The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. Mission in Kosovo to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Kosovo’s human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at 2009-2017.state.gov.
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The key U.S. priority in the promotion of human rights and democracy in the country is strengthening the institutions of the government and society required for a robust multi-ethnic democracy. U.S. Government assistance programs have as a priority improving governance in municipalities, which are integral to Kosovo’s decentralization process. The new Serb-majority municipalities require institutional development in order to deliver services to their constituents. Additional U.S. programs work to ensure that society and the government are firmly grounded in the rule of law and democratic values. In an effort to improve judicial and law enforcement institutions, U.S. programs work with police, prosecutors, and judges to provide access to justice, as well as to develop respect for justice and demand for justice. U.S. Government assistance programs also support minority rights, assist the progress of political parties, strengthen independent media, create conditions for free and fair elections, and support efforts to combat corruption.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human
Rights and Democratic Governance
U.S. assistance programs encourage the devolution of authority to municipalities and the allocation of resources needed to fulfill their responsibilities. Priority is given to strengthening the Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities, most of which are newly created or expanded. U.S.-funded activities assist these municipalities through a capital investment fund for small projects and assistance to help organize and train the new municipal structures. The purpose is to increase their capacity to provide municipal services to constituents and to manage municipal resources in a transparent and participatory manner. Additionally, the U.S. Government is organizing an International Visitor Leadership Program for municipal leaders to allow them to study first-hand the workings of federalism in the United States. U.S. programs work closely with the national and municipal assemblies to build capacity for deputies and staff, assist in developing procedures, and provide expertise in the specific areas of legislation and oversight. The U.S. Government assists the Ministry of Local Government Administration in crafting decentralization policies, refining legislation, and developing performance standards for municipalities. U.S. programs are designed to increase the ability of citizens, civil society organizations, and media to participate in, advocate for, and monitor the performance of municipal governments.
U.S. goals for justice institutions are focused on increasing citizens' access to and respect for justice. Achieving the first two goals will lead to the third: increasing demand for justice. Access to justice is improved by several initiatives that incorporate financial and program assistance. The U.S. sponsored Legal Professional Development Initiative increases the professionalism of the legal community by developing a Bar that regulates the practice of law to ensure competence and ethical standards, and strengthens the ability of the Kosovo Chamber of Advocates to provide continuing legal education. To increase respect for justice, U.S. personnel and implementing partners focus on strengthening the country's law enforcement institutions (police, prosecutors, and judges) through mentorship and technical support. In conjunction with European multilateral institutions and the government, the United States is working to reform the court structure in Kosovo and to establish administrative and management practices to promote more effective and professional police/prosecutor relationships. U.S. funds support the continued presence of American civilian police officers, rule of law specialists, and policy advisors in the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX). These advisors bolster internal security and the capacity of the local police and judiciary through mentoring, monitoring, and advising. U.S. programs also assist in combating trafficking in persons through improved law enforcement and support shelters for victims of trafficking as well as the expansion of residential reintegration services. As judicial, prosecutorial, and law enforcement institutions demonstrate their ability to combat more effectively organized crime, corruption, human trafficking, and other criminal activities, citizen's expectations and demand for justice will increase.
The Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement (the Ahtisaari Plan) negotiated prior to Kosovo's independence, calls for comprehensive support and protection for the rights of Kosovo Serbs and other minority communities. The U.S. supports the government's commitment to implementing Ahtisaari principles through minority-focused programs promoting tolerance, unity, and community. U.S. assistance supports television cooperative projects that bring Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb television journalists together to work on investigative news documentaries for local broadcast in Albanian and Serbian languages. U.S. programs also focus on Serb and minority media, providing advice and financial backing to ensure that all communities have access to Kosovo-specific content in their local languages. With U.S. assistance, four Serbian-language television stations collaborated to form a new network, TV Mreza. The network helps provide a Kosovo Serb perspective on news with the aim of breaking the isolation of Kosovo Serb enclaves.
The United States also funds several scholarships to the American University of Kosovo for minority students and facilitates a variety of conflict mitigation activities aimed at spurring dialogue between government leaders and the country's minority communities. A U.S. program providing small grants to nongovernmental organizations and independent media supports projects that promote democratic institutions, rule of law, civic education and civil society, human rights, and ethnic and political harmony. Other U.S. programs support minority and majority community civil society organizations to address issues of concern to their communities, including freedom of movement, religious freedom, local government cooperation, free and objective media reporting, and cultural exchange through infrastructure projects. The United States, together with the European Commission Liaison Office, provides program and logistical support for the sustainable resettlement of the 140 families of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian internally displaced persons living in the lead-contaminated Cesmin Lug and Osterode camps in the northern part of Kosovo. The goal of this joint effort is to return the families to uncontaminated land near their pre-1999 homes where they will have improved access to healthcare, education, social services, and employment.
The U.S. Government funds the Political Processes and Party Support (PPPS) Program to assist political party caucuses, internal party democracy, and minority parties. The Party Training Academy, a U.S.-funded program, provides political parties with trained individuals who can serve as party staff, organizers, current and future candidates, and assist recently elected officials dealing with the realities of governing in a newly independent state. The U.S. supports a wide range of public affairs assistance programs designed to promote an independent media, including training visits to the U.S. for Serbian television managers, and train-the-trainer programs for teachers at the Kosovo Media Institute. The U.S.-funded Strengthening Election Administration in Kosovo program continues to support free and fair elections, providing technical assistance to Kosovo's Central Election Commission, updating voter lists, and advocating for election law reform. The PPPS program also assists in conducting free and fair elections. An independent media and free and fair elections, like effective law enforcement, are critical to successfully combating corruption. To further U.S. Government priorities of reducing corruption and improving public policy at the national and municipal levels, U.S. programs are assisting local NGOs in carrying out citizen oversight activities, research and advocacy campaigns designed to influence public policy. Other programs work to strengthen the national and municipal assemblies to allow them to properly execute their supervisory responsibilities.