IDDRS Framework


Cross-cutting Issues


Women, Gender and DDR

*Module under revision


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

*Module under revision


This module on children and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) is based on relevant provisions of international law, field experience and lessons learned by the United Nations Children’s Fund and its partners over the past 15 years in its programmes for the prevention of recruitment and the demobilization and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups.

There is a growing international consensus that the forced or compulsory recruitment of children — girls and boys under the age of 18 — and their use in hostilities by both armed forces and armed groups is illegal and one of the worst forms of child labour. The recruitment and use of children under 15 is a war crime. This consensus is expressed in a comprehensive set of international legal instruments, such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, and is reinforced by a series of United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions (for a detailed normative and legal framework, see Annex B).

Unlike adults, children cannot legally be recruited; therefore, measures that aim to prevent their recruitment, or that attempt to reintegrate them into their communities, should not be viewed as a routine component of peacemaking, but as an attempt to prevent or redress a violation of children’s human rights. This means that child DDR is not the same as that for adults. Rather, it is a specific process with its own requirements, several of which are fundamentally different from adult demobilization programmes.

Child DDR requires that the demobilization (or ‘release’) and reintegration of children, especially girls, be actively carried out at all times, even during a conflict, and that actions to prevent child recruitment should be continuous. When DDR exercises have made the presentation of a weapon for disarmament as a criterion for eligibility for DDR, children, especially girls, have been excluded — whether intentionally or not. Because children are associated with armed forces and groups in a variety of ways, not only as combatants, some may not have access to weapons. These children must still be considered child soldiers, released by the groups that recruited them, and receive reintegration support.

Child DDR has a different scope and time-frame from that for peacekeeping operations and national reconstruction efforts. It must not wait until a mechanism for adult DDR is established. Efforts should be made to ensure that child DDR is not contingent on adult DDR or the conclusion of broader security sector reform (SSR) and power-sharing negotiations, because interdependency between child and adult DDR programmes has negative consequences for children associated with armed forces and groups. Children should not be exploited by being recruited in order to swell the ranks of armed groups who have overreported their numbers, as a way of influencing power-sharing agreements. It is also essential to protect child DDR structures and mechanisms from setbacks in SSR reform, including a lack of funding, so that child DDR continues to take place even if progress on adult DDR is slow. Equally, because children can be associated with armed forces and groups in a variety of ways, child-specific DDR mechanisms should remain in place after national reintegration of adult soldiers is complete. This will ensure that all children associated with armed forces and groups — not just those who fought as combatants — can benefit from the process.

Peace processes offer an opportunity to highlight the needs of children affected by armed conflict, and their rights should be identified as an explicit priority in peacemaking, peacebuilding and conflict resolution processes, both in the peace agreement and in DDR plans. The commitment to stop the recruitment of children and to release children from armed forces and groups, with specific attention to girls, should be stated within peace agreements.

Child-specific reintegration shall allow a child to access education, a livelihood, life skills and a meaningful role in society. The socio-economic and psychosocial aspects of reintegration for children are central to global DDR programming and budgeting. Successful reintegration requires long-term funding of child protection agencies and programmes to ensure continuous support for education and training for children, and essential follow-up/ monitoring once they return to civilian life. For sustainability, and to ensure that the whole community can benefit from a child’s return and reintegration, while avoiding tension, stigmatization or envy when a child is returned to a village with a reintegration package containing material goods that are unavailable to others, reintegration must be based on broader community development processes. There is no simple formula for the DDR of children that can be routinely applied in all circumstances, so each programme needs to be context-specific and developed and managed in order to be sustainable.


Youth and DDR

*Module under revision


This module on youth — young people between the ages of 15 and 24 — is intended to give advice to policy makers and programme planners on the best ways to deal with the needs of a group that has historically been poorly served by disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes. Youth fall between the legal categories of child and adult, and their needs are not necessarily well served by programmes designed for mature adults or very young children. Young people in countries emerging from conflict are both a force for change and renewal in the country, and simultaneously a group that is vulnerable to being drawn into renewed violence. To manage their expectations and direct their energies positively, special attention has to be focused on involving youth in catch-up education programmes that improve their ability to earn an independent livelihood, restoring their hope in a better future and developing their capacity to contribute as upcoming leaders, entrepreneurs, parents and caregivers.


Cross-border Population Movements

*Module under revision


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.



*Module under revision


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

*Module under revision


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

Coming soon

Module under development

level 1

General IDDRS

level 2

Concepts, Policy and Strategy of the IDDRS

level 3

Structures and Processes

level 4

Operations, Programmes and Support

level 5

Cross-cutting Issues

level 6