Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration

What is disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR)?

DDR typically involves dismantling the command structures of armed groups and reducing the size of fighting forces and the number of weapons in circulation. Ex-combatants are either assisted to return to civilian life, with reintegration packages including cash or non-monetary benefits such as vocational training or counselling, or merged into new national security forces (Muggah, 2010; de Vries & van Veen, 2010). For a complete definition, see the UN’s Operational Guide to the Integrated Disarmament, Demobilisation and Integrated Standards (2010a).

Contextual knowledge and community-based approaches

DDR programmes are often criticised for adopting top-down approaches and for considering quantitative outputs, such as the number of weapons collected and surrendered, as the only benchmarks of success (Bryden, 2012). However, there is increasing recognition that DDR programmes will only address the root causes of wider insecurity if they are based on a deep contextual knowledge and seek to address the long-term security and development needs of citizens and communities, including marginalised segments of society.

For Bryden (2012) this includes analysis of whether reintegration is genuine and militias have actually disbanded. It also involves monitoring local factors, such as the nature of employment opportunities and the impacts of DDR processes on community security. Lack of local analysis may create unrealistic expectations and contribute to further insecurity. In Afghanistan, for example, the lack of viable jobs for returning ex-combatants was not considered in reintegration processes, resulting in disillusionment (Bryden, 2012).

Some authors advocate community representation in the design and implementation of reintegration activities to ensure that local dynamics are addressed. For example, female ex-combatants can face particular stigma because of having transgressed accepted gender roles or experienced sexual violence (Myrttinen, 2012).

The evolution of DDR

Since the 1990s, the narrowly technical focus of DDR approaches has expanded to emphasise peace, reconstruction and development (Muggah, 2010). This ‘Second Generation DDR’, or ‘Interim Stabilisation’, is increasingly undertaken in volatile environments in the absence of an inclusive peace agreement. It recognises the importance of on-going analysis of local political dynamics and emerging security threats. Its scope has broadened to include regional considerations, such as cross-border arms flows, and the regulation of weapons held by civilians. It also seeks to address longer-term issues in returnees’ communities, such as the lack of employment opportunities (UN, 2010b).

Post-conflict trajectories and gender considerations in Aceh and East Timor

Research on DDR processes in Aceh and East Timor provides insights on common paths taken by ex-combatants and the impact of DDR on communities. As well as integration into security institutions and successful integration into post-conflict societies, ex-combatants can enter into illegal practices or slide into socioeconomic marginality:

  • Preference in joining security institutions as part of DDR schemes is given to male ex-combatants.
  • Well-connected veterans have become involved in post-conflict reconstruction and development efforts – either through involvement in politics or through establishing themselves as logistics and transport contractors.
  • Some former insurgents have used wartime contacts to engage in theft, extortion and smuggling.
  • Non-combatant veterans and supporters of fighting forces who have not been integrated into security institutions or the post-conflict economy have become socioeconomically marginalised. They lack education, political influence and understanding of the DDR process. This category tends to include women.

Source: Myrttinen (2012).

Links between DDR and SSR

They engage security actors, including the military and ex-combatants as well as groups responsible for their management and oversightAccording to McFate (2010), DDR and SSR processes are connected. They both aim to enable countries emerging from conflict to provide for their own security and uphold the rule of law. However, a lack of coordination between donors and international agencies, along with stove-piped approaches, present obstacles to ensuring that DDR and SSR are mutually reinforcing (UN, 2009). Nevertheless,there are a number of ways in which they are linked as part of post-conflict statebuilding that enhances security and the rule of law (UN, 2009, pp. 2-3):

  • Decisions related to DDR contribute to defining the size and composition of a country’s security sector
  • SSR may lead to rightsizing and the consequent need for reintegration
  • Considering them together situates DDR within a broader national vision for the security sector, which enhances the legitimacy and sustainability of DDR.

De Vries and van Veen (2010), however, question the feasibility of linking DDR with SSR programming. They suggest a pragmatic approach: establish links where possible but accept that deep synergies may not be possible. They argue that an effective link requires political agreement on a long-term process to guide the role, size and composition of security forces, based on analysis of a country’s security threats and needs. In post-conflict situations, these conditions are absent.

  • Bryden, A. (2012). Pushing Pieces Around the Chessboard or Changing the Game? DDR, SSR and the Security-Development Nexus. In A. Schnabel & V. Farr (Eds.), Back to the Roots: Security Sector Reform and Development. DCAF Yearbook 2011. Geneva: Lit Verlag.
    See document online
  • De Vries, H., & van Veen, E. (2010). Living Apart Together? On the Difficult Linkage between DDR and SSR in Post-Conflict Environments. CRU Policy Brief 15, October 2010. The Hague: Clingendael.
    See document online
  • McFate, S. (2010). The Link Between DDR and SSR in Conflict-Affected Countries. USIP Special Report 238, May 2010. Washington D.C.: United States Institute of Peace.
    See document online
  • Muggah, R. (2010). Innovations in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration policy and research: Reflections on the last decade. NUPI Working Paper 774. Oslo: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
    See document online
  • Myrttinen, H. (2012). Guerrillas, Gangsters and Contractors: Integrating Former Combatants and its Impact on SSR and Development in Post-conflict Societies. In A. Schnabel & V. Farr (Eds.), Back to the Roots: Security Sector Reform and Development. DCAF Yearbook 2011. Geneva: Lit Verlag.
    See document online
  • UN. (2009). DDR and Security Sector Reform. Integrated Disarmament, Demobolization and Reintegration Standards. New York: United Nations.
    See document online
  • UN. (2010a). Operational Guide to the Integrated Disarmament, Demobilisation and Integrated Standards. New York: United Nations.
    See document online
  • UN. (2010b). Second Generation Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) Practices in Peace Operations. New York: United Nations. See document online