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Apr 11, 2016 | Commentary

This blog is part of a series on DDR and SSR in Myanmar that is led by Dean Piedmont of the PRSG in collaboration with the Centre for Security Governance. This blog post was originally published on the Peacebuilding & Reintegration blog as part of its DDR Dialogues initiative.

Helena Gronberg in her recent blog contribution article – Is the time ripe for DDR in Myanmar? – rightly points to a classic DDR dilemma being faced in Myanmar.  This is focused largely on the sequencing of DDR efforts, pointedly D-D-then-R. In what is called classic or 1st Generation DDR lasting from around the late 1980s until the early 2000s this was less of an issue as DDRs were governed by comprehensive peace settlements.[1] These occurred most notably in Southern Africa and Central America. Countries like Angola, Mozambique, Guatemala and Nicaragua are notable examples. In the mid-2000s both the promulgation of the global policy guidance known as the Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS), as well as the 2nd Generation DDR in Peace Operations simultaneously, and respectively, cemented policy around historic best practices and lessons learned while also calling for a new policy construct based on lessons being learned. Part of this new policy call includes flexible sequencing for D-D-R.

While security sector reform (SSR) and/or security sector integration (SSI) is in play when discussing Myanmar, on the face of it this unnecessarily conflates issues related to a negotiated political settlement, and while more complex issues are at stake, the basis of Helena’s argument is one of DDR sequencing and political dialogue. As such, there is nothing inherent to SSR or DDR that requires disarmament prior to negotiating terms in a political settlement.

At issue is the fact that 7 of the 15 armed groups are not parties to the NCA as pointed out. The reasons for such exclusion, willful or otherwise, are as important to understanding the terms for SSR and DDR, as they are for the preconditions to undertake SSR and DDR. Are the conditions that are being established precluding bringing parties to the table? The question is relevant for armed groups, as well as government actors. Disarmament as a precondition for negotiating peace is quite dissimilar to sequencing D-D-R once a settlement is signed. Both require varying degrees of trust in the peace process, and both requires a certain type of entry points for negotiation assuming both parties are willing to do so. This can include incremental disarmament, arms management and verification programs and the like as part of a peace settlement. Disarming armed groups prior to getting them to the peace table is likely to be more difficult.

The above discounts armed group’s unwillingness to be included in any SSR/SSI process that would use DDR as a tool for implementation. As Helena points out, Myanmar’s conflict includes root causes and grievances related to deep ethnic divisions. In such cases, the very notion of a DDR effort must be challenged – Is Myanmar Ripe for DDR? is a key question.

The question then becomes is DDR the appropriate tool, program, policy and/or approach for durable conflict mediation and peacebuilding in Myanmar. If issues of autonomy are being pursued as part of a larger SSR, Rule of Law (RoL) and Governance agenda, then we must consider that references and pushes on the DDR issue too early in the peace process may cause harm by stalling already fragile peace processes.

In this regard, Myanmar may wish to look to its neighbors both regionally and beyond for examples of DDR-like processes that are facilitating peace through approaches that include armed group ‘decommissioning’ as was considered for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines, or the ‘normalization of relations as is being considered in the Brussels Agreement between Kosovo and the Serbian Civil Protection Corps (CPC). These convey a certain degree of dignity, recognition, respect and legitimacy on armed groups where DDR is often perceived by groups undergoing disarmament as the equivalent to defeat, loss and failure. In some cases this may include cultural, political and personal emasculation.

In all instances, Helena’s contribution does point us in a direction that is relevant and warrants further analysis and consideration.


Dean Piedmont is the Director of the Peacebuilding, Reintegration and Stabilization Group. His areas of expertise are child protection, youth development and reintegration specializing in DDR.  Dean served government, bi-laterals, NGOs and the UN from 2002-2014 in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq and South Sudan. In 2009, Dean joined UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery managing a global DDR and stabilization portfolio where he spearheaded efforts in political reintegration and armed group transformation. He is now working as an adjunct professor in US based universities and consults for USAID, the World Bank on DDR, Reintegration and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE).


[1] The use of the term ‘classic’ or 1st Generation DDR is used by Adjunct Professor Dean Piedmont at the Studley Graduate Program of International Affairs at the New School in the ‘DDR in Contemporary Peace Operations’ course. The conceptual framework juxtaposes DDR through 3 successive generations. The first deals with a ‘Statebuiding Era’ for DDR, the second is DDR in an ‘Age of Development’ while the third in ‘Political DDR’ typified by ongoing conflict in asymmetric settings with violent extremist (VE) groups. Currently DDR is in its 3rd Generation, though this is not where Myanmar sits in this construct.