Concepts, Policy and Strategy of the IDDRS
The UN Approach to DDR
Integrated disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) is part of the United Nations (UN) system’s multidimensional approach that contributes to the entire peace continuum, from prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping, to peacebuilding and development. Integrated DDR processes are made up of various combinations of:
- DDR programmes;
- DDR-related tools;
- Reintegration support, including when complementing DDR-related tools.
DDR practitioners select the most appropriate of these measures to be applied on the basis of a thorough analysis of the particular context. Coordination is key to integrated DDR and is predicated on mechanisms that guarantee synergy and common purpose among all UN actors.
The Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS) contained in this document are a compilation of the UN’s knowledge and experience in this field. They show how integrated DDR processes can contribute to preventing conflict escalation, supporting political processes, building security, protecting civilians, promoting gender equality and addressing its root causes, reconstructing the social fabric and developing human capacity.
Integrated DDR is at the heart of peacebuilding and aims to contribute to long-term security and stability.
Within the UN, integrated DDR takes place in partnership with Member States in both mission and non-mission settings, including in peace operations where they are mandated, and with the cooperation of agencies, funds and programmes. In countries and regions where integrated DDR processes are implemented, there should be a focus on capacity-building at the regional, national and local levels in order to encourage sustainable regional, national and/or local ownership and other peacebuilding measures.
Integrated DDR processes should work towards sustaining peace. Whereas peacebuilding activities are typically understood as a response to conflict once it has already broken out, the sustaining peace approach recognizes the need to work along the entire peace continuum and towards the prevention of conflict before it occurs. In this way the UN should support those capacities, institutions and attitudes that help communities to resolve conflicts peacefully. The implications of working along the peace continuum are particularly important for the provision of reintegration support. Now, as part of the sustaining peace approach those individuals leaving armed groups can be supported not only in post-conflict situations, but also during conflict escalation and ongoing conflict.
Community-based approaches to reintegration support, in particular, are well positioned to operationalize the sustaining peace approach. They address the needs of former combatants, persons formerly associated with armed forces and groups, and receiving communities, while necessitating the multidimensional/sectoral expertise of several UN and regional actors across the humanitarian-peace-development nexus (see IDDRS 2.40 on Reintegration as Part of Sustaining Peace).
Integrated DDR should also be characterized by flexibility, including in funding structures, to adapt quickly to the dynamic and often volatile conflict and post-conflict environment. DDR programmes, DDR-related tools and reintegration support, in whichever combination they are implemented, shall be synchronized through integrated coordination mechanisms, and carefully monitored and evaluated for effectiveness and with sensitivity to conflict dynamics and potential unintended effects.
Five categories of people should be taken into consideration in integrated DDR processes as participants or beneficiaries, depending on the context:
- members of armed forces and groups who served in combat and/or support roles (those in support roles are often referred to as being associated with armed forces and groups);
- abductees or victims;
- civilian returnees or ‘self-demobilized’;
- community members.
In each of these five categories, consideration should be given to addressing the specific needs and capacities of women, youth, children, persons with disabilities, and persons with chronic illnesses. In particular, the unconditional and immediate release of children associated with armed forces and groups must be a priority. Children must be supported to demobilize and reintegrate into families and communities at all times, irrespective of the status of peace negotiations and/or the development of DDR programmes and DDR-related tools.
DDR programmes consist of a set of related measures, with a particular aim, falling under the operational categories of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Disarmament and other DDR-related weapons control activities aim to reduce the number of illicit weapons, ammunition and explosives in circulation and are important elements in responding to and addressing the drivers of conflict. Demobilization, including the provision of tailored reinsertion packages, is crucial in discharging combatants and those in support roles from the structures of armed forces and groups. Furthermore, DDR programmes emphasize the developmental impact of sustainable and inclusive reintegration and its positive effect on the consolidation of long-lasting peace and security.
Lessons and experiences have shown that the following preconditions are required for the implementation of a viable DDR programme:
- the signing of a negotiated ceasefire and/or peace agreement that provides the framework for DDR;
- trust in the peace process;
- willingness of the parties to the armed conflict to engage in DDR; and
- a minimum guarantee of security.
When these preconditions are in place, a DDR programme provides a common results framework for the coordination, management and implementation of DDR by national Governments with support from the UN system and regional and local stakeholders. A DDR programme establishes the outcomes, outputs, activities and inputs required, organizes costing requirements into a budget, and sets the monitoring and evaluation framework, including by identifying indicators, targets and milestones.
In addition to DDR programmes, the UN has developed a set of DDR-related tools aiming to provide immediate and targeted responses. These include pre-DDR, transitional weapons and ammunition management (WAM), community violence reduction (CVR), initiatives to prevent individuals from joining armed groups designated as terrorist organizations, DDR support to mediation, and DDR support to transitional security arrangements. In addition, support to programmes for those leaving armed groups labelled and/or designated as terrorist organizations may also be provided by DDR practitioners in compliance with international standards.
The specific aims of DDR-related tools vary according to the context and can contribute to broader political and peacebuilding efforts in line with United Nations Security Council and General Assembly mandates and broader strategic frameworks, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF), the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and/or the Integrated Strategic Framework. A gender- and child-sensitive approach should be applied to the planning, implementation and monitoring of DDR-related tools.
DDR-related tools may be applied before, during and after DDR programmes as complementary measures. However, they may also be used when the preconditions for DDR programmes are not in place. When this occurs, it is particularly important to delimit the boundaries of an integrated DDR process. Integrated DDR processes without DDR programmes do not include all ongoing stabilization and recovery measures, but only those DDR-related tools (CVR, transitional WAM, and so forth) and reintegration efforts that directly respond to the presence of active and/or former members of armed groups. Clear DDR mandates and specific requests for DDR assistance also define the parameters and scope of integrated DDR processes.
The UN approach to integrated DDR recognizes the need to provide support for reintegration when the preconditions for DDR programmes are not present. In these contexts, reintegration may take place alongside/following DDR-related tools, or when DDR-related tools are not in use. The aim of this support is to facilitate the sustainable reintegration of those leaving armed forces and groups. Moreover, as part of the sustaining peace approach, community-based reintegration programmes also aim to contribute to preventing further recruitment and to sustaining peace, by supporting communities of return, restoring social relations and avoiding perceptions of inequitable access to resources. In this context, exits from armed groups and the reintegration of adult ex-combatants can and should be supported at all times, even in the absence of a DDR programme.
Support to sustainable reintegration that addresses the needs of affected groups and harnesses their capacities, either as part of DDR programmes or not, requires a thorough understanding of the drivers of conflict, the specific needs of men, women, children and youth, their coping mechanisms and the opportunities for peace. Reintegration assistance should ensure the transition from individually focused to community approaches. This is so that resources can be applied to the benefit of the community in a balanced manner minimizing the stigmatization of former armed group members and contributing to reconciliation and reconstruction of the social fabric. In non-mission contexts, where funding mechanisms are not linked to peacekeeping assessed budgets, the use of DDR-related tools should, even in the initial planning phases, be coordinated with community-based reintegration support in order to ensure sustainability.
Together, DDR programmes, DDR-related tools, and reintegration support provide a menu of options for DDR practitioners. If the aforementioned preconditions are in place, DDR-related tools may be used before, after or alongside a DDR programme. DDR-related tools and/or reintegration support may also be applied in the absence of preconditions and/or following the determination that a DDR programme is not appropriate for the context. In these cases, DDR-related tools may serve to build trust among the parties and contribute to a secure environment, possibly even paving the way for a DDR programme in the future (if still necessary). Notably, if DDR-related tools are applied with the explicit intent of creating the preconditions for a DDR programme, a combination of top-down and bottom-up measures (e.g., CVR coupled with DDR support to mediation) may be required.
When the preconditions for a DDR programme are not in place, all DDR-related tools and support to reintegration efforts shall be implemented in line with the applicable legal framework and the key principles of integrated DDR as defined in these standards.
The Legal Framework for UN DDR
A variety of actors in the UN system support DDR processes within national contexts. In carrying out DDR, these actors are governed by their respective constituent instruments, by the specific mandates provided by their respective governing bodies, and by applicable internal rules, policies and procedures.
DDR is also undertaken within the context of a broader international legal framework, which contains rights and obligations that may be of relevance for the implementation of DDR tasks. This framework includes international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international criminal law, and international refugee law, as well as the international counter-terrorism and arms control frameworks. UN system-supported DDR processes should be implemented in a manner that ensures that the relevant rights and obligations under the international legal framework are respected.
The Politics of DDR
Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) is not only a technical undertaking. Many aspects of the DDR process will influence, and be influenced by, political dynamics. Understanding the political dynamics that influence DDR processes requires knowledge of the historical and political context, the actors and stakeholders (armed and unarmed), and the conflict drivers, including local, national and regional aspects that may interact and feed into an armed conflict.
Armed groups often mobilize for political reasons and/or in response to a range of security, socioeconomic or other grievances. Peace negotiations and processes provide warring parties with a way to end violence and address their grievances through peaceful means. Armed forces may also need to be factored into peace agreements and proportionality between armed forces and groups – in terms of DDR support – taken into account.
DDR practitioners may provide support to the mediation of peace agreements and to the subsequent oversight and implementation of the relevant parts of these agreements. DDR practitioners can also advise mediators and facilitators so as to ensure that peace agreements incorporate realistic DDR-related clauses, that the parties have a common understanding of the outcome of the DDR process and how this will be implemented, and that DDR processes are not undertaken in isolation but are integrated with other aspects of a peace process, since the success of each is mutually reinforcing.
All peace agreements contain security provisions to address the control and management of violence in various forms including right-sizing, DDR, and/or other forms of security coordination and control. When and if a given peace agreement demands a DDR process, the national political framework for that particular DDR process is often provided by a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that seeks to address political and security issues. Without such an agreement, warring parties are unlikely to agree to measures that reduce their ability to use military force to reach their goals. In a CPA, it is very common for DDR programmes to be tied to ceasefire provisions and ‘final security arrangements’. If armed groups have political aspirations, the chances of the successful implementation of a CPA can be improved if DDR processes are sensitively designed to support the transformation of these groups into political entities.
DDR processes may also follow local-level agreements. Local politics can be as important in driving armed conflict as grievances against the State. By focusing on the latter, national-level peace agreements may not address or resolve local conflicts. Therefore, these conflicts may continue even when national-level peace agreements have been signed and implemented. Local-level peace agreements may take a number of different forms, including (but not limited to) local non-aggression pacts between armed groups, deals regarding access to specific areas and community violence reduction (CVR) agreements. DDR practitioners should assess whether local DDR processes remain at the local level, or whether local- and national-level dynamics should be linked in a common multilevel approach.
Finally, DDR processes can also be undertaken in the absence of peace agreements. In these instances, DDR interventions may be designed to contribute to stabilization, to make the returns of stability more tangible or to create more conducive environments for peace agreements (see IDDRS 2.10 on The UN Approach to DDR). These interventions should not be reactive and ad hoc, but should be carefully planned in advance in accordance with a predefined strategy.
Community Violence Reduction
Integrated disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes increasingly include a community violence reduction (CVR) component as a direct contribution to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.1: Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related deaths everywhere. As outlined in the United Nations (UN) approach to DDR, CVR is a DDR-related tool that directly responds to the presence of active and/or former members of armed groups, and is designed to promote security and stability in both mission and non-mission contexts (see IDDRS 2.10 on The UN Approach to DDR). CVR shall not be used to provide material and financial assistance to active members of armed groups.
In situations where the preconditions for a DDR programme exist, CVR may be pursued before, during, and after a DDR programme. Specific provisions for CVR may also be included in local-level peace agreements, sometimes instead of DDR programmes (see IDDRS 2.20 on The Politics of DDR). CVR may also be pursued when the preconditions for a DDR programme are absent. In this context, CVR can contribute to security and stabilization, help to make the returns of stability more tangible, and create more conducive environments for national and local peace processes.
There is no uniform or standard template for CVR, although all CVR programmes share the overarching goal of reducing armed violence and sustaining peace (see IDDRS 2.40 on Reintegration as Part of Sustaining Peace). CVR can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from the prevention of (re-)recruitment to improving the capacities of communities to absorb ex-combatants and associated groups. CVR may also be used as stop-gap reinsertion assistance at the community level, while reintegration is still at the planning and/or resource mobilization stage.
Specific theories of change for CVR programmes should be developed and adapted to particular contexts. However, very often an underlying expectation of CVR is that specific programme activities will foster social cohesion and provide former combatants and other at-risk individuals with alternatives to joining armed groups. As a result, communities will become active participants in the reduction of armed violence. While CVR can achieve significant results, it is neither a short-term panacea nor a long-term development programme. Adequate linkages with recovery and development programmes are therefore key.
CVR programmes may complement other elements of the broader DDR process. For example, CVR can complement other DDR-related tools such as transitional weapons and ammunition management (WAM) (see IDDRS 4.11 on Transitional Weapons and Ammunition Management), and can be used as part of programmes for those leaving armed groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United Nations Security Council (see IDDRS 2.11 on The Legal Framework for UN DDR). In mission settings, CVR will be funded through the allocation of assessed contributions. Therefore, where appropriate, planning for CVR should ensure adequate linkages with support to the reintegration of ex-combatants and associated groups. In non-mission settings, funding for CVR will depend on the allocation of national budgets and/or voluntary contributions from donors. Therefore, in instances where CVR and support to community-based reintegration are both envisaged, they should, from the outset, be planned and implemented as a single and continuous programme.
Reintegration as Part of Sustaining Peace
The reintegration of ex-combatants and persons formerly associated with armed forces and groups is a long-term process with social, economic and political dimensions. It may be influenced by factors such as the choices and capacities of individuals to shape a new life, the security situation and perceptions of security, family and support networks, and the psychological well-being and mental health of ex-combatants and the wider community. Reintegration processes are part of the development of a country. Facilitating reintegration is therefore primarily the responsibility of national Governments and their institutions, with the international community playing a supporting role if requested.
Efforts to support the transition of ex-combatants and persons formerly associated with armed forces and groups into civilian life have typically taken place as part of post-conflict DDR programmes. During DDR programmes assistance is often given collectively, to large numbers of DDR participants and beneficiaries, as part of the implementation of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). However, when the preconditions for a DDR programme are not in place, reintegration support can still play an important role in sustaining peace. The twin UN resolutions on the 2015 peacebuilding architecture review, General Assembly resolution 70/262 and Security Council resolution 2282, recognize that efforts to sustain peace are necessary at all stages of conflict. This renewed UN policy engagement emerges from the need to address ongoing armed conflicts that are often protracted and complex. In these settings, individuals may exit armed forces and groups during all phases of an armed conflict. This type of exit will often be individual and can take different forms, including voluntary exit or capture.
In order to support and strengthen the foundation for sustainable peace, the reintegration of ex-combatants and persons formerly associated with armed forces and groups should not only be supported after an armed conflict has ended. Instead, reintegration support should be considered at all times, even in the absence of a DDR programme. This support may include the provision of assistance to those who return to peaceful areas of the conflict-affected country, and to those who return to peaceful countries of origin, in the case of foreign fighters.
When reintegration support is provided during ongoing conflict, it should aim to strengthen resilience against re-recruitment and also to prevent additional first-time recruitment. To do this it is important to strengthen what still works, including the residual capacities for peace that people and communities draw on in times of conflict. The strengthening of peace capacities can be based on the identification of the reasons why some individuals do not join armed groups, and why some combatants leave armed groups and turn away from armed violence.
There will be additional challenges when supporting reintegration during ongoing conflict. Support to reintegration as part of sustaining peace requires analysis of the intended and unintended outcomes precipitated by engagement in dynamic, conflict-affected environments. DDR practitioners and others involved in the provision of reintegration support should understand how engagement in such contexts has implications for social relations/dynamics – positive and negative – so as to ‘do no harm’ and, in fact, ‘do good’. It should also be recognized that the risk of doing harm is greater in ongoing conflict contexts, thereby demanding a higher level of coordination among existing and planned programmes to avoid the possibility that they may negatively affect each other. In order to support the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, reintegration programme coordination should extend to broader programmes and actors.
Concepts, Policy and Strategy of the IDDRS
Structures and Processes
Operations, Programmes and Support