“UN Working Group on Persons Unaccounted for
in Connection with Events in Kosovo”
By Jane E. Durgom-Powers
May 31, 2006 Meeting
Belgrade , Serbia
Good Morning. On behalf of IFFAMPAC, I would like to thank you Mr. Chairman for appointing my organization to Observer status, and allowing us the opportunity to speak today in our representative capacity of the family associations in their tireless quest to seek answers to the whereabouts of their missing family members.
IFFAMPAC assists in the formation and unification of family associations of missing persons worldwide from armed conflicts. We work in cooperation with family associations, non-governmental organizations, and governmental agencies to address the social, economic, and legal problems that surviving families face when members are taken and never heard from again.
Our mission is to heal, to educate, and to lead.
IFFAMPAC has been granted Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. This status gives us an historic opportunity. For the first time, the concerns of the families we work with will have a direct voice in the United Nations.
The families of the missing face substantial challenges post conflict. The Kosovo and Serbia surviving families deserve to have their concerns and questions taken seriously.
One of the goals of IFFAMPAC is to ensure that they are.
Upon our appointment to this Working Group, I began to bring to the attention ofthe international community the issues confronting family associations in Kosovo and Serbia. I have personally met with members of the United States Congress, officials at the Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense. Also, I have also spoken with the presidents of several international human rights non-governmental organizations.
The international human rights community, the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and the United States government, have all expressed to me their deepest concerns and support for IFFAMPAC and the family associations, in our efforts to obtain relevant information from the Governments of Kosovo and Serbia.
Be assured, I will continue my dialog with these organizations to keep the issue of missing family members foremost in the minds of the United States government and governments everywhere.
IFFAMPAC’s voice is strong, and it will be heard.
We believe that the governments who are parties to this Working Group have information that can be of great assistance to the families. We are also confident that these governments can exert their influence on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to release information which they have to the chairman of this Working Group.
The information the families seek is vital. Without closure, families will not be able to contribute to their communities in a healthy way. Without healthy communities, there cannot be strong governments. Without strong governments, there cannot be lasting peace.
I present a challenge today to the governments of this Working Group. You have an opportunity. It is unique.
The problems facing the families of Kosovo and Serbia are the same as those faced by families worldwide in post-conflict situations. The difference lies in the solution.
The solution depends upon the governments. Why should the governments of Kosovo and Serbia be like other governments who avoid providing information to surviving family members? Governments seem willing to cooperate only when it serves an economic advantage, or in response to international pressure.
This is an opportunity for the governments of Kosovo and Serbia to set a trend unlike any other. Take the lead in human rights. Show the world that you are better than other governments. Show the world that you are more humane than other governments. Show the world that you are governments that should be respected, because you respect your citizens.
You know that it is your families, especially your children, who live under, live within, and live out the ideals of your country. They will make you strong. It is for them–the children–that we are all here today.
This challenge is yours alone to take up.
The question of peace cannot be separated from the question of human dignity and human rights. The human spirit cannot be at peace unless there is truth, justice, love and freedom.
No one disappears alone. The answers are out there. In the end, justice for the missing and their families is not about political, economic or governmental structures – it is about people.
Throughout history, it has been simple men and women who have had the heart and courage to provide information to the families about missing loved ones. These unsolicited acts of human decency have brought peace and closure. The benefits of those acts have extended not only to the families of their own countries, but also to the families of the opposing country of conflict.
IFFAMPAC will work with the Serbia family associations to make requests to the Serbia government to provide answers to the Kosovo family associations. Equally, IFFAMPAC will work with the Kosovo family associations to make requests to the Kosovo government to provide answers to the Serbia family associations.
We believe these acts of mutual respect and cooperation will result in strong solidarity between the countries of the Balkan Region.
To the government officials of this Working Group, it is your time. It is your time to do better than any other government. Set history. Be the leaders not only of your countries, but also of human rights for all the missing and the families who love them everywhere.
On behalf of IFFAMPAC, thank you again Mr. Chairman for this opportunity to be a part of this important group. I look forward to working with you all.