23/03/2015
lisa monaghan

Willems (2008). Arming with Opportunities. Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration. A Community Based Approach

The research starts with examining the best practices and lessons learned of past DDR experiences. These show that a DDR programme should always have a regional focus, as conflicts (even intra-state) often have economic and political linkages to outside. Given the fact that disarmament is almost never successful if not done voluntarily, a peace agreement is a preferred starting point. Incentives for weapons handed in can be problematic, as they can feed into arms trade or appear to be rewarding the instigators of the past violence. The biggest problem found in the demobilization phase arises when a programme lacks proper planning with the other phases. Reorientation programmes are an important step from the demobilization phase to the reintegration phase, in which the former combatants are being
assisted in their economic and social integration in civilian society. This last phase is often the Achilles’ heal of DDR operations. First of all, because it is the most difficult to implement, as it cannot be done in easy to organize centralized camps like the first two phases. Secondly, it is found that funding is often lacking or exhausted in the first two phases. Finally, it is often highly problematic to actively involve the civilian communities in which the former combatants are to be reintegrated into. With special programmes focusing on former combatants, the status of being a ‘former combatant’ brings benefits with them. This obstructs reintegration as former combatants tend to hold on to this status, and also because communities feel benefits are going to the instigators of past violence and not to them; the victims. Moreover, after a war there is often not much to reintegrate into, and programmes often prepare former combatants with the wrong skills. Because of the special characteristics that vulnerable groups (children, women and disabled) bring with them that complicate their reintegration, special attention should be given to them. Critical is also good information to the former combatants about their opportunities, but also an information campaign to sensitize the civilian public and prevent aggravation caused by rumors. Another sensitive issue is the legal and political treatment that the former combatants – the known perpetrators of the violence – receive, and the DDR process must therefore be promulgated as a national programme under law and the role of reconciliation commissions can be very important. The relationship of DDR programmes with communities is critical to long-term recovery and this relationship is strengthened and deepened in the community-based approach.

Category: Conflict, International Assistance and Interventions

Sub-category: Armed Groups/Actors