Lessons from Afghanistan:  Rethinking Reintegration & Disbandment

 

By Marko Stanic

Reintegration, as defined by The Role of United Nations Peacekeeping in Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (S/2000/101), a report of the Secretary-General is the process which enables former combatants and persons associated with them (women, children, families), to adapt and become productive members of their societies. This process includes economic and social adaptations by providing compensation packages, training, and job opportunities. As was pointed out by the SG, the process of Reintegration, while the last “step” in the DDR process, should not be followed with a silo approach – meaning that the Reintegration should not exclusively follow the process of Demobilization. All three phases of DDR ought to work in tandem with one another.

Keeping this definition of Reintegration in mind, political reintegration the “may be framed as conflict transformation tool. In this regard it aims to underpinning UN experiences at armed group and rebel groups…” (Political Reintegration & Armed Group Transformation). There are two primary objectives of political integration: 1. Inclusion of irregular armed forces to any agreed upon power sharing arrangements, and 2. Transforming the said group into productive, law abiding citizens. It would appear that, while the United Nations did hold these goals in mind, it fell short of achieving them in Afghanistan.

From 2002 through 2012, the UN efforts in Afghanistan included both positive and negative incentives aimed at the individuals within the armed groups. When addressing the armed groups however the UN seeks to either transform the groups transformation or disbandment. The disbandment of fighters in the Afghanistan did not succeed due to the assumption that a permanent break between the command and control, and individual fighters was possible. Conducting a Conflict-Development Analysis (CDA) in Afghanistan would have revealed the existence of very strong tribal ties. These ethnic identities often served as primary modes of identity, often trumping national Afghan identity.

The use of positive and negative incentives in Afghanistan aimed at achieving disbandment of armed groups themselves, rather than achieving group transformation. Of these incentives, the Commander Incentive Program (CIP) sought to break the command and control of the armed groups. The positive incentives for commanders in CIP included trips to haj as well as socio-economic packages. The CIP worked while the UN was able to provide resources – meaning that the permanent break in the patronage was attainable only with a constant supply of resources.

The failure of CIP to permanently disrupt the relationships between commanders and personnel, and lack of efforts to inspire positive social and political harmony within the armed groups prevented the groups’ transformation into legitimate political bodies. Undertaking robust analysis (such as CDA) may have averted these failures. Prior knowledge of armed groups would have shown evidence of political goals, and as such transforming an armed group into a political entity may have been successful. However, the fact remains that the initial objective of the UN was not the transformation of armed groups in Afghanistan, but rather disbandment through reintegration.

Jail: Jihad’s New Recruitment Center

Jail: Jihad’s New Recruitment Center

By Tamara Dickey

Reintegration of ex-Violent Extremists (VE) rarely occurs without intervention programs, many of which include forms of deradicalization and/or disengagement from terrorist organizations.  Most often states’ primary engagement with VEs is when they are detained or in prison.  Unfortunately, a broad general analysis of prisons has shown that many lack policies, capacity, and intention in their role on Countering Violent Extremists (CVE).  Prisons, in both Western and non-Western states, have recently been identified as incubators for terrorist if detainees and prisoners are not handled tactically.  Detention centers, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, have also been coined terrorist universities (Thompson), pressure cookers for extremism, and centers for jailhouse Islam.

The structure and organization of prisons and detention centers has been identified as a key problem in Countering Violent Extremists (CVE), mainly the issue of consolidating large groups of offenders together.  By grouping vulnerable low level offenders with already radicalized VEs the manifestation of mass radicalization was allowed to transpire.  According to a prison guard who spoke to the New York Times, training and the capacity for controlling this particular environment of potential radicalization did not occur.  “We are not really trained or prepared in any way to deal with religious radicalism […]. If we have such a hard time regulating something as simple as cigarettes, how do you expect us to regulate something as abstract as ideas, as religion” (Thompson).

In the case of these detention centers, prison authorities were ill equipped to understand the radicalization process.  Guards lacked the training and expertise to control the radicalization efforts within the centers.  Prison infrastructure and the capacity to handle massive numbers of detainees was also a critical problem. Coalition prisons, as an example, soon became a free training ground for recruitment and radicalization.

Critics have pointed to high profile cases of terrorists who can be traced back to detention centers and prisons, as examples of failed CVE actions.  For example:

  • 9 members of the Islamic State’s top command were held at Camp Bucca, a detention center that struggled with rapid radicalization of detainees (Barrett 20).
  • Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, the brothers responsible for the violent assault on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are suspected of being radicalized in a French prison (Temple-Raston).
  • Department of National Intelligence estimates that 30% of Guantanamo Bay detainees, both confirmed and suspected re-engagement, have “re-engaged” with terrorist groups (“Summery of the Reengagement of Detainees Formally Held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba”).

Analysis of United States’ detention centers in the Middle East found gross overpopulation, as well as a lack of policy regarding detainee radicalization and reintegration as a leading problem in recidivism.  Andrew Thompson, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom wrote in a New York Times article “the United States must convince its regional partners to avoid mixing radicals and moderates, and provide alternatives to prison for small-scale criminals. If we continue to replay the history of mass incarceration in the Middle East, we will remain stuck in the current cycle where our counterterrorism efforts create more terrorists” (Thompson).

New ideas on prison organization and policy have refocused attention on reintegration and rehabilitation verses detention.   Since, most detained or imprisoned VEs and suspected VEs are released– which can be seen in the case of 626 Guantanamo Bay detainees who have been released, repatriated, or resettled (“Guantánamo by the Numbers”)– primary focus on preventing recidivism of terrorist depends on the efforts of disengagement from terror organizations and deradicalization programs.   Combating Violent Extremist (CVE) must therefore include best practices of engaging with VEs being and continue through the detention process, which include programs for disengagement and/or deradicalization.

 

Work Cited:

Barrett, Richard. “The Islamic State.” The Soufan Group, 2014. http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TSG-The-Islamic-State-Nov14.pdf.

 

“Guantánamo by the Numbers.” Human Rights First. October 30, 2015. Accessed November 1, 2015. https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/sites/default/files/gtmo-by-the-numbers.pdf.

 

“Summery of the Reengagement of Detainees Formally Held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” Department of National Intelligence. July 15, 2015. http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/GTMO Sept_2015.pdf.

 

Temple-Raston, Diana. “French Prisons Prove To Be Effective Incubators For Islamic Extremism.” NPR. January 22, 2015. Accessed November 1, 2015. http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/01/22/379081047/french-prisons-prove-to-be-effective-incubators-for-islamic-extremism.

 

Thompson, Andrew, and Jeremi Suri. “How America Helped ISIS.” The New York Times. October 2, 2014.

Strong Contribution of The “Weaker Sex” in DDR

By: Senani Dehigolla

The role of women in war and peace while being subjected to heated debates around the world also emphasises the significance that needs to be attributed to them as an integral part of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration. Being a major target of combatants women are undoubtedly the most affected during conflict or in circumstances of war owing to their physical vulnerability. Paradoxically, some instances of modern day war fare prove that the integration of women in to military either as combatants or as strategic approaches triggers the need of reconceptualising the requirement of the so called “weaker sex” in DDR. When Yazidi women’s armed struggle against ISIS takes the centre stage, going back in the historical time line it is possible to trace the active participation of extraordinary women such as Joan of Arc, Rani Lakshmi Bhai of Jansi against British India, the French women against the Nazis etc. who were in the limelight for their capacity for military prowess to engage in struggles for national liberation or struggles for their own safety.

Women’s participation is a key ingredient in achieving DDR goals as well as for sustainable societal balance in correcting the damage done to the social fabric of a country. Under the Security Council resolution 1325, measuring the advancement of women in all aspects of peace-building is crucial to DDR and other post conflict reconstruction activities. The caseload of Congo is a classic example where the role of women is instrumental in rebuilding the nation while serving as a real challenge. The degree of violation of women’s human rights is immense and ranges from physical abuse such as sexual harassment to contracting deadly diseases like HIV/ AIDS as a result where rebuilding their lives in a later achieved peace is also perplexing. The deep rooted family traditions and male dominated society hinders the possibility of addressing the special needs of women which prevents them from actively participating in DDR and other crisis prevention interventions. Therefore, moving the social lens from men towards women requires much effort on the ground.

UNDP’s survey in Congo to identify conflict affected women could be noteworthy as it has detected the subtle ways in which the issues can be solved. As an instance, the solidarity fund for agriculture to empower women was remarkable in combating unemployment due to lower skill level. The studies have shown that the women led families which are a result of losing their spouses in war were proven extremely weak in economic stability underlining that that women empowerment is decisive to DDR. Promotion of women’s rights by working to reconcile traditional values with progressive ideas will lead to improving the participation of women in society. Their vigorous involvement in early economic reconstruction activities also has the capacity to fight the social and economic marginalization of women. Local institutions and donors for Congo have experienced the creditable progress and the visibility of UNDP intervention. Increased economic and social opportunities while carefully considering local interpretations paves the way for a better future for women in confronting  social obstacles and fighting their own battles of a disturbed past. Their contribution to DDR matters in major and minor levels deciding its rate of success.

Can South Sudan learn from DDR failures in Liberia?

The situation in South Sudan is complex at best. In this regard, it is equally challenging to get one’s head around what a successful Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program would look like at this time. Moreover, it seems unclear how new negotiated DDR initiatives would build on previous plans set out in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement[1] (CPA). Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from other countries in the region?

South Sudan’s secession in July 2011 ended the CPA period and thus the legal imperative to undertake the DDR mandated therein. Budget constraints and disagreement between the government and donors over the objectives and modalities of further halted the program. When South Sudan plunged into civil war in December 2013, following less than two years of independence, the situation was further complicated. The current conflict has been one of intense and brutal violence, much of which has targeted civilians merely for their ethnicity or perceived political violence. Women have been systematically abducted and abused. Sexual violence perpetrated by both government forces and rebels, is rampant.

Following numerous broken ceasefires between the fighting factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), an Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) brokered peace agreement was signed on August 26th, 2015 between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar. While the 70-page agreement includes a few clauses on cantonment and DDR, the latter is not discussed at length. But with persisting fighting, any prospect of a new robust and sustainable DDR program seems implausible and, to be frank, rather farfetched. Furthermore, the SPLA has grown in size due to continued recruitment and the absorption of rebel militia groups that has exceeded the DDR caseload.

However, while the situation remains volatile, South Sudan has an opportunity to learn from past mistakes within its own DDR programs as well as from countries in the region, Liberia being one. While the DDR program in Liberia often has been cited as a success or at least a semi-success, there were several issues that could be used as “lessons learned” and shape recommendations for a future program in South Sudan, including but not limited to:

  1. Inadequate screening processes during the disarmament process contributed to a bloated caseload, which presented problems for the subsequent reintegration phase. Recommendation: Ensure adequate screening processes while paying special attention to inclusion, especially of women and children.
  2. To enter a cantonment site, one had to be on a list drawn up by the combatants’ local commander. This gave too much decision-making power to commanders. Recommendation: In order to break command structures, alternative mechanisms have to be put in place for monitoring who is a combatant.
  3. Failure to demobilize and reintegrate women because of labeling them as Women Associated with Armed Groups (WAAG) to prevent them from entering the program through the official DDR channel. Recommendation: Ensure that design and implementation of gender-specific reinsertion and reintegration measures are informed by situation-based, on-the-ground analysis to asses the special needs of women, active combatants and those identified as WAAGs
  4. Cantonment sites did not have adequate facilities for female ex-combatants. Recommendation: Ensure cantonment sites have facilities for women, and ensure security within the sites.
  5. Achieving successful reintegration and sustainable employment was a huge challenge. Recommendation: Follow the Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS), which suggest community-based reintegration with dual targeting, i.e. community members and ex-combatants with a similar profile should be targeted together to re-establish livelihoods.

[1] The CPA in 2005 was brokered between the dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) factions and the National Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party of Sudan. The agreement stipulated the 2011 referendum that led to South Sudan’s secession.

 

The History of DDR

By: Emil Ismayilov

Since the inception of the UN conflict has evolved in response to changing global situations. First generation DDR attempted to address the needs of the post-World War II world. The global political arena was one which was torn between both sides of the Cold War. This time period was also one in which colonial powers were stripped of their colonies and newly independent nations had to carve out governments from the remains that were left to them. The original DDR approach addressed conflict zones that had already begun the peace process. As stated in the IDDRS, “the objective of the DDR process is to contribute to security and stability in post-conflict environments so that recovery and development can begin,” (IDDRS, UN). The original mandate was designed in a framework identifying major actors. This approach utilized governmental structures and opposition groups as the main foundation for DDR processes. Although this approach addressed certain issues when there were two major actors to integrate, it ignored the issues facing the more local populations. After these initial conflicts were addressed or were handled independently, a new set of problems emerged.

The second generation DDR attempted to confront the new problems that arose from the previous conflicts. The focus became more on development as a basis for long term peace. This process looked more at institutions as a means for providing this basis. This approach still looked at larger actors ( governments, opposition forces, major powers). The furtherance of the DDR’s goals better addressed the needs of the countries in need of support, as opposed to addressing the interests of the global powers. Whereas the first generation DDR was simply a means of transitioning governments so as to better work with the global community, the second generation DDR concentrated more on development and long term stability for the country in need.

A newer form of DDR is slowly evolving, attempting to confront the issues from a more bottom-up approach. This is in response to the lack of success of engaging solely large-scale actors. The transitions to new governments did not challenge issues that faced the more local problems. These more localized issues created new areas of conflict that have been more pervasive in the last thirty years. One of the first major cases to display the inability of first generation DDR to address comprehensive peace building is in Somalia. Attempts at transitioning the government from Civil War failed drastically because of the frameworks focus on major actors. The transitional government that was established was incapable of representing the local populations concerns, and thus was not a good starting point for encouraging DDR. With the rise of al-Shabaab, the importance of engaging tribal leaders became clear. Second generation DDR attempts to evolve the functioning of DDR to adapt to the changing political climates seen around the world. Second generation DDR tries to move the focus from national actors to more localized communities. The bottom-up approach is beginning to address the concerns and struggles that are pertinent to long-term peace development. By tackling the problems that are facing local communities, second generation DDR is attempting to lay the framework for preventing the rise of future conflicts. Also, this focus provides local actors with agency over their futures, giving them all a stake in following through with various mandates and promises.

Response to Llaura’s Blog

By: Emil Ismayilov

I agree that well thought out DDR plans is necessary for post conflict plans. Part of determining if plans are well thought out is to measure the effectiveness of various approaches. Emphasis needs to be based on both quantitative and qualitative indicators because for an overall measure of limiting arms, armed groups, and reintegration, but also in order to measure what is occurring in local communities. The macro factors measured by quantitative indicators too often misinform on DDR’s effects locally. Many times, local issues are the ones that lead to conflicts in the first place, and, thus, must be considered when attempting to achieve the goals of DDR.

In order for DDR policies to become more efficient, the indicators used to judge success need to become more streamlined. Various case studies show that different projects have different measures of success. Different examples showcase the importance of qualitative indicators in understanding how the DDR process actually occurs. The importance of community reintegration can be seen in many case studies. How this integration occurs is often overlooked or underreported. By gaining knowledge of the extent of community reintegration through qualitative measures, future DDR missions can apply the methodologies that are measured to work. Each country faces a host of issues, but more measures will allow for the advancement and enrichment of the programs.

One may counter that there is a limit to the indicators that can be measured because of financial limitations. When faced with financial limitations, projects err towards utilizing quantitative indicators in order to appease donors and oversight committees. As the DDR policies shift towards a community, bottom-up, focus, it is an opportune time to begin collecting data from local sources. As the DDR conceptualization adapts towards the third generation, so too must the measures of success to reflect the shifting focus.

The support for qualitative indicators should not lead one to think that quantitative indicators are any less important. The factors that are measured quantitatively are essential. These measures allow for easy comparison across venues. The goals of DDR are also measured in quantitative terms. Disarmament can be clearly measured in terms of armaments collected, Demobilization can be understood through the measurements of standing armies, militia groups, gangs, etc., and reintegration can be measured through employment measures. Although the goals can all be measured, their effectiveness cannot. Certain factors need to be in place to foster this transition. The qualitative measures will allow for effectiveness of policies to be better measured, and, therefore, replicated or avoided.

This brings me to the final point: the need for a universal measure of DDR effectiveness. Although different conflicts require different solutions, there needs to be universal measures in order to form a better framework to better transition future conflicts into sustaining peace. Various qualitative factors will be able to be compared to quantitative measures to see which variables are most efficient in smoothing over the transition to peace. The process for identifying which qualitative factors are important may be expensive at first, but, in the long run, will save resources and better advance the goals of DDR.

An Overview & Analysis of Contemporary DDR

From Julia Rachiele at the New School

Last week’s reading and discussion regarding the evolution of Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) over time, for me draws parallel to other aspects of global governance within the international community. Not only do the generations of DDR seems to develop in conjunction with the goals and beliefs of the Global North of the time, but they also seem to act as fulfilling the needs and wants of the recipients more as DDR discourse progresses. Understandably so, as the major stakeholders are the donors, organizations, ad governments intervening in post-conflict situations. However, DDR needs to continue to progress in a way that mitigates the effects of the difference of what the key stakeholders are each aiming to gain from the DDR process.
As society develops, so do the practices, beliefs and norms. However, an overarching theme has been shown in the international community’s interactions over the years, as a self-serving bias off the Global North. Personally, I drew parallels between the evolution of human rights discourse and the establishment of DDR initiatives. The former having been established as a norm in the early 20th century, while the latter has only just begun to become formalized. The two do collide over the confusion in their respective discussions on what to do and how to do it. DDR originally developed as a way to grant states sovereignty, in a way was realizing the beliefs of the Global North. The first generation of DDR granted states sovereignty through assistance from northern global powers. These new nations were then appointed governments, typically consisting of the former rebellion fighters of the conflict. This is a way allowed the global powers to still have influence within the newly formed country, as a way to continue furthering their own agenda. This parallels the early establishment of human rights in that the former colonies were able to realize their own independence under the permission ff their former colonizer, while still holding stakes financially within the country.
Going into the second generation off DDR, various stakeholders emerged to facilitate the activities. Including, NGOs, NPOs, International governing bodies, and foreign governments. The basis of the second generation of DDR was to promote development and work with al those involved in the DDR process. This differed from the first generation in that, women, children, communities, and all actors were taken into consideration during planning. The use of various actors with varying degrees and types of power allow multifaceted and innovative approaches to take place. While beneficial in that it is being carried out more in the context of the communities, other issues also arise. The main issues that arise are that programs are going on simultaneously but might not be working in conjunction, and that reinsertion might be happening, but full reintegration is not realized. Also, as in human rights initiatives non-government actors are intervening, to assist all individuals in need, and their levels of accountability and responsibility are not formalized. Leading to the question of, who is to be held responsible when DDR does not succeed and might cause unexpected harm in other areas.
The international community is currently in the third generation of DDR. Building upon the earlier generations, this generation integrates political aspects into the process. This is significant as the newly established governments need to retain their sovereignty during the fragile transitional stages of DDR. The thought is that by empowering the governments the countries are able to continue once the foreign powers withdraw from the country. However, this line of thinking has had its own issues arise from it. DDR continues to develop as initiatives proceed, and only overtime will practitioners learn through experience of what doesn’t work and what has been found to be beneficial in the process.

Publication Announcement ~ Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration: Theory and Practice

Dear PRSG Colleagues,
 
As a practitioner and academic instructor on security sector governance and DDR, I can attest that the plethora of literature capturing practices, lessons and policy guidance on DDR is short on theory, that is until now.
 
Please see the upcoming publication to be releases later this year!
 
Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration: Theory and Practice
“Molloy offers valuable insights in to the practical applications of DDR theory within the context of modern conflict and national and human security programme.” Dean Piedment, Countering Violent Extremism initiative.
Desmond Molloy is Senior Programme Director with The Nippon Foundation in Myanmar, where he focuses on the design and management of integrated peacebuilding programmes.
Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, Colorado.
Due November 30, 2016/ca. 250 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62637-568-0 pb $26.50/£20.50. A Kumarian Press Book

Utilizing Qualitative Indicators in DDR: Case Examples of Success.

By Meredith Bapir

Practitioners in DDR note the need for both quantitative and qualitative indicators. Quantitative indicators are often reflected as outputs, or measured results that are numerical such as the number of arms collected in the field. Qualitative indicators are more often tied in with medium to long-term outcomes that measure the longer results of a program and its attributed successes. It can take into account feelings, belief systems, and cultural and historical affinities. Qualitatively a program can be indicated, for example, by how a community feels about the success of a reintegration project.

Little emphasis has been given, however, on using qualitative indicators to document progress. Quantitative indicators, due to their numeric nature, are often easier to gather and can quickly satisfy donor requirements. Qualitative indicators often involve multiple steps of acquiring permissions and participations from stakeholders in addition to setting up focus groups, surveys, and interviews.

While gathering qualitative indicators may seem like a daunting task, they provide a more well-rounded assessment of DDR programs. Take, for example, the DDR program in Sierra Leone. The main objective of the reintegration component of the DDR program was to support the return of ex-combatants to their home communities. Through conducting qualitative research, practitioners noted that it was the opportunity of ex-combatants to “dine, mix, and socialize” with the local community that facilitated their entry back into society. Quantitative evidence could only prove the “causal impact of community infrastructure and short-term employment projects” but it did not showcase the full picture of Sierra Leone’s reintegration struggle. It was therefore imperative in this example to provide both a mixture of quantitative and qualitative factors to view the program’s success.

Contrastingly, Liberia’s focus on only quantitative indicators caused a false reading on the success of the DDR program. This program chose to focus on mostly quantitative indicators such as the amount of weapons collected per overall number of ex-combatants. A narrow focus on indicators attributed to gross mismanagement and misdirection of the program, to where reintegration did not even occur. The inclusion of qualitative indicators would have showed a more well-rounded picture of the program and could have possibly attributed to some success.

Utilizing a qualitative process also allows practitioners to reassess their approach to a DDR program. For example, practitioners in Haiti were able to gauge the importance of focusing on a community-based approach to stemming communal violence. Practitioners in Somalia noted that quantitative indicators were continuously changing due to the dynamic and volatile security environment within the country. Qualitatively addressing the situation allowed for an evaluation to be conducted that called for a change in direction by assessing the changing dynamics in the field.

Qualitative indicators should be continuously emphasized in the field and partnered with quantitative indicators to provide a full assessment of the DDR program.

 

 

Sexual and Gender-based Violence Against Children in the DRC Conflict Part 1: Statistics, Preconditions and Effects

By Ashley Dale

It is no secret that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is widespread in the DRC; a place that has been dubbed the rape capital of the world and one of the most dangerous places for women and girls to live. The protracted conflict has been the deadliest since World War II spanning nearly two decades and killing roughly 5.4 million people. In June 2012, the Sonke Gender Justice Network and the Institute for Mental Health of Goma implemented a survey as part of a study on sexual violence to men and women in and around Goma in the North Kivu province of the DRC. The study found that instances of SGBV rise during times of conflict. The data gathered from the survey concluded that all people in the region are subject to SGBV including men and boys with women and girls being at the highest risk for encountering SGBV at both the household level and in the field during conflict. Given these facts, it is no surprise that SGBV, particularly rape, is used without hesitation as a key weapon of war in the DRC conflict.

Children account for a large number of actors, both direct and indirect, in the ongoing conflict that has plagued the DRC since 1996. They make up a portion of ex-combatant dependents, outside actors and victims, and child soldiers perpetrating violence and are considered a special needs group (SNG) in DDR. Coupled with the widespread use of SGBV in the DRC, it seems unfathomable that children would not be affected by sexual violence in some way throughout this conflict. In fact, the truth is that children are key targets of SGBV because of their vulnerability and societal status in which they are typically dependents and have no power to make decisions. Children and young adults under the age of 25 make up roughly 60 percent of the target demographic in conflict affected countries. One startling statistic concludes that in the first half of 2012, 74 percent of sexual violence victims and survivors treated at the HEAL hospital in Goma, DRC were children. This number could be much higher since data on this subject is difficult to collect. Many victims live in fear and/or shame and do not come forward to report their abuse. The stigma surrounding SGBV, especially in Africa and particularly in the DRC because of its rampant use, makes it extremely difficult for researchers to get concrete statistics, leaving us with only estimates of the damage done.

Several preconditions typically need to be realized in order for SGBV against children in conflict to occur. First, there is usually a breakdown in governance with a lack of institutional stability; the DRC is a prime example of this being a failed state where institutional instability (and in some cases lack of specific institutions) and lack of governance is glaring. Along the same lines, corruption and absence of rule of law are typically present as well; again this is evident in the DRC. Impunity and lack of accountability are also factors which are also evident in the DRC. A prime environment for SGBV has taken shape when these preconditions mix with communities that are unable to protect themselves, stigmatizing cultural attitudes towards rape and sexual violence, and the normalization of certain behaviors.

The results of SGBV against children in conflict and under the above mentioned conditions are many. Unwanted pregnancies, STDs, HIV, incontinence, and fistula are some of the physical effects of sexual violence against children. Psychological effects include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, flash backs, and drug and alcohol abuse. Some of these psychological effects have longer-term side effects including interrupted or discontinued education, forced marriage, and limited income options (e.g. sex work). SGBV destroys the social fabric of villages in the DRC where children are often rejected by their families and/or whole communities. This in turn creates fear, trust issues, and loss of confidence of the children affected. All of these factors damage children deeply and leave them with minimal hope for recovery. SGBV against children in conflict destroys families and creates breakdown in communities which is a key motivation of combatants who perpetrate this type of violence.

It is important to understand the specific war tactics used in the DRC conflict and what groups they are inflicted upon in order to understand why several DDR processes have been implemented with little success. The newest and third DDR process was recently implemented (May 2015) in the DRC, but how affective will it be in terms of addressing child ex-combatants (child soldiers) who have suffered SGBV? What approaches, if any, will be taken to help reintegrate this specific cohort (as both outside and inside actors in the conflict) of this special needs group back into society? I will address these questions in Part 2 of this blog.