and KFOR. UNMIK was an organization set up to create a temporary administration that could provide the region with stability after its destructive conflict. KFOR on the other hand, was a peace force set up by NATO as a ‘leading support organization’ for the region. UNMIK has now disappeared, but KFOR up to this day remains up and running.

So why did UNMIK fail to help guide Kosovo to achieve a stronger state? Or did UNMIK simply cease to have any relevance as an international aid after the Kosovar declaration of independence in 2008? The subsequent EU take-over from UNMIK in Kosovo suggests that this was not the case.

A success story, or a failure?

The United Nations Interim Administration Mission Kosovo (UNMIK) was charged with protecting human rights of Albanian Kosovars, building a stabile political system, and trying to arrange a settlement with Serbia in connection with independence for Kosovo. First of all, calling UNMIK a complete failure would be overstretching the truth. It did manage to calm a volatile situation, with noticeable successes in the department of justice and security.

However, in its main objective, namely to agree a settlement with Serbia, they did not succeed. Along with this, most experts agree that the UN also failed to create a stabile political system with working institutions to support a working administration. The main reason for this failure seemed to be that UNMIK did not involve local population in their decision-making. By marginalizing them, support for UNMIK became more and more limited throughout the years. This gradually squeezed the credibility out of UNMIK, leading to its eventual demise in 2007. Then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan already sensed in 2005 that a different approach towards the region was necessary. Talking about peacekeeping missions in general, he stressed the need for ‘participatory governance’. In other words, he wanted the local population to become more involved in the decision-making process. The Secretary-General sent Norwegian Diplomat Kai Eide to Kosovo to set up a full rapport on the situation in the region. Eide wrote in his findings that the UN was losing its grip on the region, and proposed a take-over from EU to restore stability in Kosovo.

Overall, the UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo cannot be called a complete failure. Definitely on a humanitarian level, crimes against the Kosovo population did decrease. Politically however, it did not succeed. Institutions were built, but did not work and UNMIK quickly became incredibly unpopular with the locals, due to their lack of involvement. It can however be argued that the UNMIK operations provided a good platform for the EU to take over their work, which is now working to slowly create a path to full scale, functioning independence for Kosovo.

Time will tell whether the current EU operation will prove more successful than its predecessor, and whether locals will continue to accept international involvement.

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Category: A Frontpage, Conflicts, EU, Kosovo, Opinion, United Nations, World

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