Mar 16, 2011 | Events

One of the ISA Convention’s opening panels brought together a group of experts from a variety of backgrounds to discuss the linkages between DDR and SSR and challenge the conventional thinking that they are two distinct, sequential processes. Many of the panelists also contributed to a forthcoming book by the same name which, judging by the morning’s presentations, promises to make a very valuable contribution to the field. Below I will attempt to summarize the presentations and highlight some of the most important ideas. The event’s moderator, Michael Miklaucic from the National Defense University, made an interesting reference to the Weberian notion of the monopoly of force, saying that people often forget that Weber was referring to a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. This distinction comes into play with respect to the DDR-SSR nexus, whereby DDR helps the state regain a monopoly of force, and successful SSR helps bestow state security forces with the legitimacy to employ it.

The first panelist, Sean McFate, offered an overview of the inherent linkages between two processes which are too often examined in isolation, both in theory and in practice. The notion that DDR is a short-term process which is done first, and is followed by longer-term SSR programming is wrong, McFate argued. Instead, he said, DDR and SSR should be seen as two sides of the same coin, rising and falling together. Accordingly, they must be planned, resourced and implemented together.SSR, as McFate said, must go beyond simply training and equipping the security forces, a process which he said,  “gives you better dressed soldiers who shoot straighter” but won’t results in long-term success.

The second panelist, Jacqueline O’Neill, discussed “Strengthening DDR and SSR through Women’s Inclusion,” arguing that women’s inclusion should not be considered at the margins or in isolation, but should be seen as an operational as well as an ethical imperative.

One very interesting point O’Neill made was that DDR programs consistently fail to acknowledge the extent of women’s roles in conflicts, and underestimate the number of female combatants. In Liberia, the DDR program estimated that there would be 2,000 female combatants to be demobilized. In the end, they demobilized 22,000, with an estimated 14,000 more not being reached by DDR programs. Women make up 10-30% of combatants in movements like the Tamil Tigers, the Shining Path, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, and others.

There are three main reasons why women are not considered central to DDR-SSR processes. These include: 1) the underestimation of their role in conflict mentioned above; 2) a lack of understanding of women’s contribution to operational effectiveness in both DDR (where they play an under-appreciated role in reintegration by helping former combatants gain acceptance from communities) and SSR (where female security officers have unique strengths like a tendency to deescalate conflicts and use less violence, and more obvious advantages in areas like sexual and gender-based violence); 3) the fact that women tend to be excluded from the peace processes that lay the groundwork for DDR and SSR programs (the UN found that only 2% of signatories to peace agreements in the last 30 years have been women, along with just 8% of the delegates).

The third panelist, Veronique Dudouet from the Berghof Centre, described an interesting research project she was involved in, which researched the perspectives of non-state armed groups to DDR programs. The research found that non-state armed groups often see DDR programs as “counter-insurgency by other means,” and are loathe to surrender the arms that they see as their best bargaining chip. The research emphasized the importance of “right-timing” the DDR process in a way that was sensitive to the legitimate fears of former combatants. State actors should not be considered the sole interlocutors of peacebuilding programming. DDR, from this perspective, must happen in parallel to the transformation of the security forces.

The fourth panelist, Josef Ansorge from the University of Cambridge, discussed the DDR-SSR nexus in the context of Liberia. He made the interesting observation that attaching overbearing importance to metrics like the number of ex-combatants demobilized can blind reformers to the actual goals and fundamental purposes of DDR programs, which is to create a legitimate monopoly of force for the government.

The panel’s final speaker, CIGI Senior Fellow Mark Sedra, discussed the DDR-SSR nexus in Afghanistan, emphasizing the earlier point that DDR and SSR programs are not discrete but interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Each process helps create the enabling conditions for the other to thrive. The connection between DDR and SSR was initially recognized in Afghanistan, when DDR was made one of the five “pillars” of reconstruction (in addition to army reform, police reform, justice reform and counter-narcotics). Unfortunately, Sedra argued, this was basically the extent of the connection.

There were numerous missed opportunities to leverage the complementarity of the two processes, including: establishing a veterans administration to care for former combatants, using DDR practitioners’ knowledge to facilitate the effective procurement of weapons for the security forces and the vetting of candidates, as well as the management of weapons stockpiles–Sedra noted that 15-20% of weapons given to Afghanistan have disappeared (many finding their way to the Taliban). Other missed opportunities include the demobilization and reformation of police forces, and a legitimate engagement with non-state armed actors.

Among the reasons provided for this lack of collaboration were political issues and the lack of a political strategy, a lack of interest on the part of donors and the local government, a coordination gap, the inflexibility of the various Afghan trust funds, and the ongoing conflict causing a militarized, securitized SSR process with an accordant lack of focus on governance.

Please check back over the next three days for further summaries and updates as I attend more interesting panels.