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The DDR process aims to contribute to post-conflict security and stability so that recovery and development can begin. By disarming combatants, preparing them for civilian life, and supporting their social and economic reintegration, DDR programmes aim to reduce the potential security risk posed by ex-combatants and to support this high risk group so that they can become stakeholders in the peace process. Gender-responsive DDR programmes are planned, implemented, monitored and evaluated so as to meet the different needs of female and male ex-combatants, supporters and dependants and take into account existing conceptions of masculinities and femininities among the beneficiaries and the receiving communities. A gender-responsive DDR programme is based on three general principles:

  • Gender-equality. The programme recognizes and supports the equal rights of women, men, girls and boys in DDR processes;
  • Non-discrimination and fair and equitable treatment. Individuals are not discriminated against on the basis of sex, gender, age, race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, political opinion or other personal characteristics or associations;
  • People-centred. The DDR programme recognizes that there are differences in the support required by sexes, gender, and those of differing ages and physical ability. The programme set-up requires culturally relevant and appropriate reintegration activities for each group and offers specifically designed services.

The UN is committed to promoting gender equality and protecting vulnerable groups in conflict and post-conflict settings, including through DDR. UN and international commitments to strengthen women’s participation in all aspects of peacebuilding (UN Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325/1889) and to address conflict-related sexual violence (UN SCR 1820/1888/1960) recognize the need to address men’s and women’s different needs and to address issues of sexual violence in DDR programmes. Notably, UN SCR 1325 “encourages all those involved in the planning of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration to consider the different needs for female and male ex-combatants and to take into account the needs of their dependents.

DDR and the UN women, peace and security framework

[1]The ‘Women, Peace and Security Agenda’, particularly the UN Secretary-General’s Reports on Women’s Participation in Peacebuilding and UN SCRs 1325 and 1889, reinforces the need for action to promote women’s participation and ensure their needs are met in conflict and post-conflict settings.

[1]UN SCRs 1820, 1888 and 1960 have brought the issue of conflict-related sexual violence into international focus. These resolutions treat conflict-related sexual violence as distinct from SGBV in normal development contexts and recognize sexual violence when used as a tactic of war as a matter of international peace and security. New interpretations recognize that conflict-related sexual violence often continues in post-conflict settings after the formal cessation of hostilities. UN Action Against Sexual Violence was established to coordinate the work of 13 UN entities to address conflict-related sexual violence.

[1]S/ RES/ 1325 (2000), paragraph 13, p. 3.

Overall, addressing women’s and men’s specific needs and ensuring the gender-responsiveness of DDR programmes is likely to enhance women’s and men’s well-being and socio-political status and therefore contribute to the inclusiveness and the legitimacy of the peacebuilding process as a whole. DDR processes often offer a window of opportunity to address such broader issues from the outset of a peace process including:

  • Enhancing the legitimacy, transparency and ownership of the reforms that are planned in the peace agreements;
  • Clarifying the scope of the reforms and the level of resources required for their implementation;
  • Improving a possible socio-economic  and political gender imbalance; and,
  • Providing a basis for improving a potentially dysfunctional and/or abusive security and justice institutions.

War often breaks down the traditional roles of women in societies, whereas norms may have remained the same in a post-conflict era. Practice indicates that perpetrators of post-conflict violence, including gender-based violence, are often former combatants who were unable to transform their violent attitudes once back with their families and communities. UN entities now recognize that protecting women from violence should amongst others be addressed through working with men and boys and by taking a gendered perspective to men’s experiences in the DDR process. It is important to examine both men and women’s vulnerabilities and needs and engage with men and boys in the overall process of SGBV prevention.