USAID’s Property Rights Program (PRP) is a four-year activity that aims to address the property rights challenges and to develop a plan for the stabilization of the property rights regime in Kosovo. The program will work in partnership with the Government of Kosovo (GOK), selected municipalities and other relevant local and international stakeholders. USAID has allocated $8.5 million for the implementation of the Property Rights Program.
This quarter saw the significant advancement of project initiatives under all four PRP objectives. In addition, the new COP assumed his duties on July 16.
Objective 1: Better Coordination and Policy Priorities
To assist the MoJ’s efforts to produce a National Strategy on Property Rights, PRP provided the MoJ, with technical support to finalize the Issues Document that served to identify and frame for analysis clusters of legal and technical issues to be addressed by the National Strategy. PRP also assisted the MoJ to establish the government structures that will take ownership and responsibility to develop the National Strategy – the Core Technical Group (CTG) and Thematic Working Groups (TWGs). In addition, the CTG adopted the approach and timeframe proposed by the Project for developing the Concept Documents for the National Strategy.
PRP also conducted a tender and selected a subcontractor, Strategy & Development Consulting (SDC) to field a team of experts to assist the CTG and TWGs to conduct research and analysis and draft the Concept Documents that will then serve to inform drafting of the final National Strategy document. PRP facilitated meetings between SDC and the Chair of the CTG to agree on modalities for coordination to ensure SDC is fully integrated into the MoJ’s strategy development process.
In addition, Minster of Justice Kuci met with PRP and reiterated his support for the initiative to create the National Strategy.
PRP also developed extensive comments on the draft Law on Notary; compiled other USAID projects’ comments on the draft law; and presented USAID with a unified document with all comments, which USAID then presented to the MoJ. Among many issues implicated by the Law on Notary is the need to clarify the respective jurisdictions of the courts and the notaries over non-contested cases. This s a direct bearing on efforts to reform the procedures governing inheritance proceedings. PRP has been actively urging the MOJ to approach this issue circumspectly and with deliberation and to resolve it with due consideration for the implications this law will have for inheritance reforms.
Objective 2: Improved Court Procedures Related to Property Claims
PRP completed a Differentiated Caseflow Management (DCM) assessment of case flow practices in the four Courts of Merit, analyzing over 1,200 property cases, and developed detailed findings and recommendations for immediate action the KJC could take to improve case flow management and court performance. The principal finding was that the adjudication of all property cases, regardless of the specific subject matter, are accompanied by very significant delays that far exceed international best practice related to case disposition times.
During the first weeks of the next quarter (October 22, 2015) PRP will facilitate a workshop with the KJC, courts presidents and heads of Civil Divisions of all Basic Courts and the PRP supported Advisory Council comprising Court of Merit judges. The DCM expert who conducted the assessment will present its findings and suggest options for reform initiatives. The workshop is intended to produce consensus on reform and development of an action plan to be ratified that will define activities to be piloted and tested in the Courts of Merit to improve case flow management.
PRP also facilitated the recently arrived US Ambassador’s visit to the Ferizaj Basic Court; received the first draft of its report on inter-generational inheritance matters; and conducted the first phase of its needs assessment for judicial training with the Kosovo Judicial Institute.
Objective 3: Enhanced Women’s Rights to Use Property in Practice
PRP began development of a Public Service Announcement on women and property rights that will feature prominent Kosovar, including the President, a noted singer, and artist and a young judo champion. PRP also developed a strategy for its Social Behavior Change Communications campaign; identified the target audiences and refined its messaging for the campaign; and secured the approval of the Office of the President to conduct the campaign under the established rubric, “For the Common Good.”
PRP also conducted a tender and selected a production company for the media campaign.
In addition, PRP undertook a number of activities to support USAID E4E partner, ATRC, and its sub-grantees. PRP supported USAID-mandated improvements in ATRC’s operations and grant management procedures and assisted ATRC to conduct capacity assessments of its sub-grantees. PRP also assisted ATRC in conducting a training needs assessment for its sub-grantees.
Two grants were given for activities to support the ability of women to exercise property rights in Kosovo: to the organizations BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network) and ACDC (Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture), ACDC to conduct its activities in northern Kosovo.
Objective 4: Improved Communication, Access to Information and Understanding of Property Rights
PRP developed and presented to USAID a proposal for an initiative for G2G funding for municipalities. The initiative is designed, among other things, to help fill gaps in land records by engaging municipal efforts to scan and index the archived hard copy documents of the Municipal Cadastral Offices (MCOs) in two municipalities. In addition to making more information available on the ownership history of land parcels in the municipality, the initiative is designed to improve information-sharing among Kosovo institutions; facilitate the adoption of streamlined registration procedures at the MCOs; and support more effective municipal planning and use of municipal land.
PRP also completed its selection process for municipal candidates for G2G support and presented its findings and recommendations to USAID.