Throughout the year 2002 the need for setting up procedures to co-ordinate and guide the multitude of actors who were working on the implementation of return projects in Kosovo became more and more evident. In response to this need, in May 2002 the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) issued its return policy document “The Right to Sustainable Return”.
In order to translate the policy principles outlined in this document into practical procedures for planning and managing the return process, to formalize co-ordination between all stakeholders, and to supplement the Annual Return Strategy, in January 2003, UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) jointly developed the first Manual for Sustainable Return (Manual), which was based on best practices in the field of sustainable minority return.
The Manual outlined international standards regarding the rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), the corresponding policy framework in Kosovo, the institutional roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders, and the operational procedures and mechanisms for managing the process of organized and individual minority return.
In response to the requirements set out in the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan (KSIP)(1), the position of the Municipal Return Officer (MRO) was created and the first MROs were recruited through a joint UNMIK-PISG decision during the second half of 2004. The KSIP also provided for the development of Municipal Returns Strategies (MRSs) to ensure that municipalities assume responsibility for the return of IDPs in accordance with international and European standards. In July 2004 UNMIK and the PISG issued a joint Municipal Returns Strategy Policy Paper, which included a proposed template and procedural recommendations regarding the drafting of the MRS.(2)
In March 2005 the Ministry of Communities and Returns (MCR) was established with the mandate, among others, to “monitor and support municipal efforts to address community issues and returns, including the work of Mediation Committees (MCs), Communities Committees (CCs), Municipal Community Offices, and the development and implementation of Municipal Returns Strategies.”(3)
In May 2006, as a result of a comprehensive consultation process which involved all relevant local and international stakeholders including IDP associations, the PISG Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) adopted the Recommendations to Updating Return Policies and Procedures (Recommendations). Based on these Recommendations, the Manual was amended, and the new Revised Manual for Sustainable Return, endorsed by the OPM, was presented in July 2006. Herein the MRS is described as “a proactive tool to analyse the return environment/situation, identify the challenges, determine areas of focus, propose actions, and allocate or seek requisite resources to effectively facilitate and implement returns.”(4)
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(1) Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan, 31 March 2004; Standard IV Sustainable Return and the Rights of Communities and their Members, 1. Sustainable Return, Standard 1. “Municipalities and ministries are able to assume responsibility for return for all communities in a manner consistent with European standards.”; Action 1.4 “Each municipality develops a municipal returns and communities strategy for 2004 and subsequent years, and the strategies are implemented effectively.”, and Action 1.5 “Each municipality with ongoing or projected returns has established and filled a Municipal Returns Officer post with appropriate Terms of Reference in place”.
(2) UNMIK-PISG Municipal Returns Strategy Policy Paper, July 2004, attached as Annex 1.
(3) UNMIK Regulation No. 2005/15, Amending UNMIK Regulation No. 2001/19 on the Executive Branch of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Kosovo, Annex XII, para. (viii).
(4) Revised Manual for Sustainable Return, July 2006, page 37, section “Municipal Return Strategy”.
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