IHT - UN Needs Help in Fixing Kosovo

Paris, Saturday, November 27, 1999

By Flora Lewis

PARIS - The United Nations administration in Kosovo, what there is of it, cannot pay teachers, doctors, lawyers more than a minimal stipend, and then only every other month. The police force remains embryonic, garbage is not collected in Pristina, and people still have not received new identity papers to replace the ones forcibly taken away when they were expelled.

Officials estimated that there is still a shortfall of $25 million for this year's scrimping budget and an estimated gap of $150 million next year. ''That is the price of half a day's bombing,'' a UN official told Steven Erlanger of The New York Times.

Donors have pledged $1 billion for reconstruction aid next year, but only $88 million for the UN mission, which is supposed to be running the province. The result is disorder and revenge. It is hypocritical nonsense to claim, as some diplomats are doing, that NATO had an impressive success in its air war to rid Kosovo of Serbian forces, but that if there is not a proper follow-through it is the fault of the United Nations.

It was clear from the beginning of the campaign that there was nothing in place to organize revived Kosovar society and that somebody would have to set up an interim government, a sort of trusteeship. The Serbs had destroyed ethnic Albanian participation and then Serbian authority was driven out, the necessary condition for the return of the refugees. But NATO did not want to be responsible for what in effect had to be an occupation government.

So the task was turned over to the UN as though it were an issue of humanitarian rescue, without preparation, personnel or money to do the job. Of course, the governments who make the decisions in NATO are the same governments who are making the decisions in the UN.

The policy of armed intervention to stop violation of human rights carries a responsibility to fill the vacuum when the oppressor is forced to leave. This is all the more direct in Kosovo, where the claim to independence is refused but Belgrade cannot be allowed to exercise authority.

The military force must be legitimated by what comes next, by whether the society it installs or allows to move in is able to do a decent job, worth the effort spent on destruction.

But there is a mincing, one step at a time approach to trying to sort out the ex-Yugoslavia which magnifies the problems and undermines coherence.

It relies on wishes rather than planning and adequate means, leaving Washington's policy for Serbia for example in Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's it-must-get-better drawer. Early ''fair and free elections'' is now the proclaimed panacea, to be achieved by knocking some heads together in the demoralized opposition to President Slobodan Milosevic.

But what if he wins? ''I find it really, really, really hard to believe that Milosevic might win a free and fair election,'' she said. ''I expect that the people of Serbia who have suffered under the boot of Milosevic, when they have the opportunity to vote for people that are going to provide freedom for them and the possibility of re-entry into the world of free nations, they will choose correctly.''

That would solve Mrs. Albright's problem of Mr. Milosevic, who is obviously incorrect. But it does not give much guidance for dealing with Serbia in the next stage, bound to be a difficult transition and possibly accompanied with violence.

In the same way, awareness of what a bad time the Kosovars had cannot assure that they will operate now as they would like to be governed. On the contrary, the lack of legal order favors crime, vengeance, disorder.

A good sign from Kosovo comes in reports that the moderate, almost timid, leader, Ibrahim Rugova, who was shoved aside for his pacifism during the war is once again a popular figure who can inspire confidence. But he still needs an administration, a police force, clerks and teachers, and at this stage the UN administration has to be able to hire them.

The new international assertion that human rights must take precedence over sovereign rights when they conflict does not prove itself by the end of the war. The test is whether it proves itself by the results after the fighting. It is not just a matter of money, but money does matter in trying to create a functioning civil society. Otherwise, how do we explain that we were willing to buy bombs but paying teachers is too much to ask.


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