The Lessons Learned and Analysis Unit was set up by the EU Pillar of UNMIK under Deputy SRSG Andrew Bearpark and t he European Stability Initiative (ESI) in the summer of 2001.
It has continued to operate as a joint project until August 2004, when ESI decided to reduce its large Kosovo presence. Two EU Pillar Heads and four different heads of UNMIK have drawn on the LLA's advice and analysis.
The LLA was an experiment. With a small staff and a small budget the ESI-LLA team sought to make a contribution to the overall mission of UNMIK through field-based research and continuous briefings and presentations for senior staff and the public.
The basic organisational principle was that of the “independent insider”.
The research program of the LLA was determined at the beginning of each year between the Pillar senior staff and ESI. Once the focus was set, the ESI-LLA team decided itself how to undertake its research. This helped avoid the common fate of many strategy groups inside organisations which end up writing speeches and bullet-points for senior staff.
The focus was always on bigger strategic issues: the former socially-owned companies; UNMIK experiences with early privatisation and commercialisation; the economic future of Mitrovica; problems with property rights in Kosovo; the political economy of Kosovo Serbs; the state of the rural economy; the role of the diaspora in economic development.
Most international missions do not have staff that can afford the luxury of sufficient time to research more complex issues in great depth. In many organisations analytical work is desk-based. External consultants are not only more expensive but are also often not familiar with the internal debates and recent experiences of a mission.
Undertaking strategic analysis from the position of independent insider, drawing on an existing network of interdisciplinary analysts with a long-term commitment to the region offers an attractive alternative.
This must also be reflected in financial arrangements. The EU Pillar made an in-kind contribution – the LLA office was inside the Kosovo government building and one senior LLA staff member was directly employed by the EU Pillar and seconded to the unit. For its operating budget ESI was required to undertake independent fund-raising to ensure that never more than half of the LLA budget actually came from the Pillar.
This allowed the EU Pillar to benefit from research of the LLA which was co-financed by other donors. It also ensured that the LLA was never completely dependent on the EU Pillar as a funder. Indeed, once its reputation was established the LLA could find outside funding, and from 2003 to August 2004 all LLA project activities were independently financed.
ESI is presently undertaking a review of what can be learned from the LLA experiment for other missions.
In spring 2004 LLA Director Gerald Knaus was invited to present the LLA concept to the Best Practices Unit and senior staff of the UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations in New York.
"'Lessons Learned' has become a bit of a buzzword. That doesn't mean everyone understands how to do it effectively. The Lessons Learned Unit in the EU pillar of UNMIK offers an effective model. Being attached to the mission gives it access to information it needs. Being based on an NGO, the European Stability Initiative, gives it a critical degree of independence."
Michael Steiner, former United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General in Kosovo, January 2003