Do disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs suffice in ‘rule of force’ environments: How to fill the security void?

AutorSophie da Câmara Santa Clara Gomes - Leontine Specker
CargoInter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR).

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The sustainable* Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) of excombatants is mostly implemented in post-conflict environments and is therefore often a critical component of post-conflict recovery. The objective of DDR is to contribute to security and stability in post-conflict environments so that recovery and development can be initiated. The DDR of ex-combatants is a complex process with political, military, security, humanitarian, psychosocial and socio-economic dimensions. The objective of DDR programs is, among others, to tackle a security challenge created by ex-combatants brought back to civilian live and to ensure them an alternative livelihood or networkPage 53beyond their line of command or former comrades during the critical transition period from conflict to peace and development. The hardest part of the DDR programs is indisputably the reintegration process. First of all, there are difficulties related to the fact that most ex-combatants do not know the alternative to a life in the military. Second, in a number of instances, communities have strong reasons to be wary and reluctant in hosting them back.

The demand for DDR programs for ex-combatants in post-conflict settings has increased over the years, particularly in non-peacekeeping contexts where the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank have often played a leadership role. After decades of competition, trial and error with the implementation of DDR programs in various regional areas, including a particular initial impression of failure in Liberia, the UN has eventually teamed up to develop an integrated approach to DDR. Subsequently, the UN approach has developed considerably over the last few years with the advent of the UN DDR Interagency Working Group (IAWG) and the development of Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS) launched in 2006.1 The unique character of the IDDRS is that it brings together the field experience of over 50 experts from all regional areas in the world as well as all the UN agencies that ever played a role in DDR. The IDDRS have as such consolidated the lessons learned experienced by the UN and contributed significantly to the documentation of best practices as well as the need to acknowledge the linkages between DDR programs to other practice areas, including Security Sector Reform (SSR), Transitional Justice, HIV/AIDS and Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW).

Turning this into action at the operational level, however, remains extremely difficult. Not yet fully addressed in the IDDRS, but increasingly recognized, is the need to establish the link between DDR and Rule of Law (RoL) initiatives. In (post-) conflict states law enforcement and border control agencies as well as national security forces often lack the resources and capacity to provide the required security to their citizens. The absence of human security strengthens the community’s perception that they have to provide for their own security and hence hold on to their weapons. This is particularly true for locally based rebel, guerilla and armed groups.

This paper aims to highlight this need for a more holistic approach to DDR by focusing on the importance to link DDR programs to broader RoL initiatives such as border control and community security programs. This has so farPage 54remained relatively under-addressed in current policy and practice. DDR programs are aimed at increasing human security, but cannot achieve that on their own in the absence of governance and overall security. First, the paper provides an overview of the design and common challenges of DDR programs. Secondly, it briefly addresses how the goal and thus scope of DDR programs has shifted over the years towards a more holistic approach. Thirdly, the paper aims to illustrate why the absence of RoL is currently one of the most critical challenges to DDR programs.

A classical DDR program?
One of a kind?

There is no ‘classic’ text book on DDR program or process, as many practitioners or governments have illustrated by claiming that their DDR program is ‘different’ from all others they have been engaged in. It is highlighted also throughout the IDDRS that any DDR process is unique and will need to be adapted to the specific context (i.e. nature of the conflict and peace process, type of peace agreement, political, regional and economic context, number and nature of armed groups, UN mandate, etc.). The majority of DDR processes stems from and is embedded in a peace agreement: i.e. Burundi (2000, Arusha), DRC (2003, Lusaka), Angola, Guatemala, Mozambique (1991, Nampula), Cambodia, Kosovo, Central African Republic (CAR) (2007), Sudan (2005), Liberia (2003), Sierra Leone (1999) and Aceh (2002). In other places, DDR processes are based on government incentives to reduce their national armed forces (i.e. Guinea Bissau, East Timor) or efforts to take control of part of their territory occupied by paramilitary or other armed groups (i.e. Colombia, Republic of Congo, Somalia, Uganda).

Furthermore, the level of involvement of the international community depends on the nature of the peace process (i.e. if the government is a party in the conflict there is a need for an honest broker) as well as on the level of capacity and the resources of national governments. DDR programs are more often than not, carried out in countries characterized by weak state institutions, i.e. the required infrastructure for the range of DDR activities are weak and poorly institutionalized, including with respect their capacity to deliver essential public services which is likely to have been severely reduced during conflict. Examples of such situations are Guinea Bissau, DRC, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Southern Sudan, CAR and Uganda etc. In other cases, there are rather strong state structures in place ready to take the DDR process forward, such as Colombia, Angola or Nepal.

What does a DDR process entail and why is it so challenging to...

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