By Timothy Koch, graduate student of International Affairs at the New School
Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) in the modern age is facing a number of specific challenges that must be addressed in order to maximize safety and promote success rates. One of the most important challenges that modern day DDR programs will face is their operation in areas where war and fighting is still occurring. This new aspect presents a new and life threatening dynamic of modern DDR programs and will arguably be the most difficult challenge they face.
Previously, teams had operated in zones when a peace process was currently being implemented or had been implemented in the past; however this is no longer the case. DDR teams have never before operated under this magnitude of stress and danger, and in order to promote safety and success this challenge must be addressed head on. It is imperative that the teams gain specific and intrinsic knowledge of the conflict zone and general dynamic before and during the process. These teams must familiarize themselves with the nature of the conflict, its actors, and the current dynamic of the conflict itself. DDR teams have had these responsibilities before; however now it is important to remember that the conflict is not stagnant and can be perpetual and ever changing. They must gain this knowledge and know that at any second the dynamic could shift and send their team and their own lives into a more dangerous situation.
The knowledge that is gained allows DDR teams to have more tools available to them in order to begin disarmament. They can offer incentives to turn in weapons and thus informally begin the peace process themselves. This will an easier route to a formal peace process and negotiations as once certain groups begin to disarm others may begin to follow suit making disarmament as whole more feasible.
The dynamic field of DDR is adapting to the challenges that are met on the ground and the teams must constantly remember that in order to ensure their safety and to promote success as much as they can. An environment with a lack of a formal peace process is a scary and daunting place and operators are right to think that strategies that had applied before could would not apply to their current situation. Only one strategy can truly be prescribed to any and all DDR operations. It is the strategy of gaining knowledge beforehand and to continue to learn while on the ground. Only then will safety be maximized and this is completely necessary in the world of DDR today.