Women, Gender and DDR
Women are increasingly involved in combat or are associated with armed groups and forces in other roles, work as community peace-builders, and play essential roles in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes. Yet they are almost never included in the planning or implementation of DDR. Since 2000, the United Nations (UN) and all other agencies involved in DDR and other post-conflict reconstruction activities have been in a better position to change this state of affairs by using Security Council resolution 1325, which sets out a clear and practical agenda for measuring the advancement of women in all aspects of peace-building. The resolution begins with the recognition that women’s visibility, both in national and regional instruments and in bi- and multilateral organizations, is vital. It goes on to call for gender awareness in all aspects of peacekeeping initiatives, especially demobilization and reintegration, urges women’s informed and active participation in disarmament exercises, and insists on the right of women to carry out their post-conflict reconstruction activities in an environment free from threat, especially of sexualized violence.
Even when they are not involved with armed forces and groups themselves, women are strongly affected by decisions made during the demobilization of men. Furthermore, it is impossible to tackle the problems of women’s political, social and economic marginalization or the high levels of violence against women in conflict and post-conflict zones without paying attention to how men’s experiences and expectations also shape gender relations. This module therefore includes some ideas about how to design DDR processes for men in such a way that they will learn to resolve interpersonal conflicts without using violence to do so, which will increase the security of their families and broader communities.
Special note is also made of girl soldiers in this module, because in some parts of the world, a girl who bears a child, no matter how young she is, immediately gains the status of a woman. Care should therefore be taken to understand local interpretations of who is seen as a girl and who a woman soldier.
Peace-building, especially in the form of practical disarmament, needs to continue for a long time after formal demobilization and reintegration processes come to an end. This module is therefore intended to assist planners in designing and implementing gendersensitive short-term goals, and to help in the planning of future-oriented long-term peace support measures. It focuses on practical ways in which both women and girls, and men and boys can be included in the processes of disarmament and demobilization, and be recognized and supported in the roles they play in reintegration.
The processes of DDR take place in such a wide variety of conditions that it would be impossible to discuss each of the circumstance-specific challenges that might arise. This module raises issues that frequently disappear in the planning stages of DDR, and aims to provoke further thinking and debate on the best ways to deal with the varied needs of people — male and female, old and young, healthy and unwell — in armed groups and forces, and those of the communities to which they return after war.
Children and DDR
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The recruitment of children – girls and boys under the age of 18 – and their use in hostilities or for other purposes by armed forces and groups is illegal. It is also one of the worst forms of child labour and exploitation. Efforts to prevent the recruitment of children into armed forces and groups should be a primary consideration during all DDR processes. Prevention efforts should start early—when possible, they should commence prior to armed conflict—and they should take place continuously throughout the conflict, with careful consideration given to the structural, social and individual factors associated with the risk of recruitment and re-recruitment.
Irrespective of how children were recruited, the unconditional and immediate release of children associated with armed forces and groups (CAAFAG) shall be required. Any person under 18 years old 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 processes. Nonetheless, where relevant, peace processes, including peace agreements and DDR policy documents, offer an opportunity to highlight the needs of children affected by armed conflict and to ensure that actions and funding streams to support child-specific processes are included. The commitment to stop the recruitment and use of children and to release children from armed forces and groups shall be explicit within peace agreements.
DRR processes shall be specific to the needs of children and apply child-sensitive and gendertransformative approaches to planning, implementation, and monitoring. As such, children shall be separated from armed forces and groups, handed over to child protection actors and supported to demobilize and reintegrate into families and communities. DDR practitioners and relevant child protection actors shall work together to design and implement services and interventions that aim to prevent children’s recruitment and re-recruitment, that help children to recover and reintegrate into their communities, and that take into account differences in age and gender needs. DDR practitioners should promote agency of children, enabling their right to participate in decisionmaking and shape DDR processes in line with their concerns/needs.
The specific needs of children formerly associated with armed forces and groups during reintegration are multisectoral, as boys and girls often require support in (re)accessing education, an alternative livelihood, medical and mental health services, including reproductive health services and sexual violence recovery services, as well as other services that promote life skills and help them establish a meaningful role in society. Child-sensitive approaches to reintegration support should be focused on long-term and sustainable opportunities for children formerly associated with armed forces and groups that are gender- and age-sensitive. For sustainability, and to avoid tension, stigmatization or envy when a child is returned, DDR practitioners should ensure that broader community development processes are also considered.
DDR practitioners should also be aware that no child below the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) should be investigated, prosecuted, or deprived of their liberty for any offence, including security and terrorism-related offences, in line with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee on the Rights of the Child encourages States to increase the MACR where possible, and not to lower it below 14 years of age, 2 commending States that set a higher MACR such as 15 or 16 years of age. Children, above the age of criminal responsibility, who are suspected of committing a serious crime, shall be handed over to civilian actors, and justice should be provided within juvenile justice frameworks. During all processes they shall be treated primarily as victims and as survivors of grave violations of their rights. Any investigation or determination of culpability shall be handled by trained civilian actors, including, where relevant, trained juvenile justice actors and made based on processes consistent with applicable international child rights standards, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and internationally recognized juvenile justice standards and principles, due process and fair trial standards, prioritizing the child’s recovery, reintegration, and best interests in all decisions.
Youth and DDR
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DDR processes are often conducted in contexts where the majority of combatants and fighters are youth, an age group defined by the United Nations (UN) as those between 15 and 24 years of age. If DDR processes cater only to younger children and mature adults, the specific needs and experiences of youth may be missed. DDR practitioners shall promote the participation, recovery and sustainable reintegration of youth, as failure to consider their needs and opinions can undermine their rights, their agency and, ultimately, peace processes.
In countries affected by conflict, youth are a force for positive change, while at the same time, some young people may be vulnerable to being drawn into conflict. To provide a safe and inclusive space for youth, manage the expectations of youth in DDR processes and direct their energies positively, DDR practitioners shall support youth in developing the necessary knowledge and skills to thrive and promote an enabling environment where young people can more systematically have influence upon their own lives and societies. The reintegration of youth is particularly complex due to a mix of underlying economic, social, political, and/or personal factors often driving the recruitment of youth into armed forces or groups. This may include social and political marginalization, protracted displacement, other forms of social exclusion, or grievances against the State. DDR practitioners shall therefore pay special attention to promoting significant participation and representation of youth in all DDR processes, so that reintegration support is sensitive to the rights, aspirations, and perspectives of youth. Their reintegration may also be more complex, as they may have become associated with an armed forces or group during formative years of brain development and social conditioning. Whenever possible, reintegration planning for youth should be linked to national reconciliation strategies, socioeconomic reconstruction plans, and youth development policies.
The specific needs of youth transitioning to civilian life are diverse, as youth often require gender responsive services to address social, acute and/or chronic medical and psychosocial support needs resulting from the conflict. Youth may face greater levels of societal pressure and responsibility, and as such, be expected to work, support family, and take on leadership roles in their communities. Recognizing this, as well as the need for youth to have the ability to resolve conflict in non-violent ways, DDR practitioners shall invest in and mainstream life skills development across all components of reintegration programming.
As youth may have missed out on education or may have limited employable skills to enable them to provide for their families and contribute to their communities, complementary programming is required to promote educational and employment opportunities that are sensitive to their needs and challenges. This may include support to access formal education, accelerated learning curricula, or market-driven vocational training coupled with apprenticeships or ‘on-the-job’ (OTJ) training to develop employable skills. Youth should also be supported with employment services ranging from employment counselling, career guidance and information on the labour market to help youth identify opportunities for learning and work and navigate the complex barriers they may face when entering the labour market. Given the severe competition often seen in post-conflict labour markets, DDR processes should support opportunities for youth entrepreneurship, business training, and access to microfinance to equip youth with practical skills and capital to start and manage small businesses or cooperatives and should consider the long-term impact of educational deprivation on their employment opportunities.
It is critical that youth have a structured platform to have their voices heard by decision-makers, often comprised of the elder generation. Where possible DDR practitioners should look for opportunities to include the perspective of youth in local and national peace processes. DDR practitioners should ensure that youth play a central role in the planning, design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of Community Violence Reduction (CVR) programmes and transitional Weapons and Ammunition Management (WAM) measures.
Cross-border Population Movements
This module offers advice to policy makers and operational staff of agencies dealing with combatants and associated civilians moving across international borders on how to work closely together to establish regional strategies for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes.
Armed conflicts are increasingly characterized by ‘mixed population movements’ of combatants and civilians moving across international borders, as well as lines of conflict spilling over and across State boundaries. Because many previous DDR programmes lacked a regional dimension that took this reality into account, the ‘recycling’ of combatants from conflict to conflict within a region and even beyond has become an increasing problem. However, combatants are not the only people who are highly mobile in times of complex emergency. Given that the majority of people fleeing across borders are civilians seeking asylum, it remains vital for the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum to be preserved by host States, with the support of the international community. Combatants must therefore be separated from civilians in order to maintain States’ internal and external security and to safeguard asylum for refugees, as well as to find appropriate long-lasting ways of assisting the various population groups concerned, in accordance with international law standards.
Food Assistance in DDR
*Module revised August 2020
Acute food insecurity can be a trigger or root cause of armed conflict. Furthermore, armed conflict itself is a major driver of food insecurity. In countries and regions affected by armed conflict, humanitarian food assistance agencies are often already engaged in large-scale life-saving and livelihood support programmes to assist vulnerable and conflict-affected civilian communities, including displaced populations. These same agencies may be asked by a national Government, a peace operation or UN Resident Coordinator (UN RC) to provide food assistance in support of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process.
Food assistance provided by humanitarian food assistance agencies as part of a DDR process shall adhere to humanitarian principles and the best practices of humanitarian food assistance. Humanitarian agencies shall not provide food assistance to armed personnel at any point in a DDR process and all reasonable precautions and measures shall be taken to ensure that food assistance is not taken or used by combatants or warring factions. When food is provided to armed forces and groups prior to their demobilization, Governments or peacekeeping actors and their cooperating partners, and not humanitarian agencies, shall be responsible for all aspects of the process – from the acquisition of food to its distribution.
As outlined in IDDRS 2.10 on The UN Approach to DDR, DDR processes can include various combinations of DDR programmes, DDR-related tools and reintegration support. The objectives and means through which food assistance is provided will differ depending on the type of DDR process being supported. For example, during DDR programmes food assistance can be provided at disarmament and/or cantonment sites and as part of a transitional safety net in support of reinsertion and reintegration. Food assistance can also be provided as part of reintegration support either during a DDR programme or when the preconditions for a DDR programme are not in place (see IDDRS 4.20 on Demobilization). In addition, food assistance can be part of pre-DDR and CVR (see IDDRS 2.30 on Community Violence Reduction).
Food assistance that is provided in support of a DDR process shall be based on a careful analysis of the food security situation. This shall include an analysis of any potential gender, age or disability barriers to receiving food assistance. The capacities and coping mechanisms of individuals, households and communities shall also be analysed to ensure the appropriateness and effectiveness of the assistance. Food assistance as part of a DDR process shall also be informed by a context/conflict analysis and an analysis of the protection risks that could potentially be created by this assistance. For example, it is important to analyse whether food assistance may inadvertently create or exacerbate household or community tensions.
Available and flexible resources are necessary in order to respond to the changes and unexpected problems that may arise during DDR processes. A food assistance component of a DDR process should not be implemented unless adequate resources and capacity are in place, including human, financial and logistics resources. If resources are not adequate, a risk analysis must inform decision-making and implementation. Maintaining a well-resourced food assistance pipeline, regardless of the selected transfer modality (in-kind support or cash-based transfers) is essential.
HIV/AIDS and DDR
The United Nations (UN) Security Council and General Assembly have noted that a number of converging factors make conflict and post-conflict settings high risk environments for the spread of HIV, and that there is an elevated risk of infection among uniformed services and ex-combatants. This module outlines the strategies to address HIV/AIDS during disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes, in the interests of the individuals concerned, the sustainability of reintegration efforts and general post-conflict recovery.
National beneficiaries should provide the lead for HIV/AIDS initiatives, and interventions should be as inclusive as possible, while acknowledging the limitations of DDR HIV/ AIDS programmes. A risk-mapping exercise should include the collection of baseline data on knowledge, attitudes and vulnerability, HIV/AIDS prevalence, and identify existing capacity.
The basic requirements for HIV/AIDS programmes in DDR are:
- identification and training of HIV focal points within DDR field offices;
- the development of HIV/AIDS awareness material and provision of basic awareness training for target groups, with peer education programmes during the reinsertion and reintegration phases to build capacity. Awareness training can start before demobilization, depending on the nature of soldiers’/ex-combatants’ deployment and organizational structure;
- the provision of voluntary confidential counselling and testing (VCT) during demobilization and reintegration. An HIV test, with counselling, should be routinely offered (opt-in) as a standard part of medical screening in countries with an HIV prevalence of 5 percent or more. VCT should be provided in all settings throughout the DDR process, building on local services. Undergoing an HIV test, however, should not be a condition for participation in the DDR process, although planners should be aware of any national legislation that may exclude HIV-positive personnel from newly formed military or civil defence forces;
- screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which should be a standard part of health checks for participants;
- the provision of condoms and availability of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) kits during demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration;
- treatment for opportunistic infections and, where feasible, referral for anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment within the national health care system;
- the implementation of HIV/AIDS public information and awareness campaigns to sensitize ‘receiving’ communities, to raise general awareness and to reduce possible stigma and discrimination against returning combatants, including women associated with armed forces and groups, which could undermine reintegration efforts. Planning in communities needs to start in advance of demobilization.
In instances where the time allotted for a specific phase is very limited or has been reduced, as when there is a shortened cantonment period, it must be understood that the HIV/ AIDS requirements envisaged are not dropped, but will be included in the next DDR phase.
Health and DDR
This module is intended to assist operators and managers from other sectors who are involved in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), as well as health practitioners, to understand how health partners, like the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations (UN) Population Fund (UNFPA), Joint UN Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and so on, can make their best contribution to the short- and long-term goals of DDR. It provides a framework to support cooperative decision-making for health action rather than technical advice on health care needs. Its intended audiences are generalists who need to be aware of each component of a DDR process, including health actions; and health practitioners who, when called upon to support the DDR process, might need some basic guidance and reference on the subject to help contextualize their technical expertise. Because of its close interconnections with these areas, the module should be read in conjunction with IDDRS 5.60 on HIV/AIDS and DDR and IDDRS 5.50 on Food Aid Programmes in DDR.
Disabilities and DDR
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Disability-inclusive DDR requires specific planning and interventions to eliminate barriers to participation and to address the specific needs of persons with disabilities. Disability-inclusive DDR processes shall be led by national and local authorities, in line with national and local policies and strategies and build on existing systems and structures. A DDR process and all forms of support provided for that process shall adhere to humanitarian principles, including non-discrimination on the basis of disability and the best practices of disability-inclusion in humanitarian action. Consistent with the principles of disability-inclusive humanitarian action, the inclusion of persons with disabilities in DDR shall include mainstreaming and targeted interventions.
Armed conflict relates to disability in two respects. First, it is a cause of disability and, second, it is a complicating factor for persons living with disability who face specific support and protection needs during conflict and its aftermath. Impairments giving rise to disability occur in direct and indirect ways in the context of conflict. Direct impairments arise as a consequence of the immediate physical and psychosocial consequences of violent conflict, such as being hit by a bullet, stepping on a land mine or being raped. Impairment arises also indirectly from conflict, including psychological trauma from witnessing violence, for example, or a lack of basic needs (shelter, adequate clothing, sanitation, water, food, healthcare, etc.) and exposure to the elements. This context shall be borne in mind in the design and implementation of DDR processes.
Conflict can also serve to amplify existing barriers for persons with disabilities, making it even more challenging to access the benefits of a DDR process. For example, destruction of infrastructure such as roads and the breakdown of social safety nets can result in the exclusion of persons with disabilities. Furthermore, conflict often brings a weakening of community-based organizations and organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) may be particularly affected owing to their frequently marginalized status in society.
The intersectionality of disability and gender can also heighten risk. Women and girls with disabilities face a double stigma, they often experience abuse, social exclusion, and are financially and physically vulnerable. Additionally, women and girls are often caregivers and may take on additional caregiving roles for returning DDR participants with disabilities. Disability-inclusive DDR shall be based on a careful situational analysis of the context. This shall include an analysis of any potential disability as well as age or gender-related barriers to participation in DDR. The capacities and coping mechanisms of individuals, households and communities shall also be analysed to ensure the appropriateness and effectiveness of disability-inclusive assistance. Protection risks that could potentially be created by this assistance shall also be assessed. For example, it is important to analyse whether DDR support to former members of armed forces and groups with disabilities may inadvertently create or exacerbate household or community tensions.
Concepts, Policy and Strategy of the IDDRS
Structures and Processes
Operations, Programmes and Support