On the eve of his retirement after three years of serving as the deputy head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Charles Brayshaw says nascent democratic institutions in the province will need continued international support to flourish.
In an interview with the UN News Service on Thursday, Mr. Brayshaw, who arrived in Kosovo in November 2001, detailed numerous successes for UNMIK and said the key task ahead is to involve the Serb community more in the democratization process.
"One of the greatest triumphs we had in that period of time was the establishment of a democratic government in the province for the first time in its history," he said. "The people of Kosovo have responded very, very positively to that opportunity."
Mr. Brayshaw said last weekend's elections saw a "relatively good" turnout from the majority Albanian and other ethnic communities, while he acknowledged that the turnout of the Serb community had been "disappointing."
He blamed this on "guidance they received from political leaders in Belgrade" as well as "intimidation of people who would have wanted to vote but were fearful of the consequences."
Mr. Brayshaw added that leaders of the Serb community still have opportunities to participate in the political process in Kosovo. "Bringing them into that picture is going to be one of the major challenges of the coming months."
Offering a historical perspective, he recalled that in the 1990s, as a result of oppression by former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Miloševic, Albanians were marginalized and Serb elements were supported through a skewed legal system. "Since that time, we have established a judiciary which is multi-ethnic," he said. The UN has vetted and trained some 300 judges and prosecutors in local judiciary, while 30 international judges and prosecutors are on hand to handle the most sensitive cases.
This, coupled with UNMIK's establishment of a multi-ethnic police force, has resulted in a dramatic decline in Kosovo's crime rates. "I consider that to be a very, very important success for the international community as well, and one that holds out a great deal of promise for the people of Kosovo."
Kosovo's future permanent status - the key challenge ahead - must be defined "in the context of ensuring that there is peace and stability for the long-term for all the communities."
Another major challenge is to foster the development of a market economy that will encourage growth. "We have seen a very, very significant recovery in Kosovo from the devastated conditions that existed in 1999 at the end of the conflict, and there's been great progress in that regard, but we still haven't seen the generation of a vibrant new economy."
Referring to the return of Kosovo Serbs, Mr. Brayshaw said attention must focus on reassuring them that conditions are safe. "Although crime rates have gone down significantly, there have been some dramatic criminal events in which Serbs have been victims."
The lack of economic opportunity is also a hindrance to returns, he noted, calling for donor support to help those going back to rebuild their homes and have a basis for restarting their productive lives.
Mr. Brayshaw, who served under four successive senior UN envoys to Kosovo and himself acted as head of mission in between their assignments, said, "It has been a great, personally rewarding experience for me and I'm happy to have other opportunities." In the meantime, he said he was looking forward to spending time with family in Wyoming in the United States.
Drawing lessons for future situations, he said Kosovo benefited from strong cooperation between the UN and other organizations, notably NATO and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
"We've also been able to mobilize the support of key countries in the Security Council, plus some other European countries that have a strong interest in Kosovo to provide us direct political support in the various problems that we faced on the ground," he said. Those countries have also been "very important donors to the redevelopment of Kosovo after the destruction of the conflict period," he added.
Clear mandates, a defined goal and end, and pro-active measures to guard against corruption are also crucial, he said.
Finally, he emphasized the "supreme importance of having strong security programmes" to protect UN staff members working in dangerous circumstances on behalf of the international community.