The Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) process has been a staple of post-conflict projects implemented over the last decade, with over 60 DDR initiatives taking place since the early 1990s. A recent literature review, Innovations in Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Policy and Research written by Robert Muggah and published by the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs (NUPI), has tracked the evolution of DDR theory and practice over this time frame. The author finds that DDR has shifted from a minimalist, technical exercise to a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach that has become inseparably linked with the broad state-development and security sector reform (SSR) agendas.
One key change identified has been the shift in perceptions of DDR from a one-off technical exercise considered in isolation to one integrated with the broad framework of reconstruction. Instead of being conceived as an apolitical necessity, DDR is now recognized as inherently political since it reasserts the state’s monopoly of violence. This links the DDR process to broader security sector reform, as it opens up space for political negotiations regarding the future of the security services. There is a growing consensus that DDR agreements must be negotiated (rather than implemented) based on local context and as part of a broader “social re-engineering.” This evolution in DDR theory has led to a corresponding shift in research agendas. DDR research has grown from its political science roots to a multi-sectoral field that incorporates development studies, anthropology, sociology, criminology, psychology and other disciplines. Research agendas have shifted from focus only on DDR’s technical aspects (best practices, monitoring and implementation) to larger issues such as the interrelationship between DDR, participant agency, peace agreement construction, transitional justice, and SSR in general.
The policy side has also reflected this shift in DDR theory. In 2006, a UN interagency working group created the Integrated Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Standards (UN-IDDRS), which have been updated since with the addition of new “modules.” The UN-IDDRS recognizes DDR as a broad social process, and explicitly links DDR to gender, youth, and health issues, as well as SSR and transitional justice. These standards call for the design and implementation of management information systems to share information and best practices among local DDR, SSR, and Transitional Justice actors. However the author identifies a criticism of these standards, noting the assumption that practitioners can establish reintegration criteria and ensure transparent payments. Along with donor priority towards delivery rather than monitoring, the author notes that further researchers should work to establish appropriate metrics of success and impact.
The growing consensus is that DDR should be implemented early, be locally owned, combine cash and non-cash incentives, and target both individuals and communities. However perhaps more important is the increasing integration of DDR with SSR and state-building agendas. The case of Afghanistan has certainly demonstrated the complexity of a state-building project and the need for holistic, locally-tailored approaches. While the tendency towards integration risks over-theorizing the issue to the detriment of experience and practice, it also has the potential to generate new theoretical innovations to smooth the DDR and SSR processes.