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Jun 10, 2014 | Commentary

Local ownership is at the heart of security sector reform (SSR) but it is difficult to achieve and often sidelined by other considerations. What follows is a description of the 2006 Kosovo Internal Security Sector Review (ISSR), heralded by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee as “one of the most ambitious and holistic efforts at SSR undertaken in recent years, both in scope and methodology.” It describes how the ISSR attempted to advance local ownership by including both the leadership and population of Kosovo in the project approach. Part One of this post provides an overview of the ISSR’s context and structure, while Part Two will delve into how the process unfolded.

The idea for ISSR came from a British general who had served in Sierra Leone and witnessed the involvement of the UK Security Sector Development Advisory Team (SSDAT) in the Sierra Leone Security Sector Reform Project. He persuaded Søren Jessen-Peterson – the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Kosovo – that such a review was needed in the province and should be undertaken before the final status talks on the future of Kosovo began.  Jessen-Peterson was well aware that the viability of Kosovo as a state would depend on the peaceful co-existence of all ethic groups within the territory and its acceptance within the region. To achieve this end, an established security and justice sector, overseen by impartial institutional structures subject to the rule of law, was necessary for moving the status issue forward. Consequently, he requested the assistance of the SSDAT to determine whether a security sector review process could be utilised to deal with the specific circumstances of Kosovo.

A scoping mission was undertaken by the SSDAT in March 2005 and advised that Kosovo would benefit from a security sector review. The objective of the Review was, through local involvement and ownership, to determine how well the Kosovo Provisional Institutes for Self Government (PISG) were equipped to handle Kosovo’s security.

The UN’s Special Representative, the President and Prime Minister of Kosovo, and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) endorsed this advice and the PISG indicated that they were willing to support the project. The Review would be a staged process, overseen by a Steering Committee consisting of international and local leaders and validated by a Core Consultative Group, consisting of designated local civil society leaders. It would include an extensive community consultation programme. This approach was designed to provide local ownership of the process, address the concerns of ordinary people, and give a voice to local non-governmental organizations and security sector officials.

It was decided that the ISSR should examine those existing institutions that were judged to impact internal security, with key exceptions like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led stability force (the Kosovo Force or KFOR) and the UNMIK. But it was also designed to envisage which security institutions would be required in an independent Kosovo. This meant that many of the Review’s recommendations would be dependent on the resolution of the province’s final status.

Therefore, the ISSR faced two significant gaps; firstly, Kosovo had no existing local internal security institutions or policies, beyond the police and judicial structures that had been developed by the international community with minimal local input. Secondly, the ISSR team had to make recommendations for security institutions prior to the determination of the province’s status, including what international security and oversight mechanisms would remain in place after final status had been agreed.

The support of key international actors was essential to the success of the ISSR programme. However, this important part of the preparatory process was delayed because the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), which was responsible within the United Nations Secretariat in New York for the UNMIK mission, took several weeks to review and approve the ISSR process. This delay was engendered by internal UN rivalry where a battle between UN DPKO and the United Nations Development Programme for control of security reform activities was being played out. Without DPKO approval, the UN’s Special Representative in Kosovo could not publicly endorse the ISSR programme and this significantly delayed discussions on the ISSR procedures with other governmental and political bodies. It also meant that, rather than being completed before Kosovo’s Final Status Talks, it was to run in parallel with these highly political negotiations, spearheaded by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari.

Despite Jessen-Peterson’s emphasis that the ISSR was essentially a review by and for the people of Kosovo, it soon became evident that not all the members of the local and international communities agreed with him. The SSDAT had recommended that the Review’s working structure should consist of a Steering Committee with high-level representatives from UNMIK, the PISG, political and religious leaders, and minority community representatives. The Steering Committee comprised of the following members:


The Steering Committee would be supported by a Secretariat located in the Office for Public Safety, within the Office of the Prime Minister. A Research Team, consisting of ten persons, would coordinate the ISSR consultative work along with the Steering Committee review process. The flow of information from the local consultative groups, through the Secretariat to the Steering Committee, whilst keeping the Kosovo Assembly informed, is illustrated below:


However, from the outset, there was resistance to the Steering Committee both from the Kosovo Serb political structure and from some of the Albanian political parties. The Serbs refused to be associated with a body that was predominantly Albanian and international community based. Their ongoing boycott of the PISG structures and Albanian political institutions made it impossible for them to sit on a Committee that had the Kosovar President and Prime Minister as members.  Additionally, some Kosovar political party members were uncomfortable with the structure of the Committee, seeing it as biased towards the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo Party, which held the majority of the ministries with responsibilities related to the security sector. Although the Albanian political representatives were, on occasions, persuaded to be present at Steering Committee meetings, the Serb politicians never attended.

Thus the tenets of local engagement and local ownership were to be the foundation of the Kosovo Review.  Having determined the structure and objectives of the Review, it was then necessary to create a working matrix and relate it to the oversight of the Steering Committee and Consultative Groups.  How this worked will be examined in Part Two of this post.


Anthony Cleland Welch OBE, a retired British Brigadier-General, holds a PhD in Security Sector Management and spent the past seventeen years working in post-conflict and developing countries. In 2006, he was coordinator of the Internal Security Sector Review of Kosovo.