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UNMIK Background

UNMIK established

UNMIK was established in June 1999, marking the end of a NATO intervention in Kosovo that had followed the massive human rights violations by Serbian authorities there, the clashes between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the Yugoslav forces and the massive deportations of Kosovo Albanians by the latter. The Security Council, by its resolution 1244 PDF Document of 10 June 1999, authorized member states to establish a security presence to deter hostilities, demilitarize the KLA and facilitate the return of refugees. It also asked the Secretary-General to establish an international civil presence in Kosovo – the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) – in order to provide an interim administration for Kosovo under which the people could enjoy substantial autonomy and self-government. Yugoslav forces withdrew, NATO suspended its bombings, and a 50,000-strong NATO-led multinational Kosovo Force (KFOR) arrived to provide security.

«UNMIK helped Kosovo make significant strides in establishing and consolidating democratic and accountable Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and in creating the foundations for a functioning economy.»

UNMIK immediately established a presence on the ground. Its task was unprecedented in complexity and scope. The Security Council vested UNMIK with authority over the territory and people of Kosovo, including all legislative and executive powers and administration of the judiciary. The Mission was asked to perform basic civilian administrative functions; promote the establishment of substantial autonomy and self-government in Kosovo; facilitate a political process to determine Kosovo's future status; coordinate humanitarian and disaster relief of all international agencies; support the reconstruction of key infrastructure; maintain civil law and order; promote human rights; and assure the safe and unimpeded return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes in Kosovo (see Mandate for details).

First nine years of UNMIK

In a first-ever operation of its kind, UNMIK initially brought together four “pillars” under United Nations leadership:

  • Pillar I: Humanitarian Assistance, led by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);
  • Pillar II: Civil Administration, under the United Nations;
  • Pillar III: Democratization and Institution Building, led by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and
  • Pillar IV: Reconstruction and Economic Development, managed by the European Union (EU).

With the emergency stage over, UNHCR’s work under Pillar I was phased out at the end of June 2000 after the majority of the refugees, who had fled during the war, returned. Pillar I was henceforth responsible for rule of law functions.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Kosovo, as the most senior international civilian official in Kosovo, presided over the work of the pillars and facilitated the political process designed to determine Kosovo's future status.

In the following nine years, the interim administration led by the United Nations, with the support of its key operational partners, including the EU, OSCE and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, helped Kosovo make significant strides in establishing and consolidating democratic and accountable Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and in creating the foundations for a functioning economy.  However, the full reconciliation and integration of Kosovo communities remained a challenge.

Status Talks

In 2006, the Secretary-General’s special envoy, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, conducted negotiations between the parties on the future status of Kosovo, but Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority government and Serbia remained completely at odds. The Envoy’s Comprehensive Settlement Proposal for Kosovo’s internationally-supervised independence was rejected by Serbia and was faced with strong divisions in the Security Council.

In August 2007, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed an agreement to have a Troika composed of the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States lead further negotiations on Kosovo’s future status; however, the parties were not able to reach an agreement.

In February 2008, the Assembly of Kosovo adopted a declaration of independence despite strong objections from Serbia which still considers Kosovo as part of its inalienable territory. In July 2010, the International Court of Justice issued an Advisory Opinion on the declaration that stated it did not violate international law.

UNMIK since 2008

Following the declaration of independence by the Kosovo authorities and the entry into force of a new constitution on 15 June 2008, the tasks of UNMIK have significantly been modified and its configuration changed [See for details S/2008/692 PDF Document, S/2008/354 PDF Document, S/PRST/2008/44 PDF Document, S/2009/300 PDF Document]. The adoption of a Presidential Statement by the Security Council on 26 November 2008 [S/PRST/2008/44 PDF Document], allowed the European Union (EULEX) to take on an increasing role in the rule of law sector and UNMIK to terminate its rule of law operations and conclude its reconfiguration by June 2009.

Following its reconfiguration, UNMIK’s main strategic objective has been the promotion of security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo through engagement with all communities in Kosovo, with the leadership in Pristina and Belgrade, and with regional and international actors, including the OSCE, EULEX and KFOR.

The OSCE and EULEX have maintained their important roles within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244. UNMIK and the OSCE Mission in Kosovo exchange information on a regular basis, particularly on political and security developments. In line with the Security Council presidential statement of 26 November 2008 [S/PRST/2008/44 PDF Document] and the Secretary-General’s report of 24 November 2008 [S/2008/692 PDF Document], EULEX operates in the rule of law sector under the overall authority and within the status-neutral framework of the United Nations. KFOR and UNMIK continue to engage in information sharing, particularly with regard to security developments, coordinate activities and develop common approaches on issues related to the maintenance of peace and stability on the ground. The United Nations agencies, funds and programmes also continue to work closely with UNMIK.