Habitat Press Release
For Information only
Not an official record

Restoring Property Rights Critical
for Economic Recovery of Kosovo


Geneva/Nairobi, 16 November 1999: Laws discriminating against the housing rights of ethnic Albanians have been repealed in Kosovo as a result of the work of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat). This is part of a longer process to restore housing rights and to establish a ‘Housing and Property Body’ to deal with disputes in the province.

The urgent need to regularise property rights and to re-establish municipal administrations are some of the key issues to be discussed this week at the Second Donor’s Conference for Kosovo to be held in Brussels on 17 November 1999.

“Peace building in Kosovo involves more than rebuilding damaged houses and re-housing returning families. For economic recovery, municipal administrations must be re-established and property rights restored so that people can be given security of tenure, ” said Mr. Klaus Toepfer, Acting Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat) on a recent visit to Pristina to meet with Mr. Tom Koenigs, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Civil Administration, United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Over the past few months, as part of the first phase of work of the UNEP/UNCHS(Habitat) Balkans Task Force, the Government of Finland funded Habitat to collaborate with UNMIK on establishing a properly functioning civil administration in Kosovo. However, rehabilitation has been made difficult because of a history of discriminatory laws governing ownership of property and the wanton destruction or loss of the original cadastral records. The result is that it has been difficult to resolve disputes about illegally occupied land and property.

Aware of the crucial importance of regularising ownership rights, and based on Habitat’s considerable experience in other post-conflict zones, UNMIK and Habitat have agreed to continue collaborating until the end of the year 2000. During this second phase, which will require less than ten million dollars, Habitat hopes to establish mechanisms for mapping and recreating land registration and titling systems to facilitate investment, reconstruction and rehabilitation. Habitat also hopes to provide direct technical assistance to re-establish municipal administrations and to set up the necessary legal and institutional structures to ensure the property rights of all citizens in Kosovo.

“Housing rights and security of tenure are critical to the future stability of Kosovo,” said Mr. Klaus Toepfer. “ Without proper records and legally recognised structures of urban governance, economic recovery will be extremely difficult.”

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For further information please contact:
Sharad Shankardass, Press & Media Unit, UNCHS (Habitat): Tel: 254-2-623151, 623153; Fax: 254-2-624060 Lars Ludvigsen, Geneva Office: Tel: 41-22-907-4683; Fax: 41-22-907-0033; Email: habitat.press@unchs.org

CHS/99/32

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