Disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating (DDR) former fighters after war is as old as war itself. The approach and science of DDR has changed dramatically since then, particularly during the past 20 years.
I have seen and lived DDR up close. As an architect, academic, manager and director of DDR operations for two decades, I am working to develop a new framework to inform a DDR paradigm.
To understand my thoughts on a new paradigm, it is important to see the recent variations, which I divide into three generations.
The first generation was the “Era of State Building,” which evolved at the end of the Cold War as the United States and the former Soviet Union used DDR to disengage as adversaries in Southern African and Central America and re-emerge as allies in the Middle East.
Next, in the early 2000s, came the “Age of Development,” at which time the international community seized upon the link between security and development. This was an outgrowth of the Brahmi Report, which called for “a plan to strengthen the permanent capacity of the United Nations to develop peace-building strategies and to implement programmes in support of those strategies,” among other activities.
Responding to increasing intra-state conflict, DDR addressed expanding caseloads and content areas in an arc spanning Africa, the Balkans and Asia. The shift from mostly male fighters associated with Liberation Struggles in major power proxy wars to include women, girls, children, elderly persons and persons with disabilities who were considered as part of DDR caseloads based on the Brahimi Report was intended to address what was perceived as increasingly predatory conflicts.
Originally a post-conflict tool, DDR is now considered during active conflict for persons associated with terrorism. This is the third generation, which I call “Political Reintegration and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE).”
In 2016, the Alliance for Peacebuilding asked me to submit a chapter for The Ecology of Violent Extremism, an effort made possible with generous support of the Toda Peace Institute. Together with Gabrielle Belli, we published the chapter called “CVE, DDR, Social Capital and the Women, Peace & Security Agenda.”
Published in September 2018, the chapter posits that there is an artificial, legal distinction between non-state armed groups sanctioned as “designated terrorist organizations” and those not sanctioned. The paper lays out a case noting that if the patterns of recruitment employed by these groups, the roles women and girls fill while associated with the groups, the means by which they ‘disengage’, and the stigma and trauma experienced by reintegratee and communities of return fundamentally remains the same then the community and reintegratee make no discernable difference between a sanctioned designated terrorist organization or unsanctioned non-state armed groups. Through this lens the legal distinction prohibiting support is arbitrary.
Logic follows that women and girls impacted through association with these groups need rehabilitation and reintegration support; logic reinforced through various UN Security Council Resolutions and mandates.
There are legal prohibitions on the provision of material support to terrorist organizations, which are pronounced when we examine its impact on women seeking to ‘disengage’ NGOs seeking to support that process – the rehabilitation and/or reintegration process often associated with DDR. However, various legal instruments, best practices and U.N. Security Council Resolutions predisposed towards support contravene aspects of U.S. material support law prohibiting such support.
Recently, policy advocates, programmers and practitioners started to address this conundrum with DDR a preferred means of provide support and Creative assuming a leading role.
The third generation DDR dynamic came about in Somalia around 2012, followed by U.S. government’s interest in 2015 in West Africa.
Creative has been supportive of the U.S. government’s efforts on DDR-CVE in and around the Lake Chad Basin. Creative is advancing its research agenda based on The Ecology of Violent Extremism by integrating comparative case studies from non-sanctioned non-state armed groups and current designated terrorist organizations.
In the summer of 2018, Creative increased engagement in the DDR and security sector reform space to further the U.S. stabilization agenda, which is outlined in Stabilization Assistance Review.
Since I joined Creative, we have advanced our work in DDR in settings in West Africa, embarked on a training platform enhancing corporate competencies.
Together with my talented colleagues at Creative, as well as with U.S. clients and stakeholders, we look forward to exploring emergent thinking on DDR.
Dean Piedmont is an Advisor on DD&R at Creative Associates International.