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Next-Generation Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The notion of disarming, then disbanding and rehabilitating former soldiers in the aftermath of conflict is as old as war itself. Tens of thousands of soldiers were voluntarily disarmed and returned to their villages after the Roman-Etruscan wars, and similar practices have followed virtually every conflict since. The expectation has always been that these activities can prevent a relapse of warfare, and potentially kick-start the long road to reconstruction. In recent times, the concept has assumed a kind of orthodoxy in the peace, security and development community. Bilateral and multilateral donors such as the United Nations (U.N.) and World Bank have shown a keen appetite for supporting such processes immediately following the implementation of cease-fires and peace agreements. No fewer than 60 disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) initiatives have taken place around the world since the late 1980s. Most of these were launched in the wake of violent international and civil wars following a definitive victory of one of the parties, or as part of an internationally mandated peace support operation.

A first generation of DDR initiatives emerged in the latter half of the 20th century. These programs were intended to help bring protracted civil wars raging across Latin America and Southern Africa to an end. Their focus was on promoting security and stability and reducing the chances that wars could restart. The modus operandi was comparatively straightforward: It involved cantoning and decommissioning senior military personnel together with rank and file soldiers, thus breaking their command and control. Owing to the emphasis of these early DDR schemes on formed military units, whether soldiers or rebels, it was clear who was eligible for reinsertion and reintegration assistance. After receiving modest benefits and possibly a pension, the erstwhile warriors were expected to return home to their original communities as civilians. In some cases, they were welcomed as “heroes” on arrival. In others, they were stigmatized or worse. ...

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