Operations, Programmes and Support
Disarmament is the act of reducing or eliminating access to weapons. It is usually regarded as the first step in a DDR programme. This voluntary handover of weapons, ammunition and explosives is a highly symbolic act in sealing the end of armed conflict, and in concluding an individual’s active role as a combatant. Disarmament is also essential to developing and maintaining a secure environment in which demobilization and reintegration can take place and can play an important role in crime prevention.
Disarmament operations are increasingly implemented in contexts characterized by acute armed violence, complex and varied armed forces and groups, and the prevalence of a wide range of weaponry and explosives.
This module provides the guidance necessary to effectively plan and implement disarmament operations within DDR programmes and to ensure that these operations contribute to the establishment of an environment conducive to inclusive political transition and sustainable peace.
The disarmament component of a DDR programme is usually broken down into four main phases: (1) operational planning, (2) weapons collection operations, (3) stockpile management, and (4) disposal of collected materiel. This module provides technical and programmatic guidance for each phase to ensure that activities are evidence-based, coherent, effective, gender-responsive and as safe as possible.
The handling of weapons, ammunition and explosives comes with significant risks. Therefore, the guidance provided within this module is based on the Modular Small-Arms Control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC)1 and the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG).2 Additional documents containing norms, standards and guidelines relevant to this module can be found in Annex B.
Disarmament operations must take the regional and sub-regional context into consideration, as
well as applicable legal frameworks. All disarmament operations must also be designed and implemented in an inclusive and gender responsive manner. Disarmament carried out within a DDR programme is only one aspect of broader DDR arms control activities and of the national arms control management system (see IDDRS 4.11 on Transitional Weapons and Ammunition Management). DDR programmes should therefore be designed to reinforce security nationwide and be planned in coordination with wider peacebuilding and recovery efforts.
Transitional Weapons and Ammunition Management
*Module revised June 2020
DDR practitioners increasingly operate in contexts with fragmented but well-equipped armed groups and acute levels of proliferation of illicit weapons, ammunition and explosives. In settings where armed conflict is ongoing and peace agreements have been neither signed nor implemented, disarmament as part of a DDR programme may not be the most suitable approach to control the circulation of weapons, ammunition and explosives because armed groups may be reluctant to disarm without strong security guarantees (see IDDRS 4.10 on Disarmament). Instead, these contexts require the design and implementation of innovative DDR-related tools, such as transitional weapons and ammunition management (WAM).
When implemented as part of a DDR process (either with or without a DDR programme), transitional WAM has two primary aims: to reduce the capacity of individuals and groups to engage in armed conflict, and to reduce accidents and save lives by addressing the immediate risks related to the illicit possession of weapons, ammunition and explosives. By supporting better arms control and preventing the diversion of weapons, ammunition and explosives to unauthorized end users, transitional WAM can be a strong component of the sustaining peace approach and contribute to preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict (see IDDRS 2.40 on Reintegration as Part of Sustaining Peace). In settings where a peace agreement has been signed and the necessary preconditions for a DDR programme are in place, transitional WAM can also be used before, during and after DDR programmes as a complementary measure (see IDDRS 2.10 on The UN Approach to DDR).
Demobilization occurs when members of armed forces and groups transition from military to civilian life. It is the second step of a DDR programme and part of the demilitarization efforts of a society emerging from conflict. Demobilization operations shall be designed for combatants and persons associated with armed forces and groups. Female combatants and women associated with armed forces and groups have traditionally faced obstacles to entering DDR programmes, so particular attention should be given to facilitating their access to reinsertion and reintegration support. Victims, dependants and community members do not participate in demobilization activities. However, where dependants have accompanied armed forces or groups, provisions may be made for them during demobilization, including for their accommodation or transportation to their communities. All demobilization operations shall be gender and age sensitive, nationally and locally owned, context specific and conflict sensitive.
Demobilization must be meticulously planned. Demobilization operations should be preceded by an in-depth assessment of the location, number and type of individuals who are expected to demobilize, as well as their immediate needs. A risk and security assessment, to identify threats to the DDR programme, should also be conducted. Under the leadership of national authorities, rigorous, unambiguous and transparent eligibility criteria should be established, and decisions should be made on the number, type (semi-permanent or temporary) and location of demobilization sites.
During demobilization, potential DDR participants should be screened to ascertain if they are eligible. Mechanisms to verify eligibility should be led or conducted with the close engagement of the national authorities. Verification can include questions concerning the location of specific battles and military bases, and the names of senior group members. If DDR participants are found to have committed, or there is a clear and reasonable indication that a DDR participant knowingly committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, terrorist acts or offences1 and/or genocide, they shall be removed from the DDR programme. Once eligibility has been established, basic registration data (name, age, contact information, etc.) should be entered into a case management system.
Individuals who demobilize should also be provided with orientation briefings, physical and psychosocial health screenings and information that will support their return to the community. A discharge document, such as a demobilization declaration or certificate, should be given to former members of armed forces and groups as proof of their demobilization. During demobilization, DDR practitioners should also conduct a profiling exercise to identify obstacles that may prevent those eligible from full participation in the DDR programme, as well as the specific needs and ambitions of the demobilized. This information should be used to inform planning for reinsertion and/or reintegration support.
If reinsertion assistance is foreseen as the second stage of the demobilization operation, DDR practitioners should also determine an appropriate transfer modality (cash-based transfers, commodity vouchers, in-kind support and/or public works programmes). As much as possible, reinsertion assistance should be designed to pave the way for subsequent reintegration support.
Successful reintegration is a particular complex part of DDR. Ex-combatants and those previously associated with armed forces and groups are finally cut loose from structures and processes that are familiar to them. In some contexts, they re-enter societies that may be equally unfamiliar and that have often been significantly transformed by conflict.
A key challenge that faces former combatants and associated groups is that it may be impossible for them to reintegrate in the area of origin. Their limited skills may have more relevance and market-value in urban settings, which are also likely to be unable to absorb them. In the worst cases, places from which ex-combatants came may no longer exist after a war, or ex- combatants may have been with armed forces and groups that committed atrocities in or near their own communities and may not be able to return home.
Family and community support is essential for the successful reintegration of ex-combatants and associated groups, but their presence may make worse the real or perceived vulnerability of local populations, which have neither the capacity nor the desire to assist a ‘lost generation’ with little education, employment or training, war trauma, and a high militarized view of the world. Unsupported former combatants can be a major threat to the security of communities because of their lack of skills or assets and their tendency to rely on violence to get what they want.
Ex-combatants and associated groups will usually need specifically designed, sustainable support to help them with their transition from military to civilian life. Yet the United Nations (UN) must also ensure that such support does not mean that other war-affected groups are treated unfairly or resentment is caused within the wider community. The reintegration of ex-combatants and associated groups must therefore be part of wider recovery strategies for all war-affected populations. Reintegration programmes should aim to build local and national capacities to manage the process in the long-term, as reintegration increasingly turns into reconstruction and development.
This module recognizes that reintegration challenges are multidimensional, ranging from creating micro-enterprises and providing education and training, through to preparing receiving communities for the return of ex-combatants and associated groups, dealing with the psychosocial effects of war, ensuring ex-combatants also enjoy their civil and political rights, and meeting the specific needs of different groups.
UN Military Roles and Responsibilities
Military personnel possess a wide range of skills and capacities that can contribute to DDR processes in mission and non-mission settings. As outlined in IDDRS 2.10 on the UN Approach to DDR, mission settings are those situations in which peace operations are deployed through peacekeeping operations, political missions and good offices engagements, by the UN or a regional organization. Non-mission settings are those where no peace operation is deployed, either through a peacekeeping operation, political missions or good offices engagements.
When DDR is implemented in mission settings with a UN peacekeeping operation, the primary role of the military component should be to provide a secure environment and to observe, monitor and report on security-related issues. This role may include the provision of security to DDR programmes and to DDR-related tools, including pre-DDR. In addition to providing security, military components in mission settings may also provide technical support to disarmament, transitional weapons and ammunition management, and the establishment and maintenance of transitional security arrangements (see IDDRS 4.10 on Disarmament, IDDRS 4.11 on Transitional Weapons and Ammunition Management, and IDDRS 2.20 on The Politics of DDR).
To ensure the successful employment of a military component within a mission setting, DDR tasks must be included in endorsed mission operational requirements, include a gender perspective and be specifically mandated and properly resourced. Without the requisite planning and coordination, military logistical capacity cannot be guaranteed.
UN military contingents are often absent from special political missions (SPMs) and non-mission settings. In SPMs, UN military personnel will more often consist of military observers (MILOBs) and military advisers.1 These personnel may be able to provide technical advice on a range of security issues in support of DDR processes. They may also be required to build relationships with non-UN military forces mandated to support DDR processes, including national armed forces and regionally-led peace support operations.
In non-mission settings, UN or regionally-led peace operations with military components are absent. Instead, national and international military personnel can be mandated to support DDR processes either as part of national armed forces or as part of joint military teams formed through bilateral military cooperation. The roles and responsibilities of these military personnel may be similar to those played by UN military personnel in mission settings.
UN Police Roles and Responsibilities
Police personnel possess a wide range of skills and capacities that can contribute to DDR processes in mission and non-mission settings. As outlined in IDDRS 2.10 on The UN Approach to DDR, mission settings are those situations in which peace operations are deployed through peacekeeping operations, political missions and good offices engagements, by the UN or a regional organization. Non-mission settings are those where no peace operation is deployed, either through a peacekeeping operation, political missions or good offices engagements.
In mission settings, the mandate granted by the UN Security Council will dictate the type and extent of UN police involvement in a DDR process. Dependent on the situation on the ground, this mandate can range from monitoring and advisory functions to full policing responsibilities. In mission settings with a peacekeeping operation, the UN police component will typically consist of individual police officers, formed police units and specialized police teams. In special political missions, formed police units will typically not be present, and the UN police presence may consist of senior advisers.
In non-mission settings there is no UN Security Council mandate. Therefore, the type and extent of UN or international police involvement in a DDR process will be determined by the nature of the request received from a national Government or by bilateral cooperation agreements. An international police presence in a non-mission setting (whether UN or otherwise) will typically consist of advisers, mentors, trainers and/or policing experts, complemented where necessary by a specialized police team.
When supporting DDR processes, police personnel may conduct several general tasks, including the provision of advice, support to coordination, monitoring and building public confidence. Police personnel may also conduct more specific tasks related to the particular type of DDR process that is underway. For example, as part of a DDR programme, police personnel at disarmament and demobilization sites can facilitate weapons tracing and the dynamic surveillance of weapons and ammunition storage sites. Police personnel may also support the implementation of different DDRrelated tools (see IDDRS 2.10 on The UN Approach to DDR). For example, police may support DDR practitioners who are engaged in the mediation of local peace agreements by orienting these individuals, and broader negotiating teams, to entry points in the community. Community-oriented policing practices and community violence reduction (CVR) programmes can also be mutually reinforcing (see IDDRS 2.30 on Community Violence Reduction).
Finally, when DDR processes are linked to security sector reform (SSR), UN police personnel have an important role to play in the reform of State police and law enforcement institutions and can positively contribute to the establishment and furtherance of professional standards and codes of conduct of policing.
Public Information and Strategic Communications in Support of DDR
Public information and strategic communication (PI/SC) are key support activities that are instrumental in the overall success of DDR processes. Public information is used to inform DDR participants, beneficiaries and other stakeholders of the process, while strategic communication influences attitudes towards DDR. If successful, PI/SC strategies will secure buy-in to the DDR process by outlining what DDR consists of and encouraging individuals to take part, as well as contribute to changing attitudes and behaviour.
A DDR process should always be accompanied by a clearly articulated PI/SC strategy. As DDR does not occur in a vacuum, the design, dissemination and planning of PI/SC interventions should be an iterative process that occurs at all stages of the DDR process. PI/SC interventions should be continuously updated to be relevant to political and operational realities, including public sentiment about DDR and the wider international effort to which DDR contributes. It is crucial that DDR is framed and communicated carefully, taking into account the varying informational requirements of different stakeholders and the various grievances, perceptions, culture, biases and political perspectives of DDR participants, beneficiaries and communities.
An effective PI/SC strategy should have clear overall objectives based on a careful assessment of the context in which DDR will take place. There are four principal objectives of PI/SC: (i) to inform by providing accurate information about the DDR process; (ii) to mitigate the potential negative impact of inaccurate and deceptive information that may hamper the success of DDR and wider peace efforts; (iii) to sensitize members of armed forces and groups to the DDR process; and (iv) to transform attitudes in communities in such a way that is conducive to DDR. PI/SC should make an important contribution towards creating a climate of peace and security, as well as promote gender-equitable norms and non-violent forms of masculinities. DDR practitioners should support their national counterparts (national Government and local authorities) to define these objectives so that activities related to PI/SC can be conducted while planning for the wider DDR process is ongoing. PI/SC as part of a DDR process should (i) be based on a sound analysis of the context, conflict and motivations of the many different groups at which these activities are directed; (ii) make use of the best and most trusted local methods of communication; and (iii) ensure that PI/SC materials and messages are pretested on a local audience and subsequently closely monitored and evaluated.
Concepts, Policy and Strategy of the IDDRS
Structures and Processes
Operations, Programmes and Support