Albanian Daily News - Nov 19

UN Mission in Kosovo an Incompetent Laughing Stock

Albanian Economic Tribune

By Julius Strauss

PRISHTINA - The United Nations mission in Kosovo, responsible for setting up and running the civil administration in the war-ravaged province, has become bogged down by bureaucracy and incompetence and almost all its major projects are way behind schedule.

Morale among mission members is at an all-time low, huge amounts of money are being wasted and ethnic Albanians and Serbs, infuriated by the incompetence of the administration, have largely taken the governing of the province into their own hands.

Five months after Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav President, pulled his troops and police out of Kosovo, there is still no effective postal service or telephone network.

Hundreds of criminals have been arrested but not a single case has been brought to court. The registration of civilians, cars and property, considered essential to establishing a governable state, has not yet begun. Organised crime is rampant. The murder rate is rising and elections scheduled for next spring have been postponed until the autumn. Power and heating are off for at least half of the day and most of the streets are unlit. Multi-racial police teams patrolling in new red and four-wheel drives are derided as "Coca-Cola patrols" by locals.

The inefficiencies of the UN mission - dismissed as a joke even by its own employees - have been emphasised by the relative success of KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, which is widely praised.

"KFOR works, the UN doesn’t," one Western analyst said. Other comments on the UN mission from its own employees include "desperate", "a joke" and "directionless." One added: "It seems there are whole cadres in the organisation who are devoted to doing internal paperwork."

The UN was not originally considered for overseeing the reconstruction of Kosovo after its force performed badly in Bosnia, failing to prevent the massacre at Srebrenica.

The European security body, the OSCE, would probably have been given the mission had the Serbs agreed to a peace plan tabled at Rambouillet in France in February but the UN was called in after the Russians intervened. Five months on, the UN mission is a laughing stock.

One employee said: "Everything it touches goes wrong. The ‘cover-my-arse’ mentality rules. The thinking goes, ‘this is not for the greater good of the organisation but at least I won’t get fired’."

Despite the inefficiency, salaries are high - ranging from $72,000 to $144,000 a year. On top of that, officials collect $70 a day expenses and 30 a day danger money. These salaries not only incur the jealousy of locals but also of aid workers and NATO soldiers, who receive a fraction of the amount. Insiders say they also act as a magnet for sub-standard officials looking for easy money.

Of the money available, the UN mission in Kosovo spends more than two-thirds of it, or $450 million a year, running itself.

Humanitarian workers, some of whom worked in Kosovo long before the war with NATO, say UN staff act dictatorially. One aid worker with a medical charity near Peja in western Kosovo said: "We had this area all shipshape. Then the UN turned up and started organising right over our heads. The Albanians hate them."

The unwieldy decision-making process in New York is also blamed. And Mr Bernard Kouchner, the French head of mission, has been criticised for being disorganised and unpredictable. (The Telegraph)

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