Formal Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration DDR - (Top-down)
As part of the peace process, the United Nations has developed a set of procedures for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of soldiers into civilian life. The DDR process is part of the UN’s peacekeeping operations, with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) spearheading the planning of DDR programs in collaboration and support from other UN agencies. It has become a widely accepted part of the post-conflict operations (Peace-building Initiative; Cerretti; 2009) among development donors and agencies, who fund DDR missions around the world: the World Bank and other bi-lateral donors have supported more than 20 missions and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has assisted in more than 45 arms-reduction initiatives since the early 1990s (Cerretti, 2009; Muggah, 2006).
Reintegration has two phases – initial reinsertion and long term reintegration. Reinsertion is a short time period where ex-combatants arrive into his/or her home or a new community, whereas reintegration is a much longer term process with the intent of not only transition to civilian life but actual participation in that civil society. According to Anderlini and Conway (n.d.), reintegration of former soldiers may include access to job placement services, skills training, scholarships or rehabilitation programs. The definition of the United Nations DDR Resource Centre is “the process by which ex-combatants acquire civilian status and gain sustainable employment and income.” (UN-DDR).
The UN classifies children as a vulnerable group and, according to the UN-DDR Resource Centre, they are not viewed as a routine component of DDR programs. Rather, the emphasis is on an attempt to prevent or redress the violation of childrens’ human rights. There are many international protections under the law. For instance:
The recruitment and use of children under 15 years of age has been designated as a war crime and considered one of the worst forms of child labour.
Children are protected under a comprehensive set of international legal instruments including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Article 38, the Optional Protocol to the and the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, and is reinforced by a series of United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions.
The primary objective of the DDR, according to the UN-DDR Resource Centre is to “contribute to security and stability in post-conflict environments, and to re-integrate soldiers back into society so that recovery and development can begin.” (http://www.unddr.org/). Further, the DDR is intended to provide safety measures for the communities in which ex-soldiers live, along with building national capacity for long-term peace, security and development. As the UN states, while DDR programs alone can’t resolve conflict or prevent violence, they can establish a secure environment so that recovery and peace-building strategies can proceed (UN-DDR).
Re-integration is funded by international donors, with implementation the responsibility of national governments where the conflict has occurred (whereas the disarmament and demobilization phases are part of UN peacekeeping units). In addition to the UN bodies that work in the DDR operations, there are a multitude of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that operate in the sphere of DDR and post-conflict reconstruction. According to the UN-DDR Resource Centre, NGOs should be consulted throughout the DDR process because they play an important role in providing expertise in specific areas and can be (my emphasis) significant actors in ensuring that the needs of the community are meet.
The literature shows that having numerous agencies involved in the DDR process can create confusion and management conflicts. Despite the effort to transfer the DDR from international groups to national commissions (Institute of Security Studies) that would coordinate the efforts of all international partners and entail more accountability to local reconciliation customs into the reintegration process, the program remains essentially top-down. The UN Security Council often mandates the process through resolutions and the terms and timelines are determined by international donors as part of an ongoing peace process.
It is evident in the literature that the extent to which the reintegration phase is considered successful (or a failure) is subject to much debate. For example, studies show that reintegration is the most difficult to implement, often with little committed funding, resulting in poor coordination. It has been called the Achilles heel of DDR because donors think that once the disarmament and demobilization has occurred soldiers are ready to be active citizens often leaving reintegration as an adjunct program (IISS).
Some of these issues have recently been acknowledged in a UN Security General Report and others that state that the UN’s effort to develop integrated DDR standards contributes to a growing body of research of the efficacy of DDR (Hanson, 2007). As Humphreys and Weinstein (2007) state: despite declaration of success by policy makers of the impact of DDR, there are few systematic efforts to evaluate the success of reintegration by ex-combatants after conflict: “the literature is chock-full of success (or failure) of a given DDR program. Surprisingly, this debate has typically been carried out with an appropriate source of variation in the key explanatory variables”, p. 532.
Beyond anecdotal evidence, there is a paucity of studies which would indicate qualitative measures in which to analyse current programs and to further develop guidelines on local populations. (IISS). Often formulaic they serve security concerns by keeping ex-combatants busy through vocational training. Programs based solely on economic measures are often simply unrealistic given the lack of employment opportunities, or reluctance for communities to accept ex-combatants’ return. In Liberia, for instance, while there isn’t necessarily stigma attached to being an ex-combatant, but there was unemployment of 80 percent.
Muggah (2006) argues that reintegration programs are typically poorly articulated, under-funded, lack benchmarks, and have competing interest between peacekeepers, development practitioners and donors. Rather, they need to reflect the situations of different post-conflict environments and have a built-in monitoring and evaluation processes.
The UN DDR Resource Centre website says that soldiers don’t need special treatment. Rather, the degree to which child soldiers need special treatment varies widely; for instance those that have only been fighting for a few months and have families to return to don’t need extensive counselling, while others who have been fighting for five or six years don’t need such treatment. Maybe….but shouldn’t the experience that soldiers have endured dictate whether or not counselling is needed, rather than the time spent in combat? Medieros (2006) showed a whole range of variable besides time that influenced the need for mental health services.
The research indicates that DDR is a top-down process and that, beyond anecdotal evidence, little is known about the success of reintegration programs. Another section on this site will look at critical literature relating to child soldiers’ integration in Liberia.
The UN was spending many millions of dollars in Liberia, but most of it was on [their own] staffing resources.... If they had just given some of that money to the local people, it would have made a real difference.
Leymah Gbowee, Liberian Peace Activist, awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 2011