10 November 2008 – The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today considered the document presented by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) on how the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are being implemented in Kosovo which under Security Council resolution 1244 is being administered by UNMIK.

Ernest Tschoepke, Chief of the Office of Judicial Affairs of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), presenting the document, said that UNMIK was committed to promoting in Kosovo an effective legal and policy framework for delivering on human rights. This was amply reflected in the Constitutional Framework and various UNMIK regulations, such as those establishing the Anti-Discrimination Law, the Law on Gender Equality, and the Human Rights Advisory Panel. UNMIK signed two separate technical agreements with the Council of Europe, one of which related to the Framework Convention on National Minorities. In the economic reconstruction and development sphere, UNMIK Pillar 4, which concluded its operations in June 2008, left behind a legacy of achievements which included a sound legal and regulatory framework for a modern market economy. The Human Rights Advisory Panel was created as an independent body by UNMIK Regulations, and provided a mechanism for the review of complaints concerning matters which fell under the responsibility of UNMIK. It was important to acknowledge that establishing the required legal and policy frameworks, while highly desirable and indispensable in some instances, was not enough. In Kosovo, a key plank in the long-term strategy to translate theory into practice was the sustained focus on capacity development of Kosovar institutions.

Philippe Texier, Chairman of the Committee, in introductory remarks, recalled that Serbia and Montenegro underwent a process of economic and institutional transition throughout the 1990s, which rendered the full implementation of the Covenant difficult. This document was submitted in the context of the Committee’s concluding observations made on 13 May 2005. It was important to note that the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo and its acceptance by 51 States did not include the United Nations. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was not a political body, and therefore the Committee was not to express its opinion or comment on the status of Kosovo as that responsibility was left to the General Assembly and the Security Council.

Feodor Stracevic, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that the general level of human rights protection of all inhabitants of Kosovo and Metohija was still below minimum international standards. What was extremely worrisome was that discrimination of non-Albanian ethnic groups, in particular members of Serbian and Roma community, was widespread. The most frequently violated rights in Kosovo and Metohija were the rights to life, liberty and security of persons and freedom of movement. Analysis showed that many problems existed in areas such as discrimination, property rights and economic and social rights.

Among issues raised by Committee Experts were questions regarding necessary changes and reforms on discriminatory policies and legislation; functionality of the Office for Complaints; the problem with double discrimination; measures taken to ensure the safe and sustainable return of internally displaced persons; the gap between the law and its practical implementation; the preparation of the report; the rights granted in cases where UNMIK was in violation of rights; the assurance of the Legal Aid Commission to provide free legal assistance in an equal and fair manner; and social services for women.

The concluding observations and recommendations of the Committee on the document of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo will be issued towards the end of the session, which concludes on Friday, 21 November.

When the Committee meets on Tuesday, 11 November at 10 a.m, it will begin its consideration of the second to fourth periodic reports of the Philippines (E/C.12/PHL/4).

Document Presented by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo

The document presented by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (E/C.12/UNK/1) notes that the first draft of the Kosovo Development Strategy and Plan was completed on 18 December 2006. The Kosovo Development Strategy and Plan is a comprehensive mid-term socio-economic development strategy for Kosovo, along the lines of the National Development Plans that are usually required by the European Union in the pre-accession processes. Two data bases – one housed by the Joint European Commission and World Bank Office in Brussels, and the other with the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Priština – known as the Reconstruction Intervention Monitoring System – have, from the very beginning, contributed to aligning donor pledges and commitments with Kosovo’s needs. Data from the Ministry of Economy and Finance indicates that much has been achieved as a result of international assistance, including the repair of more than a thousand kilometres of road and an increased provision of energy supply. Schools and clinics have also been constructed throughout Kosovo, thereby ensuring basic infrastructure for health and education.

In the second half of 2006, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (Pillar III) provided two rounds of introductory training on human rights based budgeting to selected municipal officials relevant to the municipal budget process. The second round of training addressed all members of the Boards of Directors of five municipalities in the region of Peæ. On 31 August 1999, the Customs Service was established with the aim of collecting customs duties, excise duties on specific goods, and sales tax on imports. Revenues collected by the Customs Service constitute the largest contribution to the Kosovo Consolidated Budget, providing more than 65 per cent of total revenues.

The Law on Public Procurement sets out the rules and procedures for public procurement with the purpose to ensure the most efficient, cost-effective, transparent and fair use of public funds and resources in Kosovo. The law also aims to ensure the integrity and accountability of public officials, civil servants and other persons conducting or who are involved in public procurement activities. One of the key policies of UNMIK is the policy of zero tolerance against crime. In the framework of this policy, the Financial Investigation Unit was established in 2003. The Italian Government agreed to provide Guardia di Finanza investigators to staff this specialized unit.

Introductory Statement by the Chairman of the Committee

PHILIPPE TEXIER, Chairman of the Committee, in introductory remarks recalled that Serbia and Montenegro underwent a process of economic and institutional transition throughout the 1990s, which rendered the full implementation of the Covenant difficult. This report was submitted in the context of the Committee’s concluding observations made on 13 May 2005. The Committee took note of the State party’s explanation about its inability to report on measures adopted and progress made in achieving the observance of the rights recognized in the Covenant with regard to the province of Kosovo and Metohija, where civil authority was exercised by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) under Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). The State party suggested that the Committee invite UNMIK to submit to the Committee a supplementary report on the implementation of the Covenant in Kosovo. The Committee also called upon the State party to request the Secretary-General to provide it with information collected by UNMIK, in accordance with paragraph 11 (j) of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), on the enjoyment in Kosovo since 1999 of the rights recognized in the Covenant and, without prejudice to the legal status of Kosovo, on the basis of such information to supplement its initial report to the Committee. In this regard, the Committee requested the State party, in cooperation with and with assistance from UNMIK and local civil authorities in Kosovo, to submit the additional information with regard to the implementation of the Covenant in Kosovo by 30 June 2006.

The Committee was bound by the conclusions of 13 May 2005. The Security Council’s resolution 1244 (1999) was still in force. It was important to note that the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo and its acceptance by 51 States did not include the United Nations. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was not a political body, Mr. Texier underscored, and therefore the Committee was not to express its opinion or comment on the status of Kosovo as that responsibility was left to the General Assembly and the Security Council. Moreover, the Committee was of the view that statements of a political nature were not acceptable in the dialogue on the report of UNMIK on its implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Statement by Serbia

FEODOR STRACEVIC, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that overall, the human rights situation in Kosovo and Metohija was very grave. The general level of human rights protection of all inhabitants of Kosovo and Metohija was still below minimum international standards. What was extremely worrisome was that discrimination of non-Albanian ethnic groups, in particular members of Serbian and Roma community, was widespread. The most frequently violated rights in Kosovo and Metohija were the rights to life, liberty and security of person and freedom of movement. Analysis showed that many problems existed in areas such as discrimination, property rights and economic and social rights.

In many respects the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was unfortunately not successful in upholding those rights, Mr. Stracevic said. The lack of the rule of law was one of the major deficiencies of Kosovo and Metohija’s political and legal system. It continued to lag behind international standards, which deprived the entire population of some of their fundamental rights. The legal system in Kosovo and Metohija was characterized by overall confusion, overlapping, lack of competence, existence of more that one legal regulation governing a certain field, a great many outdated and anachronistic laws and by-laws, and vague and inapplicable rules, concerning the applicability of legal documents. The atmosphere of impunity prevailed in Kosovo and Metohija’s society. The main institutions charged with the protection of human rights had been incapable of ensuring safety, fair trials, non-discrimination and other rights to all residents of Kosovo and Metohija said Mr. Stracevic. Many more challenges faced Kosovo and Metohija, including education, health, regulations on internally displaced persons, and marginalized groups of society (children, women, disabled, and ethnic minorities), judicial reform, non-discrimination and capacity building. It was expected that UNMIK and the United Nations should take immediate steps to implement legislative and other measures to ensure that the recommendations of the Committee, following its examination of the report presented by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, be implemented in order to ensure the better observance of the Covenant in Kosovo and Methohija.

The lack of stronger security guarantees affected minority communities, whose freedom of movement was restricted, Mr. Stracevic said. The atmosphere of insecurity contributed significantly to the extremely slow process of the return of internally displaced persons to Kosovo and Metohija, which had virtually come to a halt. Freedom of movement remained precarious, and the overall situation remained disconcerting, involving a large number of displaced persons unable to return to their homes, as well as serious obstacles in terms of access to various services, ranging from health services to courts and public transportation. Of the 230,000 persons, predominantly Serbs, Roma, and other non-Albanians, who were forced to leave the Province after June 1999, and despite the nine years of international presence, only a few thousand had returned to Kosovo and Metohija. Needless to say that the basic human rights, such as the right to life, liberty and security of person and freedom of movement were crucial for the sustainability of the return of the internally displaced persons as well as for a peaceful and decent life of all inhabitants in the Province, and minority ethnic communities in particular. To this end, it was surprising that the Covenant had been excluded from the Chapter 3 of the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo where all other core human rights instruments were explicitly listed as directly applicable in the Province.

Mr. Stracevic said particularly worrisome was the situation with regard to the energy supplies for the so-called “Zone C” with the poorest payment rate and, accordingly, with the lowest level of power supply (three hours of electricity followed by three hours of power cut). “Zone C” covered areas of return of displaced non-Albanian communities, predominantly the so-called “Serbian enclaves.” The situation of this population was characterized by their extremely grave financial situation caused by their protracted displacement and the objective inability to achieve economic sustainability upon their return. An additional problem was the policy of the Kosovo Energy Corporation of charging the returnees with power supply bills for the electricity that was consumed by illegal occupants during their displacement, as well as relatively high fees for the activation of power consumption meters. The context of this raised questions of indirect discrimination, thus directly discouraging the process of the return of internally displaced persons.

Presentation of the Document by UNMIK

ERNEST TSCHOEPKE, Chief of the Office of Judicial Affairs of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), presenting the document, said that UNMIK looked forward to discussing the achievements and ongoing challenges facing Kosovo in the field of human rights with the esteemed experts comprising the Committee. UNMIK continued to operate in Kosovo under Security Council resolution 1244, and considered this opportunity to dialogue with the Committee as an important platform for meaningful exchange of ideas and perspectives that provided critical guidance to UNMIK, particularly in discharging its specific mandate on the protection and promotion of human rights. As the current UNMIK Special Representative of the Secretary-General Lamberto Zannier himself has said in his public statements, “After 9 years, the situation had changed in Kosovo, and that means the UNMIK had also changed.” The ability of UNMIK to perform the vast majority of its tasks as an interim administration had fundamentally challenged owing to actions taken by the authorities in Pristina and the Kosovo Serbs throughout the years.

Nonetheless, UNMIK remained in Kosovo under resolution 1244 and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a pillar of UNMIK, continued its work on monitoring and promoting human rights, said Mr. Tschoepke. As a result of UNMIK’s reconfiguration, the role of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was expected to become more critical, particularly in the field level and especially through “soft intervention”, a combination of advising, mentoring, mediation and providing “good offices.”

The European Union Rule of Law Mission was expected to be deployed soon, and to operate under the UN authority and in accordance with resolution 1244, noted Mr. Tschoepke. This new rule of law mission included a separate division dedicated to human rights, and would play a critical role in the promotion and protection of human rights in Kosovo where necessary.

UNMIK was committed to promoting in Kosovo an effective legal and policy framework for delivering on human rights, underscored Mr. Tschoepke. This was amply reflected in the Constitutional Framework and various UNMIK regulations, such as those establishing the Anti-Discrimination Law, the Law on Gender Equality, and the Human Rights Advisory Panel. UNMIK signed two separate technical agreements with the Council of Europe, one of which related to the Framework Convention on National Minorities. In the economic reconstruction and development sphere, UNMIK Pillar 4, which concluded its operations in June 2008, left behind a legacy of achievements which included a sound legal and regulatory framework for a modern market economy. Pillar 4 also led to the establishment and development of local economic institutions by assisting in the drafting of required legislation, developing organisational structures, and following through with on-the-job mentoring, and functional engagement in substantive tasks.

The Human Rights Advisory Panel was created as an independent body by UNMIK Regulations, Mr. Tschoepke said. It provided a mechanism for the review of complaints concerning matters which fell under the responsibility of UNMIK. The Panel had become fully operational early in 2008, and had received 56 cases, of which 43 remained active whilst 13 had been declared inadmissible. These cases related to economic rights, such as four cases on employment issues and 36 cases in respect of property rights. There were also cases dealing with social rights, including a case representing 185 Roma claimants in relation to lead poisoning in the internally displaced persons camps in North Mitrovica and Zvecan, and cases related to adequacy of standards of living, right to respect for family life and privacy. One complaint alleging general discrimination, social ostracism and marginalisation was presented on behalf of a Roma community and was being reviewed by the Panel from a right to culture perspective.

Further to the work of the Panel, Mr. Tschoepke underscored that UNMIK was aware that further commitments needed to be considered and adopted to enhance the effectiveness of the Panel as an accountability mechanism.

It was important to acknowledge that establishing the required legal and policy frameworks, while highly desirable and indispensable in some instances, was not enough, Mr. Tschoepke said. In Kosovo, a key plank in the long-term strategy to translate theory into practice was the sustained focus on capacity development of Kosovo institutions. In this regard, UNMIK wished to acknowledge and pay tribute to the important contribution of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in human rights monitoring and institution building. A demonstration of no small measure of success in this regard was the establishment and growing maturity of human rights capacities in the Government of Kosovo. At the central level, the Advisory Office on Good Governance and Human Rights provided able leadership and coordination of work of human rights units located in ministries and municipalities. The preparation of the common core document and treaty-specific document submitted to the Committee in late 2007 drew from technical inputs provided by these human rights units.

The Advisory Office, with support from the international community, had completed the drafting and consultation process, and was scheduled to release the Kosovo Strategy and Action Plan on Human Rights, said Mr. Tschoepke. It detailed objectives and plans for improving rights delivery to non-Albanian communities, women, youth, the disabled and other marginalised groups. It also aimed to undertake a comprehensive human rights compliance review of existing legal and policy frameworks.

While the achievements were many, ongoing challenges remained, especially in poverty reduction and employment generation, as well as long-standing problems in the delivery of health and education services, said Mr. Tschoepke. Demonstrating its political commitment to meet these challenges, the Kosovo authorities formally committed in 2008 to the Millennium Development Goals. With the assistance from the UN Kosovo Team, baseline data had been established, which provided the necessary tools for measuring the progress against the eight Millennium Development Goals.

The authorities had adopted a rights-based approach to the return of internally displaced persons, said Mr. Tschoepke. The “Returnee Sustainability Survey”, conducted by the UNHCR in Kosovo, had revealed a very high percentage (84.45 per cent) of sustainable returns to Kosovo. The attitude of receiving communities continued to improve. Municipalities had also demonstrated the capacity to directly implement components of returns projects. Nevertheless, the numbers of returns since 1999 had been low. There were multiple reasons for this, which included: weakness in the capacity of the Ministry of Communities and Returns, lack of jobs, and the uncertainties in the political climate. The involvement of Kosovo officials required recognition that internally displaced persons and refugees were a central part of their constituency, but equally important was the willingness of non-majority communities to participate in the governmental structures and processes.

Kosovo required considerable financial resources to meet institution-building and pressing socio-economic development needs, Mr. Tschoepke said. The Kosovo authorities had drawn up their own programme for socio-economic development that addressed key challenges, including further investments in the infrastructure to connect Kosovo with the rest of the region, improving the conditions for education of Kosovo’s extremely young population, and developing institutions to consolidate the foundations for the rule of law in a multi-ethnic society. Positive donor responses at the meeting in Brussels in July 2008, where pledges made for a total of over 1.2 billion Euros, had met Kosovo’s financing needs outlined in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (2008-2011). UNMIK welcomed and encouraged continuing assistance from the international community in consolidating the achievements of the past to secure a stable and prosperous Kosovo for all its communities.

Questions by Committee Members

Experts said that during the years of 1999-2005 the sum of international funding received was 2.7 billion Euros. Between 1999-2004, 199,336,299.62 Euros of this amount was disbursed as non-designated budget support. Despite the financial inquiry body being set-up, the accountability for ear-marking these funds remained a problem. One Expert asked the delegation to comment further in this regard. What was the major obstacle to implementing positive discrimination policies? Was the Kosovo Assembly planning to adopt measures for the rights of disabled persons?

On the lack of reliable demographic data, without proper statistical data, the assessment of how rights were being protected was not possible. To fully realize economic, social and cultural rights, this needed to be across the board. An Expert asked for further comments in this regard.

In relation to the Millennium Development Goals, how was a rights based approach incorporated, asked an Expert. Gender representation in the civil service remained a challenge; the record of the representation of women in parliament remained low. The representation of women was of particular concern at the municipal level, noted an Expert and he requested further information and comments on this.

Questions related to the National Plan of Action; necessary changes and reforms on discriminatory policies and legislation; what had been done at the Government level in terms of affirmative action legislation to eliminate discrimination, especially in economy, health care and education; who was in control in Kosovo as far as the promotion and protection of human rights were concerned; functionality of the Office for Complaints; the problem with and examples where cases of double discrimination had been addressed; the successful return of 84 per cent of internally displaced persons and the low numbers successfully returned after 1999; how was the physical security of returnees guaranteed, and what measures were being taken to ensure the safe and sustainable return of internally displaced persons; examples of public awareness measures with regard to the new anti-discrimination legislation, and how this addressed the gap between the law and implementation; how was the document prepared; how was progress to be monitored; and the assurance that the free legal aid commission dispersed legal assistance in an equal and fair manner. In the nature of economic, social and cultural rights, what was the difference between the view of UNMIK with respect to those rights and the Millennium Development Goals? What social services were available for women?

Answers by the UNMIK Delegation

In response to the questions raised, the delegation said it was important to understand that any funding the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) or Kosovo received was routed through the Kosovo consolidated budget. The use and purposes of budgetary allocation was available for the public through the Kosovo budget legislation. This was a way of keeping track of how donations had been dispersed. Additionally, the Central European Free Trade Agreement unified taxation rates.

On establishing legislation on persons with disabilities and human rights in Kosovo, the delegation said that the new Constitution of Kosovo did not benefit from UNMIK’s input. However, UNMIK regulation 1999/24 supplemented this by providing for the evocation of all international human rights instruments in domestic law, involving any cases with human rights implications. UNMIK was in the process of implementing a census project in Kosovo. It required numerous specialist tools and funding. It was hoped that UNMIK’s pilot project would lead to demographic data to more effectively implement human rights in Kosovo based on the findings of such data.

The Government had published a report against discrimination in the Roma languages, Bosnian language and in brail, said the delegation. In September 2008 the Government proclaimed September as the month against discrimination, which included comprehensive activities focused on persons with disabilities. This campaign aimed at raising the awareness of the citizens of Kosovo to understand the anti-discrimination law, and rights of persons with disabilities in Kosovo, and was set for 2008-2009.

On gender policies, implementation remained a challenge, said the delegation. This was symptomatic of young institutions, and the ability of such institutions to translate policy into practical implementation. The Government worked to create the necessary institutional mechanisms to promote and protect human rights, which also touched on gender equality issues. A law was adopted by the Government which regulated gender equality in Kosovo. The law stressed that gender equality was one of the main features of society in Kosovo, with equal opportunities for both men and women. At the central and local level of the Government, a number of mechanisms in place addressed the implementation and monitoring of this legislation. The participation of women in the decision-making processes at both the local and central level of Government remained a challenge. According to the Department of Information in 2008 data relating to the leading positions in the local and central structures of the Government included: at the managerial level, 79.27 per cent were men and 26.3 per cent were women; and at the higher levels, 89 per cent were men and 10.60 per cent women. Those statistics indicated that a major gap between practice and policy remained as legislation stipulated that 40 per cent of the civil service was to be comprised of women to ensure the protection of rights and gender equality in Kosovo.

The Millennium Development Goals represented the most urgent priorities, said the delegation. The Millennium Development Goals were only one mechanism for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was evoked into the legal framework of Kosovo, said the delegation. This held true for all other relevant international human rights instruments which Kosovo was a member of.

A total of 15 ministries and 26 municipalities promoted, protected and respected human rights, said the delegation. The mandate of the ministries and municipalities was to monitor the law against discrimination, and to develop campaigns of awareness raising on the law. Two measures adopted included the Strategy for Human Rights (a general document), and the Strategy for the Integration of the Roma Community, and they dealt with ending discrimination in Kosovo. Many ministries had the right to deal with these documents. These strategies were also supported by a number of international partners, and international human rights obligations.

In terms of the various legal instruments implemented in Kosovo, the delegation said that it was important to note that UNMIK was the only entity involved in the application of legislation in Kosovo. Since 2001, there was a transfer of responsibilities and legislative responsibilities, essentially a division of labour between local municipalities and UNMIK. All Kosovo approved legislation was forwarded to the special representative of the Secretary-General for promulgation, which explained the co-existence of legislation and UNMIK’s regulations.

Double discrimination was addressed in the same way as other discrimination cases were addressed in Kosovo, said the delegation; however, it was the aim of new discrimination legislation to specifically address such cases as they required special application.

On internally displaced persons, the figure showing 84 per cent of returnees had successfully returned, in fact represented persons who did not reverse their return but in fact stayed in Kosovo. The delegation said that measures in place included efforts to involve internally displaced persons in the process. Many challenges faced the building of institutional capacity in Kosovo to deal with returns, specifically in training and capacity development both at the central and local authority level. In addition there was also a weakness of leadership to build capacity, which hindered the process of successful reintegration of internally displaced persons.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was tasked to take the lead in compiling the document for this Committee, said the delegation. Various working groups and tasks forces were put together in the preparation of the report, which included representatives from a number of ministries, and international organizations. However, there was no involvement of civil society in the preparation of the document.

In view of UNMIK’s immunities, and the rights of persons in cases where a violation had been committed by UNMIK, the delegation said that immunity did not mean impunity. If a case was made against UNMIK, UNMIK was responsible to provide alternatives for claims to be made. The Human Rights Advisory Panel was an example of an alterative body for addressing claims and allegations of violations of human rights against UNMIK.

Further Questions by the Committee Members

An Expert asked if the delegation agreed that there was a lack of affirmative and positive action on the part of the authorities with regard to the staggering unemployment rates. In relation to article 7 of the Covenant on minimum wage, what was the rate of minimum wage? Men earned 20 per cent more than women for the same job; what measures had been taken to address this wage gap?

What had been done to help internally displaced persons to be employed, asked one Expert? Radiation and lead poisoning was reported as the greatest occupational health hazard in Kosovo. What means of prevention had been put in place in order to stop contamination in the workplace?

Questions were also asked about the privatization of social owned enterprises and the impact of development; high unemployment rates amongst Serbs, Roma and Egyptian minorities; regulations on the right to strike; and how the right to collective bargaining was organized.

Answers by the Delegation of UNMIK

On the high unemployment rate amongst Serbs, Roma and Egyptian minorities, the delegation said that the total unemployment rate was 43 per cent, with 93 per cent women, and 47 per cent between the ages of 22-54 years.

With regard to privatization, the delegation said that UNMIK’s regulations addressed the issue of entitlement of employees who would have been on the list of entitled employees had they not been discriminated against. There were rights enshrined in the Kosovo legislation for persons who had been discriminated against in private companies.

On minimum wages, the Ministry of Finance and Economy was responsible for defining such wages, said the delegation. The Government of Kosovo was drafting a bill for wages, which was expected to be passed in parliament as soon as possible.

The Board of Inquiry was scheduled to release a report on the health hazards in the workplace in November 2008, said the delegation. The report included details on lead contamination; however, with regard to health problems related to radiation, UNMIK was unaware of any such cases to date.

The informal employment sector was being addressed through economic growth strategies, said the delegation. The increased creation of formal sector employment opportunities had resulted in the decrease of informal sector jobs. On 19 August 2008 the Government took a decision to approve the plan addressing the informal economy (2008-2009), which was one of the first mechanisms used to address this problem.

On the right to strike and collective bargaining, the delegation said that numerous strikes had been registered, in particular with respect to the privatization of social owned enterprises. The right to strike was enshrined in the Kosovo Constitution.

Questions by the Committee Experts

Experts raised questions related to measures adopted to combat domestic violence against women and children; what educational measures had been taken to apply legislative measures on trafficking in persons, specifically with respect to women and children; reproductive health programmes, and particularly on sexually transmitted disease programmes; water born diseases leaking into the main water sources; measures to address HIV/AIDS and mental health; identification certificates and registration; and eviction and homelessness.

One Expert asked if the standard of living had dropped significantly as a result of the armed conflict since 1999.

Child labour appeared in the report to be a big problem, and a lack of coordination both at the central and local levels concerning prevention remained a challenge, noted one Expert. What had been done to combat this problem in concrete terms? With regard to the right to health, what was the present situation of the lead contamination in the internally displaced persons camps?

Answers by the Delegation of UNMIK

In response to these questions and others, the delegation of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said that the figure of 184,000 Euros allocated to the Office on Gender Equality only sustained the administrative operations of the office. Despite this, a number of different donors, including UNMIK, had also allocated funds to the Office on Gender Equality to mitigate resources needed to implement measures to address the gaps.

The Government had signed an agreement that remunerated over 50 per cent of victims of domestic violence, said the delegation. Cases of domestic violence were given high priority within the police force. At the central level there was a Directorate of Serious Crimes, which coordinated the work with regional and other local level authorities on domestic violence. The focus of measures adopted covered the areas of prevention, prosecution and protection of domestic violence. Some 273 cases of domestic violence had been registered, of which 11 per cent involved cases of trafficking, and 19 per cent involved cases of sexual exploitation. In 2007 the Government adopted a new draft National Plan, dedicated to the prevention and eradication of human trafficking. According to penalties for such crimes, the maximum conviction period ruled by courts was 12 years of imprisonment.

Rape in Kosovo was a serious problem, said the delegation. Raising awareness through campaigns had been financed in different rural areas. According to reproductive health, the Ministry of Health made progress on this aspect through the coordination of relevant mechanisms.

There was a Committee for the Prevention of Child Labour, said the delegation. Through this Committee grave and serious forms of child labour had been addressed. In particular, the Committee’s research showed that the recent cases of children selling products in the street were children who had come from Macedonia or Albania.

On questions related to the extreme poverty rate with relation to the Serbian minority, the delegation said that 2008-2011 priorities had been defined in this regard. The Government in 2008 decided to found a working group to develop a document called the “The White Paper” addressing the issues facing the political and social field. The Ministry of Economy and Finance addressed the improvement of the welfare situation in the country. The Ministry of Work and Welfare collaborated with other European Union countries, such as Luxembourg, to undertake seasonal employment opportunities in other countries to reduce poverty in the country.

On identification certificates and registration, the delegation said that there had been ongoing work in this area. The capacity within local institutions was continually enhanced, despite this, further technical assistance was necessary. Municipalities took a flexible approach in terms of the application process, for instance, with respect to the weighing of evidence to prove habitual status. It was possible for municipalities to accord more or less points to the evidentiary document. A proposal designed in the Ministry of Interior put together an enhanced civil registration procedure. According to the low registration figures of children from the Roma and Egyptian communities, it was the case that many did not register in the right way, and therefore did not get all the social benefits allocated by law. As a result the Government decided to draft administrative instructions for those minority groups, and upon its completion the Government planned to consult with such groups on the process to try and directly address this problem.

With regard to forced evictions and homelessness, the delegation said that from the experiences of the adjudication of cases, bias in any direction did not occur. Any potential bias that led to human rights violations was addressed by the Human Rights Advisory Panel and UNMIK.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS remained at a low level, less than 0.1 per cent, but a significant increase was a possibility in the near future due to the particular characteristics of Kosovo society such as its large young population, high unemployment, rapid social changes, growing drugs consumption, prostitution, high mobility of the population, and a large fluctuating international community, said the delegation. Registration of HIV/AIDS cases started in 1986, with a total of 47 cases reported since. The majority of cases were males between 30 and 39 years of age. By the end of 2002, twenty-two patients had died. Four cases were registered in 2005. Although resources are limited, anti-retroviral treatment was provided at the Central University Clinics.

There was a new community-based approach to mental health, which aimed at treating mental patients in their homes, family health centres, community mental health centres or protected apartments, said the delegation. Child psychiatry and caring for those psychologically traumatized during the conflict was a priority for the Ministry of Health. Only two big rehabilitation centres had been covering all rehabilitation needs of the population. The Ministry of Health was working to establish rehabilitation departments in all hospitals as well as basic rehabilitation units in primary care facilities. The Ministry was also promoting a handicapped friendly society with buildings, schools, and means of transport accessible for disabled persons.

Further Questions by the Experts

Further questions related to the drop out and attendance rates in primary and secondary schools, and the missing information on ethnic minorities in this regard; the successes of the 2006-2007 Campaign Against Violence; measures to democratize institutions to advance intercultural dialogue, especially at the local level; and measures taken to reconstruct, preserve and protect the cultural heritage destroyed during the conflict.

One Expert asked if it was possible to improve the drop-out rate for boys; and was Kosovo willing to respond to all of the mother tongue language needs at all levels of the educational systems?

Answers by the Delegation of UNMIK

In response to further questions raised by the Committee, the delegation said that the Ministry of Education, Technology and Science was tasked with educational needs in Kosovo. In Kosovo 28 elementary schools and 14 high schools were mixed schools comprising of pupils from Bosnian, Ashkali, Roma and Egyptian communities. Furthermore, educational programmes were taught in the languages of minorities which included among others, Bosnian, Roma, Egyptian and Ashkali languages. A campaign was recently launched aimed at life long learning, and was promoted to all ethnic communities in Kosovo. In addition, the majority of high education institutions integrated the different ethnic languages in Kosovo. According to drop-out rates in secondary school, 4,025 students were registered, 33.85 per cent were women, and 66.16 per cent were men. In addressing drop-out rates of ethnic minority communities, the Government through the Ministry of Education, Technology and Science took measures to implement a special form of education called “Intensive Catch up Classes” from 2002-2003. This programme gave students the opportunity to catch up a total of two years of schooling in a shorter period of time, and included students between the ages of 6 to 19.

Promoting tolerance and cohabitation for different cultures was one main goal for the Government in Kosovo, said the delegation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as a pillar of the United Nations mission was monitoring cultural heritage and sites. Following the violence in 2004 many of the Serbian Orthodox sites had been destroyed. Donor funds had been requested for the reconstruction of those sites and others. UNMIK also had legislation in force to protect cultural heritage sites from potential construction projects in the vicinity of these sites.

For use of the information media; not an official record

Source: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)