P r e s s I n f o # 35 March 6, 1998

K O S O V O - What Can Be Done Now?

"Violence closes doors and minds. Good conflict-resolution opens them. A principled, impartial and innovative approach is now the only way to prevent a new tragedy in the Balkans. A limited United Nations presence could be one element in violence prevention," says TFF director Jan Oberg. "Below you find some examples, developed by us during our work with the Kosovo conflict since 1991. We'd be happy to have your comments and your suggestions."

"Many things can still be done - but only as long as there is no, or limited, violence. When violence is stepped up, opportunities for genuine solutions diminish. Governments and citizen around the world can take impartial goodwill initiatives, for instance:

* A HEARING IN THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY. We need to get the facts on the table, presented by impartial experts as well as by the parties themselves; listen actively to them for they have interesting arguments and question their positions, activities and policies.

* MEETINGS all over Europe with various groups of Serbs and Albanians to discuss their problems. Governments and NGOs can provide the funds, the venues and the facilitators.

* SEND A HIGH-LEVEL INTERNATIONAL DELEGATION OF "CITIZEN DIPLOMATS" to Belgrade and Kosovo and have it listen and make proposals on the establishment of a permanent dialogue or negotiation process but NOT on what the solution should be.

* A NON-VIOLENCE PACT. Pressure must be brought to bear on all parties to sign a document in which they solemnly declare that they will unconditionally refrain from the use of every kind of violence against human beings and property as part of their policies.

* SIMULTANEOUS WITHDRAWAL of Serb police and military from the region (with the exception of what is needed for self-defence along the borders) and disarmament of the Kosovo Liberation Army. This should be combined with a "WEAPONS-BUY-BACK" PROGRAM: citizens and paramilitary units are remunerated for handing in their weapons to collection points controlled by the UN.

* Monitoring of this process by UN CIVIL AFFAIRS AND CIVIL POLICE (200 or so are enough).

* POSITIVE INCENTIVES. Make it known to the parties that international organisations will help them with things they need if they refrain from violence now and engage in talks. As a vital element in the conflict is underdevelopment, poverty and deepening economic crisis, there is considerable space for economic "carrots."

* SHOW RESPECT. Tell the parties that any solution they reach voluntarily will be accepted by the international community. This means not treating them as helpless, clients or inferiors.

* GET YUGOSLAVIA BACK INTO THE OSCE. Lift the suspension of Yugoslavia in the OSCE, it was unwise from the beginning to exclude Yugoslavia which then, naturally, did not want to continue hosting the OSCE missions on its territory.

* UN CIVIL POLICE MISSION. Get perhaps 200 United Nations Civil Police on the ground to prevent incidents like those we have seen from exploding into something nobody can control.

* INDEPENDENT GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES. Don't wait for the European Union to find a common policy on this issue. The Scandinavian countries and Switzerland could play a particularly active role in this conflict.

* ARRANGE SEMINARS where a lot of IMAGINATIVE LONGTERM SOLUTIONS can be suggested, analysed and debated in a non-binding manner, almost like a brainstorm - such as: - various types of autonomy,
- international presence,
- protectorate or other types of transitional administration,
- demilitarisation,
- normalisation of everyday life before an overall solution is reached,
- conditions and modalities for remaining in Serbia/Yugoslavia
- humanitarian presence and human rights monitoring,
- economic development, e.g. creation of a Kosovo Co-Prosperity Region or Economic Free Zone, - UN or OSCE peacekeeping,
- trusteeship,
- condominium (shared control of one government by two or more states),
- "cantonisation" or a division of Kosovo,
- federalisation (i.e. Yugoslavia consisting of not only Serbia and Montenegro but also of Kosovo)
- combinations of these ideas that the parties, citizens' groups and others would accept.
- In summary, develop a multitude of options, don't narrow it all down to "Our way, or war."

* ACKNOWLEDGE THAT VIOLENCE BEGINS WHEN PEOPLE SEE NO IDEAS OR WAYS OUT or when they are afraid of losing face. Violence-prevention means helping parties overcoming that feeling.

* FOCUS ON INTERESTS, NOT POSITIONS. There could be governmental and nongovernmental dialogues on specific, concrete needs and interests - education, health, finance, culture, etc. - with the common understanding that the longterm status of the region will be more easily solved if the parties have found solutions to pressing issues for the millions of citizens involved, particularly youth.

* ESTABLISH A TRUTH COMMISSION. The situation is already infected with prejudice, racism, hate, propaganda and media blackouts. The majority of foreign media cover the violence, not the underlying conflict; they often side with the party they sympathise with but seldom analyse the problems that must be solved.

* ESTABLISH A RECONCILIATION COMMITTE with impartial international organisations and highly respected international figures. Reconciliation is not needed only after wars: it is much easier to heal psychological wounds when 20 rather than 200 000 have been killed and no material damage has happened.

* AN OSCE-LIKE PROCESS FOR THE BALKANS. There are more than enough problems in this whole region - and in its relations with the rest of Europe, the EU, NATO etc. There is poverty, animosity, misery, human rights violations. Serbia has more than 600 000 refugees, the largest number in Europe. There are international "national interests" in all the Balkans. It is time to develop a compre-hensive approach through a series of conferences and dialogues. If the OSCE, the UN, small governments and NGOs cannot take such an initiative, who can? When is the time, if not now?

"It is not the task of outsiders to dictate anything. Only the parties themselves can find an acceptable and sustainable solution. What we foreigners can do now is to HELP THE PARTIES take the necessary steps back from the abyss and prevent a tragedy that could cost hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and spread to Macedonia," says Dr. Jan Oberg.

"THIS IS WHY TFF FACILITATED A DIALOGUE IN WRITING between Belgrade and Prishtina authorities between 1992 and 1996.

Our proposal emphasises the process and does not say a word about the end result. To break the deadlock, THE BEST OPTION NOW is a combination of a new kind of UN presence combined with non-governmental mediation. The UN is the least biased and most conflict-resolution competent organization we have. A UN presence should be new, limited and entirely non-military. We call it a United Nations Temporary Authority for a Negotiated Settlement, UNTANS.

It aims to facilitate, in a context of order, safety and respect for human rights, a peaceful and longterm negotiated settlement of all conflict issues between the parties. It's difficult, but not impossible. To summarise, there are so many ways to approach conflicts such as that in Kosovo. Violence is the result of fear and lack of good ideas. The best help governments and NGOs can bring just that - new ideas and therefore no threats or force," concludes TFF's director.

We can mail PressInfo 24 about UNTANS to you, just ask us. You may also read it or order the full mediation report at http://www.transnational.org. There you will find all the relevant links to Yugoslavia and the Kosovo province, too.

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* TFF's website has all the relevant links to Yugoslavia, Serbia and the Kosovo region.

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Dr. Jan Oberg
Director, head of the TFF Conflict-Mitigation team
to the Balkans and Georgia


Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
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