Lessons from DDR programmes

Question

What lessons can be learned from DDR programmes, in particular those implemented in Africa?

Summary

While the literature on DDR programmes, their evolution and DDR experiences in individual countries (notably in Africa), is considerable and broadly consistent, there is little on the long-term effectiveness of DDR interventions.

DDR programming has evolved significantly over the past few decades in response to changing situations and emerging challenges; from traditional DDR programmes implemented in post-conflict situations where a peace accord was in place and involved defined armed groups to second generation programmes, which have emerged to address less stable peace situations and engage communities, not just combatants. More flexible, ‘next generation’ DDR programmes, wider in scope and negotiated based on the local context, have also been identified. Despite this evolution, many challenges remain in designing and implementing DDR programmes.

Reviews of a number of DDR initiatives in Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes Region, Sudan, Somalia, and Central African Republic) confirm the issues identified in the literature review. Key lessons to emerge from the literature review include:

  • DDR initiatives should be nationally owned, with government, armed forces and civil society groups all playing a role. International partners can provide vital funding and technical support, since national capacity will typically be weak.
  • DDR programmes need reliable funding streams to ensure both timely and adequate funding. One option could be setting up a ‘DDR line’ within a relevant multi-donor trust fund.
  • DDR programmes should be based on careful assessment of the situation, to identify combatants, types and numbers of weapons, as well as areas of return and resettlement and reintegration opportunities and services.
  • Efforts should be made to ensure transparency in DDR programmes, particularly in eligibility criteria and decisions about exiting. Linked to transparency is the need for more effective monitoring and evaluation, particularly of outcomes: what happens to combatants when they exit DDR programmes, does violence recur?
  • DDR programmes typically target male ex-combatants, but there are many others who should be included (women, minors, the disabled) and will need programmes geared to their specific needs.
  • It is vital that DDR programmes, particularly in the reintegration phase, provide tangible benefits to host communities as well as to ex-combatants. This will aid the process of reconciliation and social reintegration of ex-combatants, as well as support sustainable peace and development.
  • In order to be effective and deliver sustained results, DDR programmes must be linked to wider reforms and strategies to promote national development, make the security sector efficient and accountable, and promote transitional justice.
  • DDR is a complex process involving many diverse actors. Integration and coordination between these is important, and should at minimum be strengthened between donor partners.

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Suggested citation

Idris, I. (2016). Lessons from DDR programmes (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1368). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.