A publication by the German Development Institute focuses on the successful implementation of disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) programs. The paper asserts that ex-combatants who do not engage in DDR programs often pose serious threats to the fragile political stability of those states. In turn, the failure of reintegration may also lead to the re-recruitment of ex-combatants by rebel groups, which could initiate a new cycle of violence. The greatest danger associated with ex-combatants stems from their violent-oriented nature. This is particularly true of child soldiers, who are often exposed early on to a culture of violence and aggression and encounter a greater degree of difficulty when reintegrating into civilian life.
Several factors that may impede the process of reintegration are highlighted in the paper. One reason is the lack of employment opportunities in the post-conflict period and the subsequent absence of steady income. Ex-combatants often do not receive formal post-conflict training for civilian jobs, which makes them susceptible to the economic lure of joining rebel groups or criminal gangs. Another factor is the perceived lack of justice and compensation on the part of state governments. Ex-combatants often believe that their role in past conflicts should officially be recognized and thus rewarded financially. Former ex-combatants also often suffer from mental illnesses that can delay the process of reintegration.
The aim of DDR is to disarm combatants after peace is secured, demobilise armed groups, and ultimately reintegrate former combatants into civil society. Specific programs differ in size, scope, and duration, though standard procedures exist in all programs. Disarmament, the initial step in DDR, is concerned with the collection and documentation of weapons. The principal aim of this process is to ensure the complete disarmament of armed groups, whether forcibly or through brokered agreements. Demobilisation involves the discharging of ex-combatants and also introduces the process of reintegration. During this process, ex-combatants often receive direct financial assistance as well as formal vocational training. Reintegration, arguably the most important component of DDR, is specifically concerned with the entrance of ex-combatants back into civilian life, specifically the labour market, with the aid of educational training, economic assistance, and psychosocial assistance.
The paper explores the implementation of DDR programs from macro to meso to micro perspectives. The macro perspective focuses on the broader economic, political, and conflict settings of DDR programs. This perspective asserts that the economic state of a respective country needs to be managed efficiently, so that employment opportunities are made available. The macro perspective also notes the importance of a pre-conflict democratic or a semi-democratic government. With such a foundation, a structured and efficient governing system can be more easily re-established. The post-conflict political systems should establish effective police services, encourage public political participation, and facilitate greater state capacity for the purposes of efficient governance. Third party actors, either in a supportive or leadership role, can help overcome compliance problems and embed structural legitimacy within DDR programs.
The meso perspective focuses on the technical aspects of DDR, including timing, sequencing, and program design. The initiation of DDR programs must not be postponed too long because the commitment to a peace process by all parties may erode with the passage of time. The sequencing and proper completion of DDR components must also be fulfilled without disruption. All programs must also properly address the distinct needs of former child soldiers while the enrollment process itself should not constitute a barrier, particularly for women.
The micro perspective focuses on the characteristics of individual combatants, which can encourage or impede the success of DDR programs. The perspective emphasizes economic considerations and its role in the success of DDR programs; for example, wealthy fighters are less likely to engage in the process of disarmament and demobilisation. Age is another factor, since younger individuals are more likely to lead violent lifestyles after demobilisation and encounter greater difficulties during reintegration. It is recommended that greater resources be allocated within DDR programs in order to properly address the distinct needs of child soldiers. Gender also heavily influences behaviour, with female ex-combatants not having the same degree of access to DDR-related services.
In its conclusion, the paper surmises that ex-combatants should not be treated as a homogenous group, with the willingness of ex-combatants to engage in DDR varying greatly on an individual basis. It recommends that DDR programs should properly address the distinct needs of ex-combatants, based on economic conditions, physical limitations, as well as factors such as age and gender. Significant modifications need to be made to the DDR model in order to better facilitate peacebuilding in post-conflict states.
The full publication can be accessed here.
Lema Ijtemaye is a Research and Communications Intern at the Centre for Security Governance.