UNEP Press Release
For Information only
Not an official record
Jointly issued by UNEP and Habitat

The next challenge for Kosovo

Klaus Toepfer to meet with Bernard Kouchner in Pristina
on Friday 20 August 1999

Nairobi, 18 August 1999 - As part of the joint UNEP/UNCHS (Habitat) Balkans Task Force (BTF), The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) has organized a workshop in Pristina, from 16 - 19 August, to consider the creation of an independent Commission on Housing and Property Rights under the auspices of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

"Housing rights and urban governance are emerging as some of the key issues upon which the future stability of Kosovo will depend," said Klaus Toepfer, Acting Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat) and Executive Director of UNEP. "Despite the massive scale of destruction, the problem of reconstruction involves more than just rebuilding damaged and destroyed houses."

For over a decade, legislation prevented Albanians from buying their own home. To overcome this form of apartheid, where a Serb could not sell a house to an Albanian, many individuals made informal arrangements of ownership. Such arrangements now make the task of tracing and verifying ownership of properties difficult. An additional problem is that there are no comprehensive records of land and property rights as a large part of the original cadastral records has been either destroyed or removed from Kosovo.

Without proper records and legally recognised structures of urban governance ethnic conflict is likely to be exacerbated, especially as disputes about illegally occupied land and property are difficult to resolve. This means that successful reconstruction and rehabilitation depends on, amongst other things, the formation of an independent Commission on Housing and Property Rights. Mechanisms must also be established for mapping and recreating land registration and titling systems.

Mr. Klaus Toepfer, Acting Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat) and Executive Director of UNEP, is to travel to Pristina on Friday 20 August 1999 to meet with Dr. Bernard Kouchner, Senior Representative of the Secretary General, UNMIK, to discuss ways of ensuring security of tenure for returning refugees, capacity building for better urban governance and the proposed independent Commission on Housing and Property Rights.

For more information:

UNEP: Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman on Tel: 254-2-6232, fax: 623692; email: brevikt@unep.org
Robert Bisset, Office of the UNEP Spokesman and BTF press officer on mobile: 41-(0)-79-206-3720, email: rbisset@rocketmail.com

Sharad Shankardass, Actg. Head, Media & Press Relations, UNCHS (Habitat) Tel: 254-2-623153, fax: 624060; email: shankars@unchs.org
John Hogan, Programme Officer, UNCHS (Habitat), Pristina, Kosovo, Mobile: 41-(0)-79-221-8240
UNEP News Release 1999/BTF