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Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration

  • Authority for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (ADDR) of ex-combatants (ADDR) begins the process of DDR on the site rehabilitated by UNOCI and Anyama other partners.
    UN Photo/Basile Zoma
United Nations peace operations are the leading international partner of national institutions implementing Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) initiatives, designing context-specific programmes for members of armed groups.

What is DDR?

Through a process of removing weapons from the hands of members of armed groups, taking these combatants out of their groups and helping them to reintegrate as civilians into society, DDR seeks to support ex-combatants and those associated with armed groups, so that they can become active participants in the peace process.

In this way, DDR lays the groundwork for safeguarding and sustaining the communities in which these individuals return, while building capacity for long-term peace, security and development. 

Where are we doing it?

At present, the team is supporting DDR processes across UN Peacekeeping Operations in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), Darfur (UNAMID), the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), Haiti (MINUSTAH), Mali (MINUSMA), and South Sudan (UNMISS). The DDR Section also supports operations in UN Special Political Missions in Colombia, Libya (UNSMIL), and Somalia (UNSOM), as well as the UN Office to the African Union (UNOAU) and the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General in Burundi (OSASG-Burundi).

Dynamic DDR Policy

The seminal DDR manual published in 2006, the Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards (IDDRS), presents a number of preconditions for DDR to take place. These include: the signing of a peace agreement providing for DDR; parties’ trust in the peace process and willingness to engage in DDR; and the guarantee of a minimum level of security.

Yet, DDR practitioners have constantly been required to adapt their activities to changing conflict situations, including those where these preconditions are absent. During the past decade, UN interventions have begun to take place earlier in the peace process, with operations often deployed during intense conflict. Armed groups, which are not likely to have signed a peace agreement, are often involved in the illegal exploitation of natural resources and transnational criminal networks.

In the context of these changing dynamics, DDR periodically meets with partners to  reflect on the successes, failures and challenges of DDR programmes in UN peacekeeping operations. At the 2016 tenth anniversary event of DDR, participants highlighted the benefits of the IDDRS, while also stressing the need for  constant development to deal with new realities in UN peacekeeping missions, including the intensification of violent extremism, the increasing necessity of implementing DDR in situations where formal peace has not been achieved, and a growing focus on reducing violence at the community level.

Community Violence Reduction (CVR)

Now mandated in Haiti, the Central African Republic, Mali, DRC and Darfur, the UN has implemented CVR programmes encompassing a range of initiatives from labour-intensive projects, business incubation and community dialogue forums, directly engaging with members of armed groups, as well as youth-at-risk, to prevent further recruitment. CVR also plays a key role in reducing tensions at the grassroots level to increase opportunities for social cohesion and conflict resolution.

As the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations noted during the 10th anniversary of CVR on 16 November 2016: “CVR has proven itself useful in many different contexts, precisely because it is agile and people-centred…It is a watershed example of peacekeeping learning to adapt and innovate."

DDR and political process

Often deployed in settings where conflict is ongoing, the UN is engaging more and more often with armed groups in complex mission environments. DDR and CVR Officers have become the first UN staff deployed on the ground with the mandate and expertise to engage directly with combatants. They are therefore called upon to provide advice on how to engage with armed groups and ultimately contribute to the signing of an agreement.

The DDR support to mediation processes comprises three types of activities that can be undertaken before, during and after the mediation process:

  • Mediation support: deployment of experts, drafting provision of agreements, and negotiation advice
  • Analysis: mapping of armed groups and identification of entry points for programmatic engagement
  • Capacity building: strengthening the parties’ ability to work constructively towards an agreement

DDR Section has deployed mediation teams to Darfur, Central African Republic, Colombia, Mali and Yemen.

Disengaging Al-Shabaab in Somalia

The 2017 report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations recognizes the role that DDR programmes play in managing the disengagement of combatants from violent extremist groups.

The UN in Somalia (UNSOM) is supporting the Government of Somali to implement a National Programme to assist disengaged Al-Shabaab combatants in reintegrating back into society. This offers a rare window of opportunity to further deplete Al-Shabaab’s ranks by offering security and alternative livelihoods. Religious mentoring and ideological rehabilitation represent a crucial component of this process. Four transitional sites receiving (ex-)combatants are currently operational across the country.