By Timothy Koch, graduate student of International Affairs at The New School.
The DDR operation that occurred in Haiti is a prime example of the ever changing dynamic of DDR and the need for DDR operators to be able to adapt to any situation that they are faced with. Even though Haiti is seen as a failure in some eyes we must remember that through failure we can learn from our mistakes and become closer to success.
Haiti showed us the need for DDR operators to be able to work with all different types of conflict offenders. The gangs in Haiti were one of the primary causes of conflict, and unlike DDR operations before in Haiti there were no uniforms and rigid power structures. Operators were no longer dealing with seasoned veteran military commanders potentially from prior liberation struggles, but were now dealing with gun and drug running hoods that in many cases lacked the respect for DDR and its goals. These gangsters saw no reason to discontinue their operations as they were making too much money and did not think their lifestyle was flawed. There weren’t many incentives that DDR operators could offer them in an attempt to persuade them to give up their ways. They were living the highlife compared to many others in Haiti and the operators had to meet this challenge. It was no longer a military member making a basic wage, in this situation it was now gangsters potentially making hundreds of thousands of dollars by being a drug transport hub to the city of Miami and Dade County.
The example of Haiti also showed us how DDR operators must prepare for non-conventional power structures within a country. Prior operators would be dealing with major political factions and rebel groups along with semi established governmental entities and in Haiti this was not the case. The gangs replaced the rebel groups and political factions; however in Haiti the ruling elite held a massive control on power relations within the country. Just like the gangs these selfish power elite profited from the lack of governmental control within the country and were extremely resistant to DDR operations. Incentives could not be offered to these people as they had everything they wanted. They were living at the expense of normal Haitian citizens and wanted to continue to do so. This power dynamic made it very difficult for DDR operators to do their job.
These changing dynamics that characterize the Haiti DDR project perfectly exemplify the need for DDR operators to be able to keep an open mindset and not be rigid in their ways of thinking. Also it shows the need for them to be able to adapt to different power relations and conflict structures. DDR operators cannot be traditional people who are stuck in their ways of thinking and this is becoming ever more relevant in the world of today. DDR operators must constantly be innovating their prior failures because as we know failure can breed success.