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DDR & the Stabilization Assistance Review: Implications for intervention

By Dean Piedmont

April 19, 2019   |   0 comments

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Click to read Dean Piedmont’s latest paper on harmonizing DDR with the U.S. Stabilization Assistance Review.

In 2018, the U.S. government revealed its Stabilization Assistance Review (the SAR), which serves as the new U.S. framework for diplomatic, development and defense operations in conflict, post-conflict and fragile states – the 3D Approach. The SAR centers on the roles, functions and various lines of effort the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, and U.S. Department of Defense will take up in stabilization efforts. Its implications for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) need to be examined carefully.

The utility of a SAR-DDR paradigm is the utilization of the 3D Approach, which enables all actors—civilian, military, policymakers, practitioners and academics—to collectively engage in DDR in a manner that avoids duplication and maximizes efficacy.

Traditionally a post-conflict tool addressing security, governance and political transitions following peace settlements, DDR today occurs during armed conflicts for groups and actors often associated with terrorism. With violent extremism spanning the Middle East, Horn of Africa, North Africa and Sahel, including Nigeria and Libya, the need for DDR today is great. Where counterterrorism and counter-insurgency supplant peace agreements, DDR must include approaches that counter violent extremism.

In other environments, including Colombia and, arguably, Central Asia, the Balkans, and Southeast Asia, stabilization assistance must also include DDR components. 

Connecting DDR to diplomacy

The link between DDR and diplomacy is couched in preconditions emanating from legally binding peace agreements, which are largely absent today.  Even so, diplomacy continues to be impacted by legal doctrine; international humanitarian law, human rights law, amnesties and transitional justice translating into program responses, with U.S. counterterrorism legislation remaining prohibitive as it prevents programmatic support to former fighters and affiliates disengaging, or ‘off-ramping’, from designated terrorist organizations.

DDR and diplomacy in an environment of violent extremism cannot default to peace agreements for several reasons; one is that some groups make their way on to designated terrorist organization lists. In such cases, the U.S. government should equitably calibrate engagement with a government’s military and civilian entities, leveraging its good offices in the absence of a national mandates.  Diplomatic efforts should seek to harmonize a nation’s counterterrorism and civil laws with international law and its regional neighbors to enable DDR in violent extremism settings. 

While in Nigeria, for example, I noticed some Boko Haram members slated for DDR were Cameroonian nationals. The promulgation of Cameroon’s Presidential Decree addressing Boko Haram is an opportunity to coordinate on cross-border issues on DDR. Without complementary legal frameworks these persons could be designated as foreign terrorist fighters, running the risk of becoming stateless or in the custodianship of an entity like the U.N.

DDR and defense

Traditionally, DDR supported the release of ex-combatants from armed groups; advised the security sector on resource requirements for new recruits; provided options on security provision in communities with large numbers of reintegratees and developed special programs for spoilers.

The preference of the Colombian and Kosovar governments to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate FARC and the Civil Protection Corp into non-armed security and public sector institutions is telling. Juxtapose this with Nigeria where the civilian militant group the Nigerian Civil Joint Task Force has the opportunity to integrate into security forces while Boko Haram does not have the option, and we see hybrid models taking shape.

The same is true of amnesties. Where these conditions exist, the tactical utility of amnesties to encourage ‘off-ramping’ and ‘defections’ will be offset by a dearth of political will from the U.S. government to use these as a major tool in DDR while ‘material support’ issues loom large.

Relative to the Stabilization Assistance Review, the U.S. could sensitize foreign militaries on the Leahy Law; the process by which the U.S. government determines if foreign security forces can receive Department of Defense assistance based on its human rights record.

DDR and development

“We need a paradigm shift that moves reintegration beyond securing livelihoods and jobs….Our focus should be on community-based reintegration”

Defining reintegration as part of a country’s development process coupled with the Stabilization Assistance Review’s call to layer, prioritize and sequence foreign assistance, advances stabilization toward transitional efforts that shows promise.

We need a paradigm shift that moves reintegration beyond securing livelihoods and jobs.

While I was in Afghanistan, South Sudan and beyond, the common practice of measuring reintegration as the number of ex-combatants trained was problematic. Job creation is not a stabilization or DDR objective. While in Somalia, it was clear that social reintegration was a precondition for socioeconomic reintegration. Within a stabilization context, economic development is peripheral to a DDR agenda. In Nigeria, initial U.S. government achievements in the pre-release phase of stabilization and DDR through rehabilitation and ‘deradicalization’ will be strengthened by placing communities at the center of reintegration through increased civic engagement and social prioritization, especially where the state has limited outreach and capacity.  

Our focus should be on community-based reintegration.   

Next steps

DDR is re-emergent. The 3D Approach is ‘fit for purpose’ vis-à-vis the U.S. government’s Stabilization Assistance Review policy.

Policymakers in D.C. would benefit from building out findings and recommendations from Creative’s Stabilization Assistance Review paper on DDR.  Technical support should inform upstream diplomatic engagement and downstream programs and operational support. 

Policies and approaches to DDR as conceived by the Department of State and USAID should be informed by a uniformity of terms, approaches and problem sets.  A typology and taxonomy of DDR should be industry-wide and led by the U.S. government and a D.C.-based group of experts on the explicit recognition that DDR is dispositive to meeting government stabilization objectives.

The advancement of policies, operating principles and practices should be informed by an evidence-based research agenda with core members of a group of experts seizing opportunities to codify practices and disseminate results.

Dean Piedmont is an Advisor on DDR at Creative Associates International. Read more from Dean on DDR here.

This blog stems from a Creative Associates International / RAND Corporation initiative harmonizing DDR with the U.S. Stabilization Assistance Review – or SAR.  To read the paper, click here.

Dean Piedmont will be designing and leading training workshops on DDR and stabilization in partnership with the Colombian Army and a high-level consortium of local and international NGOs, governmental institutions, academia and multilateral institutions at the 2019 Colombia Symposium on Coordinated Stabilization and Peacebuilding.

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