Challenges in DDR and SSR – The Case of Afghanistan

By: Senani Dehigolla

Complexities those inherent to DDR around the world while deciding its degree of success or failure poses serious challenges and risks demanding novel analytical tools for sustainable outcomes. Afghanistan could be possibly identified as a classic example for intensity of challenges for DDR .Reintegration goals in particular are hard to achieve as it decides the durability of new found peace. Over the last few decades United Nations has been engaged in DDR around the word through operational and conceptual processes and Security Sector Reform (SSR) on the other hand is a recent and a broader concept in reinforcing successful DDR. The necessity of SSR is pivotal in achieving sustainable outcomes as the changing dynamics of conflict demand newer measures to counter various forms of conflict. The combination of DDR and SSR is crucial to eliminating modern day conflict as the former secretary General Ban Ki-moon once stated the United Nations ‘has come a long way from simply being ceasefire monitors. Today [it is] expected to keep, enforce and build peace.’

Integrated DDR and SSR programs in Afghanistan were challenged by many political and social aspects. Among them are the lack of political will, lack of willingness to political settlement and growing insecurity. Spoiler groups  such as Taliban, Al Qaeda and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-I-Islami faction opposing peace processes are a serious threat to peace processes in Afghanistan where majority of the population are either subjected to or willing to be a part of a gun culture which provides them some sort of ‘power’ without which they will be powerless. The government’s fragile commitment to the process is also worsened by the amount of government officials who are supporting the illegal armed groups.  Easy access and extreme low prices of arms encourages gun culture making disarmament a harder task .Apart from the challenges arising from the context the DDR and SSR programs themselves were faced with insufficiency of monitoring, lack of security strategy, deficits in coordination and poor operational linkages between the two programs of DDR and SSR. The critical requirement of funding and support also can be challenging if the balance of distribution of resources and the durable donor engagement is interrupted.

As far as the most important element of reintegration is concerned, focus on employment is vital in order to ensure that there are productive alternatives to gun culture. The biggest challenge for this would be meeting the rising demand for employment and vocational training, literacy and educational opportunities, strategic introduction to normal society through participation in programs such as de-miming should be included in the programs. The DDR in similar conflict environments such as Afghanistan needs to consider vulnerable groups ranging from child soldiers, ex- combatants to dependents of ex combatants in order to win loyalty and to prevent the resentment from the general population. Furthermore, the result has to be sustainable where the ex-combatants could face future fluctuation in the economy.

Finally, it is clear that DDR and SSR become extremely challenging in conflict environments such as Afghanistan due to the interdependent nature of the two processes. Post-conflict peace building and sustainable development needs to be achieved through the success of SSR projects which totally depends on productive demilitarization activities without which both DDR and SSR processes will be an uphill struggle.

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