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Background - Mandate/Terms-of-Reference - Organisation - Activities - Structure - Donators


The Joint UNEP / UNCHS (Habitat) Task Force on the Balkans (BTF) was established on 5 May 1999 by Dr. Klaus Töpfer, UNEP's Executive Director, in order to monitor the environmental and human settlements impacts of the ongoing Balkans conflict.

The BTF consists of some 10 staff members of UNEP and Habitat, as well as several persons seconded to UNEP for the duration of BTF activities <BTF structure>.

The BTF is headed by the former Minister of Environment and Development Cooperation from Finland, Mr. Pekka Haavisto.

Mandate and Terms-of-reference

The mandate of the BTF is to collect, harmonise, integrate and review information on potential and real environmental impacts, as well as those on human settlements, stemming from the ongoing conflict in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and neighbouring countries.

The BTF has been organised to collect and assess information with regard to key areas, including: air, chemicals, hazardous waste, human settlements  (including energy demand & supply, and economic and demographic inficators), land, network development, state of environment (SoE) preparation and water.

The terms of reference of the BTF include:


Collect, harmonise, integrate and analyse information on the state of the environment and human settlements and infrastructure in the Balkans region, prior to and resulting from the current conflict, in cooperation with technical bodies, agencies and Governments and, as appropriate, to identify areas in need of assistance;


Facilitate and build a coherent response within the United Nations System and network with appropriate actors outside the UN System on the environmental dimensions of the problem and damage to human settlements resulting from the current conflict in the Balkans region;


Catalyse and promote international cooperation in the field of early warning, prevention, preparedness and response to environmental and human settlement emergencies, based on the best scientific and technical capabilities available, and assist the region in the design and implementation of recovery programs;


Prepare missions to the region as appropriate and necessary;


Prepare detailed work programme for the BTF;


Elaborate further Terms of Reference for the BTF as necessary.

Organisation fo the BTF

The BTF consists of the chairman's office, his advisors and support staff; a Senior Policy Advisor and Technical Advisor; and the BTF members from their various departments at UNEP and UNCHS(Habitat) in Geneva and Nairobi, the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, UNEP's Chemicals Programme, GRID, the Regional Office for Europe (ROE), etc.

The BTF Information Unit, a component of the BTF, functions within the GRID-Europe office and is responsible for producing regular situation reports on environmental and human settlements impacts. Thus far, eight such reports have been produced.

Activities of the BTF

The chairman and members of the BTF are already engaged in a wide range of activities, including: meetings with various partner agencies, NGOs etc.; missions to the Balkans region and other (primarily European) countries, preparation of relevant information on environmental and human settlements’ impacts of the Balkans conflict, all of which follow from the mandate and terms-of-reference for the BTF found above. Some of the more specific activities of the BTF and its members can be found in the timetable below, which is subject to change as various events occur and the situation in which the BTF is working evolves.

June 1999

Establish an office for the project at UNEP’s Geneva office.

Fact-finding of all published material connected to environment.
Interviews with environmental specialists.
Networking with other stakeholders.
First mission(s) to the FRY and neighbouring areas/countries.
Co-ordination of the work with other agencies and organisations.

July 1999

Expert assessment and scientific missions to the area.

Meeting with members of other missions to the area.
Meeting with ministers, politicians, international civil servants, scientists, environmental NGOs etc.
Meetings with other actors for reconstruction to the area.

August 1999

Evaluation of the data collected.

Writing first draft of the report.
Continued expert assessment/scientific missions.

September 1999

Finalising the report.

Introducing preliminary conclusions of the report to other stakeholders.

October 1999

Final report out in printed and on-line versions.

Introducing the report and its conclusions.

November 1999

Decisions on possible future actions.

The results of the project will be published in a report offering an analysis of the current situation, including short-, medium- and long-term environmental challenges, and establishing a priority list for environmental action. It will also propose priorities for future fact-finding issues in the field of environment.

BTF Structure

[BTF Home]  [Sructure]  [Situation Reports] [Press Releases] [Missions]  [Maps]  [Imagery]  [Meetings] [Other Documents] [Related News] [Links]  [Contacts]  [GRID-Europe]

Contact the BTF Information Officer