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 was very productive for PRP: it saw important developments in major initiatives in progress – the National Strategy on Property Rights; case flow management reform in Kosovo courts; the national media campaign and local grassroots activities on women’s property rights; and preparation for activities in Viti/Vitina municipality designed to help municipal administrations in Viti/Vitina and elsewhere improve their practices and procedures related to property rights and enable their citizens to exercise their property rights more easily and efficiently.
Objective 1: Better Coordination and Policy Priorities
NATIONAL STRATEGY ON PROPERTY RIGHTS ADVANCING ON SCHEDULE. During this Quarter, PRP developed a polished complete draft National Strategy with Implementation Plan in English and Albanian and submitted it to the MoJ. When the Serbian translation is completed in early October, the MoJ will post the National Strategy on its web site for public notice and comment. At that point, following a final review and incorporation of remaining comments by the Core Technical Group, the MoJ will submit the National Strategy to the Government for adoption. PRP has also worked closely with the Strategic Planning Office of the Office of Prime Minister to gain its full support for the National Strategy.
SUPPORT TO MOJ ON LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVE ON INHERITANCE. During this Quarter PRP has been in close consultation with the MoJ to plan next steps on getting revisions related to notary powers and to inheritance adopted into law. PRP has incorporated into its original set of proposed revisions some additional revisions and policy positions to facilitate the resolution of delayed inheritance cases. Thus the package of revisions is designed to provide added protections for women’s property rights and to facilitate the resolution of delayed inheritance cases, i.e., cases where the decedent died several years previously. PRP has provided consultation to the MoJ on a conference on inheritance that the MoJ wants to conduct in late October, with PRP support. PRP expects that PRP’s findings and recommendations will inform the agenda for the conference.
During this Quarter, PRP also worked closely with the MoJ to draft a Concept Document for the revisions to the Law on Construction Land.
All of these initiatives are contemplated by the National Strategy and fully consistent with it.
Objective 2: Improved Court Procedures Related to Property Claims
PRP PRODUCES PRELIMINARY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ON CASEFLOW MANAGEMENT OF PROPERTY CASES. As reported previously, PRP has determined that it is necessary to inventory and track pending property cases in order to fully identify the points where unnecessary delays occur. Using the Excel spreadsheet tailored for this purpose, during this Quarter PRP’s three Records Management Specialists brought the number of pending property cases inventoried for research and analysis to 2,100 pending cases. This represented the complete pending caseloads of three judges (one judge each from the Basic Courts of Pejë/Peć, Ferizaj/Uroševac and Gjilan/Gnjilane), and partial caseloads that are currently being reviewed by three additional judges from those courts. The RMS’s also continued to track recent actions taken by judges based on their hearing schedule.
The collected data provides sufficient basis for preliminary findings and recommendations to improve the case flow management of property cases and eliminate unnecessary delays.
During this Quarter, PRP has begun preparing preliminary findings and recommendations. These will be completed in October and presented to the KJC and CoMs in a series of roundtables in November led by STTA expert, Judge Joseph Traficanti.
MAKING JUDICIAL PRACTICE IN PROPERTY LAW MORE CONSISTENT, UNIFORM AND PREDICTABLE. During this quarter PRP continued its analysis of judicial practice in property law, i.e., the quality and consistency of the courts’ decisions in adjudicating property cases. As noted previously, as much as 70% of property rights cases are disposed on procedural grounds (i.e., without a decision on the claim itself) and also with significant delays. PRP has also now determined that a large number of property case decisions are reversed by the Court of Appeals, and PRP has identified the principal grounds for these reversals. PRP will continue to develop findings on judicial practice in the area of property rights, which will serve as the basis for initiatives with the courts to address problematic issues and achieve more uniformity and consistency in their adjudication of property cases.
COLLABORATION WITH USAID CLE ON MEDIATION INITIATIVES. During this Quarter PRP met on several occasions with CLE to discuss issues related to mediation and the courts; took part, jointly with CLE, in the working group for the draft Law on Mediation; and together with CLE has begun planning training for judges on mediation.
ADDITIONAL RESEARCH FOR THE REPORT ON MINORITIES’ PROPERTY RIGHTS. During this Quarter PRP commissioned research on the two additional subjects to be addressed in PRP’s Report, Issues Affecting the Ability of Members of Minority Communities in Kosovo to Exercise Their Property Rights, i.e., the challenges facing minorities in connection with actions taken by the Kosovo Privatization Agency and in taking part in judicial proceedings. PRP has received the first draft of this research and provided comments for further elaboration.
Objective 3: Enhanced Women’s Rights to Use Property in Practice
NATIONAL GRASSROOTS CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED IN VITI/VITINA. PRP successfully launched its grassroots campaign on women’s property rights with a highly publicized event in
Viti/Vitina. The launch event featured remarks by the US Ambassador, the First Deputy Prime Minister, and the Mayor of Viti/Vitina, along with testimonials from two local women who recounted their success at dealing with property issues. The event also featured an exhibition of children’s drawings from PRP’s art activity for children held in Viti in June; a video clip made from that art activity; and a demonstration of forum theater, with a short performance on the topic of inheritance. The event was extremely well attended and received extensive national coverage on TV.
SIXTEEN BILLBOARDS DISPLAYED IN KOSOVO WITH ADS AND MESSAGES FOR PRP CAMPAIGN, FOR OUR COMMON GOOD. As of September 1st, sixteen billboards as part of For Our Common Good Campaign were displayed in 9 municipalities in Kosovo such as Prishtinë/Pristina, Prizren, Pejë/Peć, Mitrovica, Gjilan/Gnjilane, Viti/Vitina, Graçanicë/Gračanica, Shtërpcë/Štrpce, and Gjakova/Djakovica. The billboards featured photos related to PRP’s Public Service Announcements and have the slogan, Equality Knows No Gender. PRP plans to continue the campaign with new billboards in the upcoming months.
PRP PHOTO SELECTED FOR USAID INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLKIT. A photo from PRP’s outreach activity in Viti/Vitina on the topic “Home and Family” with the children of Viti/Vitina municipality, held on June 2016, was among the photos selected from USAID Programs around the world for inclusion in the Social Media Tool Kit, which USAID developed to observe the International Youth Day.
USAID/WASHINGTON PR INITIATIVE FOR COVERAGE OF PRP’S WORK IN KOSOVO. During this Quarter, Cloudburst, a contractor in public relations for
USAID/Washington’s Land Tenure and Resource Management Office informed PRP of their plans to carry out a number of activities to publicize PRP’s work. These include a webinar featuring Kosovo’s Land Tenure Profile; an Op-Ed piece by DPM Kuçi for the highly-regarded Reuters journal, Place; and an accompanying background article on the National Strategy initiative, to be prepared by some Reuters journalists.
During this Quarter, PRP contacted the two Reuters journalists who will be preparing a background article to accompany the Op-Ed piece. They have also expressed an interest in visiting Kosovo, perhaps with a photographer, to gather information for the article and perhaps other features. Thus far, no date has been set for the visit.
PREPARATIONS FOR EVENTS AROUND INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD (OCTOBER 11). Toward the end of this Quarter, PRP began conceiving and making preparations for a number of activities and events related to International Day of the Girl Child. These include (1) a puppet show for elementary school children that emphasizes the equality of girls and boys; (2) a commissioned article on women’s property rights issues that will be posted in local web portals; (3) a publicity event to focus attention on the importance of treating daughters and sons equally in inheritance, which PRP has proposed to and organized for the US Embassy; and (4) a show for the television program, My Family that will discuss women and inheritance and will feature a representative from PRP and two from the CSOs that work in this field.
Objective 4: Improved Communication, Access to Information and Understanding of Property Rights
CLOSE INTERACTION WITH USAID TO FACILITATE DIGITIZATION INITIATIVE. During this Quarter PRP worked closely with USAID in a number of areas related to PRP’s proposed initiative to digitize the cadastral records of selected municipalities and link those digital files to a Geographic Information System application that PRP would produce. PRP provided guidance on the selection of municipalities to participate in this initiative; prepared an illustrative budget, possible milestones and other information to inform USAID’s consideration of reallocating G2G funds to PRP; submitted a request for a Sole-Source Waiver in connection with hiring the subcontractor to develop the software and supervise the digitization; and worked with USAID’s ADS-548 Team in Washington and received an positive evaluation of the specifications of the proposed software.
PRP COMPLETES LEGAL ANALYSIS AND COMMENCES FIELD RESEARCH IN VITI/VITINA. During this Quarter PRP completed its research of the law governing property registration in connection with inheritance, court judgments, private transactions and privatization, and developed a lengthy questionnaire for oral interviews with municipal officials on these topics. PRP will use the interviews to ascertain the practice “on the ground” in implementing the law, with the aim of identifying ways to improve the registration process and make it easier for citizens to register their property. PRP also commenced interviewing MCO officials in Viti/Vitina.