Western Balkan Missing Persons Group Reaffirms Commitment to Regional Cooperation

Sarajevo, 16 December 2020 – In an event today with representatives of the Berlin Process participants, members of the Western Balkan Missing Persons Group (MPG) said they plan to intensify their cooperation, information sharing and engagement with families to strengthen work to account for missing persons across the region.

The MPG comprises senior representatives of the institutions in the region that are responsible for addressing missing persons issues. It was created in 2018, in the context of the Western Balkans Berlin Process, to strengthen efforts to find those who remain missing following the 1990s conflicts on the territory of former Yugoslavia.

The group presented its second annual report during the event, which was co-organized by the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). The report notes the MPG’s efforts to actively involve families of the missing in the regional cooperation process by sharing information with families and the Regional Coordination of Associations of Families of the Missing from the Former Yugoslavia (RC).

RC Chairperson Semina Alekic said: “The MPG has shown responsibility and dedication to implementation of the Framework Plan by making additional efforts to overcome obstacles caused by the Covid-19 pandemic; Its members have continued regional cooperation by exchanging information and making progress through joint activities.”

Wendy Morton, Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas in the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, said, “The Missing Person’s Group, working with the ICMP, has achieved a lot in a short space of time accounting for thousands of missing people, but we owe it to all the families of those still missing to continue the search.

“The regional cooperation process, with families of the missing at its heart, offers the region the best chance to heal, and move forward and prosper.”

ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said: “In the Western Balkans, over 70 percent of the around 40,000 persons reported missing after the conflicts in the 1990s have been accounted for – this is a success in comparison with other post-conflict regions. Regional cooperation has been crucial to this achievement, as has the continuous support of the UK Government and other donors. This form of regional, multilateral cooperation could be used as inspiration in other post-conflict areas facing complex missing persons situations.”

The annual report also notes that increased cooperation between MPG members made it possible to identify human remains that had been unidentified for almost two decades. It highlights MPG members’ use of the Regional Database, which is the only database of its kind in the world, to exchange information about active missing persons cases in a transparent manner and in real time.

Looking ahead, the MPG plans to strengthen its impact through enhanced multilateral cooperation that supports existing bilateral cooperation.

The MPG supervises operations under a Framework Plan signed in November 2018 at ICMP’s Headquarters in The Hague.

The Framework Plan stems from a Joint Declaration on Missing signed in London in July 2018 in which the Prime Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Croatia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Poland reiterated their commitment to support efforts to account for 12,000 people who are still missing as a result of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

The MPG’s first annual report was presented at the Berlin Process Summit in Poznan, in July 2019.

About ICMP

ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.

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