An integrated, long-term outlook

In the past, many DDR programmes have been conducted in a fractured way, resulting from poor coordination and, in some circumstances, competition between and among peacekeeping operations, agencies, funds and programmes. For this reason, it is essential to encourage integration and unity of effort within the UN system as well as with national players and other international partners so as to achieve a common objective.

Approaching DDR in an integrated manner requires a shift in focus to put DDR firmly into the overall post-conflict stabilization and recovery process. At a strategic level this means that DDR cannot be implemented in isolation from the broader peacebuilding and recovery process and that it must be coordinated with wider peace, recovery and development frameworks.

Importance of political will

DDR is a politically-driven process. A DDR process is usually agreed to and defined within a ceasefire, cessation of hostilities or comprehensive peace accord, providing the political operational framework for the process. Yet, in some post-conflict contexts, the parties to a ceasefire or peace agreement may not trust each other and/or may lack the capacity to design, plan and implement DDR programmes. Many DDR programmes stall or are only partly implemented because the political environment is not conducive. The success of the DDR process depends on the political will of the parties to enter into the process in a genuine manner and in many instances for Government partners to enable and support the implementation of a DDR process after official agreement for a DDR process has been reached. It is also important to push for the inclusion of detailed and gender-responsive provisions for DDR within peace agreements that are in line with United Nations policy on DDR and for signatories to respect commitments they may make to be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated.

A gender responsive DDR

Conflict affects men and women differently. There are therefore important considerations to be made regarding male and female ex-combatants and man and women associated to armed forces or groups. A lack of a gender-responsive DDR programme may lead to the perpetuation of violence within groups and communities. DDR programmes should address the specific gender needs of male and female participants. Key Topics - Gender

Children and DDR

Girls and boys under the age of 18 are involved in most major conflicts in the world today, associated with both government armed forces and non-state armed groups. Because children cannot be legally mobilized or recruited for use in direct hostilities, children go through “release and reintegration programmes” rather than DDR programmes per se. The release of children from armed forces or armed groups is a human rights issue and must be carried out at any time, formally or informally, even during a conflict. It is not contingent on a peace agreement, a formal DDR process or any other political negotiation. Key Topics - Children               

Risk of Rapid Disarmament

The long-term approach for DDR, as outlined in the UN Integrated DDR Standards, is at times offset by the short-term political or security imperative to rapidly disarm combatants that pose a potential threat to peace. When political and security imperatives push for a quick disarmament, there is a risk that this could lead to increased insecurity at a later stage, especially if reintegration support for demobilized combatants is not well planned and resourced.

National Ownership

National ownership is essential for the success and sustainability of a DDR programme. National ownership does not simply mean government ownership. It is both broader and deeper than this. It requires the participation of a range of state and non-state actors at national, provincial and local levels. DDR programmes suffer when external actors fail to establish true partnership with national institutions and local authorities, producing programmes which are insufficiently adapted to the dynamics of local contexts, unsupportive of the capacities of local institutions and unresponsive to the needs of local populations.

National ownership, however, can be challenging to achieve in post-conflict environments, where national capacities and institutions are often weakened by the conflict. Therefore, a key objective within DDR programmes is to build capacity through technical assistance, training, financial support and the establishment of partnerships, which will help create a sustaining environment for DDR, ensure the long-term success of the programme and enable timely hand-over of the process to national counterparts.

Transitioning from DD to R

Delays between the demobilization and reintegration phases can pose serious security risks. Programme participants may become frustrated, potentially violent and may be at greater risk of rearmament if they are left without means to care for the needs of themselves and their families, or if they feel disillusioned by the programme. While reinsertion (transitional support lasting up to one year, part of the demobilization phase and thus paid for from UN assessed budgets) can be utilized to bridge this gap before the formal start of the reintegration phase, it is important to undertake timely planning and budgeting on reintegration from the very start of the DDR planning process. A large part of ensuring a timely start to the reintegration phase is engaging donors and securing the necessary funding for reintegration programmes in time, in addition to the complex planning process surrounding the economic, social/psychosocial, political and security reintegration of ex-combatants (including market analyses, socio-economic profiling of ex-combatants, assessment for specific gendered needs of man and women, the relationship between ex-combatants and host communities etc). In addition to that, it is important to create a good understanding of the capacity of implementing partners (national and international) for reintegration programs.