A United Nations independent expert today urged the Government of Serbia and the authorities in Kosovo to cooperate and discharge their primary responsibility for implementing lasting solutions for internally displaced persons, particularly as Serbia is in the process of being admitted into the framework of the European Union.
“The time is now conducive to implement durable solutions, after 15 years of protracted displacement,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, said at the end of an official visit.
“Both the Government of Serbia and the authorities in Kosovo should show political leadership to work towards the implementation of durable solutions for internally displaced persons,” he added, following a four-day visit to the region that included stops in Belgrade and Pristina.
Mr. Beyani welcomed the fact that “there is greater openness to consider local integration as a durable solution, alongside return where possible, and resettlement.”
There are still about 97,000 persons displaced from Kosovo with continued displacement-related needs, according to a 2011 joint needs assessment carried out by the Serbian authorities and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Among them, thousands of Roma, who are the most vulnerable and have specific needs and protection concerns, particularly documentation, residency requirements, and access to social services, according to the Special Rapporteur.
The most immediate need is to improve the livelihoods of IDPs in their current location and to provide them with adequate services, Mr. Beyani said, particularly electricity and energy as the winter approaches.
Other issues to address in this context, he explained, include “the effective resolution of property disputes, recovery, where possible, of property in places of origin and effective compensation where the property cannot be recovered.”
The Special Rapporteur also urged the Government of Serbia and authorities of Kosovo to cooperate with regard to the registration of eligible internally displaced persons as voters and ensure their participation in local elections this year and in the parliamentary elections next year.
Mr. Beyani stressed that both Serbia and Kosovo should redouble their efforts to address these challenges in the context of the EU accession framework, which lays out the plans for negotiations of EU membership.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. Mr. Beyani will present a comprehensive report on his visit to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014.