Lack of pre-conditions

As the Secretary-General’s report on peacebuilding in the immediate aftermath of conflict (A/63/881-S/2009/304) notes, the ability of the UN to design and implement effective programmes will be limited unless basic political and security conditions are in place. As laid out in the Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS), this includes the signing of a ceasefire or peace agreement which contains a legal framework for DDR, trust in the peace process, willingness of the parties to engage in DDR and a minimum guarantee of security.

However, DDR programmes are increasingly being implemented in contexts in which one or more of these pre-conditions are not in place. Therefore, DDR planners are called upon to utilize increasingly innovative and context-specific approaches to meet such challenges, and the design of DDR programmes (including the sequence of its individual phases) often varies greatly from country to country.

Focus on communities

DDR programmes are increasingly focusing on host as well as other conflict-affected communities affected by violence. Community-based security measures, which may include weapons-collection programmes, labour-intensive projects, training and education, help to reduce violence and may be integrated into a DDR programme, or may take place alongside a DDR programme.  

During the reintegration phase, it is now recognized that programmes should move as quickly as possible from ex-combatant-focused support to a community-based approach. This can include targeting ex-combatants and other conflict-affected groups within the same programme; involving ex-combatants in socio-economic activities that will benefit the community as a whole; and, providing resources for a community to jump-start socio-economic activities that have the potential to reintegrate ex-combatants as well as other conflict-affected groups.

Moving beyond traditional military structures

Early DDR programmes focused primarily on disarming and demobilizing military establishments and right-sizing armed forces. However, much of the violence seen in today’s conflicts is perpetuated by undisciplined armed groups taking place at sub-national levels. Therefore, today’s programmes are often expanded in focus to include members of informal armed groups, gangs, militias, self-defence groups and/or entire communities, through weapons reduction programmes.

Multi-dimensional reintegration

In most countries, economic aspects of reintegration, while central, are not sufficient for the sustainable reintegration of ex-combatants. Rather, as outlined in the IDDRS and endorsed by the Inter-Agency Working Group on DDR, programmes need to provide for social/psychosocial, political and security dimensions in addition to the traditional focus on the economic aspects of reintegration.

Experience has shown that successful social reintegration is not only as important as economic reintegration, but can also be a pre-condition and a catalyst for employment and economic security. Additionally, the degree of trust ex-combatants have in the post-conflict political process is a key determinant of the success of the wider DDR process. By helping to establish systems that allow citizens and parties concerned to address their political grievances through legitimate channels, ex-combatants and others may be less likely to take up arms. Such systems should also encourage long-term reconciliation and reconstruction.

Linking DDR with other peacebuilding processes

Recovery programmes

As reintegration programmes depend on voluntary contributions and are thus limited in time, generally the sustainability of DDR programme results depend on the linkages made with broader and often longer-term peacebuilding and recovery programs. The same is true for gender specific support programmes or initiatives, indicating the need to seek for effective linkages and handover to actors that can take forward activities and sustain programme results after the closure of a DDR programme.

Practice has indicated that a key challenge in this process is the planning of such linkages early on in DDR process, at a time when other priorities often prevail. Additionally, sufficient resources are required to allow time for a gradual hand over.

Synergies should therefore be created with broader socio-economic and development strategies throughout the entire DDR process (i.e. UNDAF, PRSP etc.), including specific linkages to broader gender specific strategies. Reintegration should become part of wider recovery strategies. Private sector actors can play an important role in the process with respect to creating employment opportunities for both male and female participants and beneficiaries and the planning of reintegration programmes should take into account the eventual transfer to community driven development projects, social cohesion and conflict resolution initiatives.

Linkages with security sector reform

Because DDR and security sector reform (SSR) are both concerned with enhancing the security of the state and its citizens, there is a great deal of convergence between the two. DDR and SSR play an important role in post-conflict efforts to prevent the resurgence of armed conflict and create the conditions necessary for sustainable peace. DDR and SSR should be understood as closely linked to processes of post-conflict state-building that enhance the ability of the state to deliver security and reinforce the rule of law. As such, DDR and SSR are both inherently political in nature and will only be successful if they acknowledge the need to develop sufficient political will and to drive and build synergies between them.

DDR and SSR are mutually reinforcing processes, as successful DDR contributes to community security and frees up resources for SSR activities that support the development of efficient, affordable security structures. Conversely, effective SSR measures help foster a level of trust and confidence that contribute to an effective DDR process, including by providing necessary reassurances that weapons are no longer necessary. The security sector can also provide a means of employment for ex-combatants, based on thorough vetting procedures and absorption capacity.

(See IDDRS Module 6.10: DDR and Security Sector Reform)

Linkages with transitional justice

Transitional justice (TJ) measures are increasingly part of the political package agreed to by the concerned parties to end a conflict. Subsequently, it is not uncommon for DDR programmes and TJ measures to coexist in the post-conflict period. This overlap can create tension, but if well managed, the relationship between these two types of initiatives may also contribute to achieving the long-term shared objectives of reconciliation and peace. For example, creating links between locally based justice processes and truth commissions on the one hand, and community-based reintegration strategies on the other, may foster acceptance of returning ex-combatants among reintegration communities. Moreover ex-combatants may play a direct role in reparations programmes, either by providing direct reparation when they have individual responsibility for violations, or, when appropriate, by contributing to reparations projects aimed at addressing community needs.

(See IDDRS Module 6.20: DDR and Transitional Justice)