For Information only
Not an official record

Statement by BTF at the


Brussels, 17 November 1999

Mr Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to take this opportunity to briefly inform you about the conclusions and findings of the Balkans Task Force assessment work.

During the period from June to October the joint UNEP/UNCHS Balkans Task Force carried out a comprehensive asssessment of the environmental consequences and impacts on human settlements of the Kosovo conflict. The work included a systematic review of information from various sources, including technical missions to the sites, scientific analyses of water, soil, sediment and air samples, remote sensing with satellite images and scientific impact analyses. In the beginning of October the report was submitted to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan. Referring to these findings, I would now like to highlight a few relevant issues.

Firstly, our UNCHS (Habitat) team in Kosovo identified the need to remedy irregular housing and property transactions since 1989, and the rapidly growing number of unlawfully occupied houses. Equally, the interim municipal administrations are facing increasing demands for action. Performing and accountable local authorities are now needed. Urgent action is also required to avoid the danger of non-representative systems of local administration running alongside the UNMIK civil administration.

UNCHS (Habitat) in collaboration with the Civil Administration Pillar of UNMIK is working on these essential areas for the recovery of Kosovo. These include the regularization of housing and property rights, the rebuilding of property registration and the cadastral system ; and the establishment of effective municipal administration. We are certain that the donor community will provide essential support to achieve this objective.

Secondly, considering all the sites assessed by our missions, we did not find any emerging environmental hotspots in the Province of Kosovo, but there is a great need for institutional capacity building within the civil administration. Environmental considerations are to be incorporated into all of UNMIK`s plans and activities, regarding both the short term construction projects as well as mid and long term legislation, implementation and development strategies. We are happy to announce that UNEP is supporting UNMIK with its expertise and that a Environmental Protection Section has been established in the Civil Administration Division. Furthermore, a draft environmental strategy is now being developed. Broad based co-operation with the European Commission is now necessary to coordinate efforts in an effective way.

Thirdly, perhaps the most alarming findings of the BTF are the identified environmental hotspots, namely Pancevo, Kraguevac, Novi Sad and Bor, where severe contamination is posing a threat to human health, putting drinking water resources at risk and having potential transboundary effects along the Danube river. At these sites, all in Serbia, immediate clean-up action, which should be seen as a part of humanitarian assistance to the region, is called for. This emergency action, together with the action for the clearance of unexploded bombs in some valuable nature protection sites are included in the appeal of UNEP submitted in co-operation with UNDP to OCHA`s inter-agency consolidated appeal for FRY for the year 2000. The estimated costs of these immediate clean-up actions are 17 million USD.

Mr Chairman

The general conclusions of the BTF findings clearly show that long-term environmental solutions need a regional approach and co-operation. Environmental organisations and institutions are still too weak to meet the huge challenges that countries in the region are facing. A large-scale reconstruction and re-establishing of civil society would gain a lot from having an efficient environmental authority, which would guide them to sustainable and sound development. Involving the local institutions and organisations in international co-operation would benefit both the international community and the local environment. Involvement and direct support to environmental organisations would strengthen the local administration and would initiate regional co-operation projects benefiting the entire region. It would also contribute to the balanced development of a modern civil society in the region.

Thank you for your attention.


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