Establishing Institutions under International Administration: The Case of Kosovo

  • Robert Muharremi PhD, Assistant Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology in Prishtina, Kosovo
Keywords: organised anarchy, garbage can model, Kosovo, institution-building, rule of law, international administration


The international community, led by the United Nations, created Kosovo’s new post-war institutions and continues to influence them, even after Kosovo declared independence in 2008. One of the very first priorities of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was to establish the rule of law and to develop institutions and legal frameworks for a normally functioning economy. However, after almost two decades of internationally led institution-building, Kosovo is still, measured by European standards, a poor country with weak institutions. This paper shows that the creation of institutions does not follow a rational decision-making model, even when, like in Kosovo, institutions are created under direct international involvement and with the intention to develop the rule of law and facilitate economic development. The garbage can model approach to governance and decision-making provides a better explanation of the formation of governance institutions and why institutions, despite perhaps the best intentions, do not produce the desired results; failing to solve the underlying policy problems. The case studies on the privatisation of socially owned property and the development of contract law show that, in the case of
Kosovo, adopting the best international and European standards almost always meant adopting a decontextualised solution promoted by an international actor. It did not really matter if that solution indeed solved the problem. In fact, in most cases the problem remained, with new problems being created because
of the inadequacy of the imported ready-made solution. The conclusion is that sometimes less international assistance is more. In the absence of so much international financial and technical assistance, Kosovar leadership would have been required to assume more ownership of the policy-making for solving their
problems. Less international assistance would also have meant less competition between international actors and less pressure to adopt ready-made decontextualised solutions.