Political Reintegration & Governance Issues in Myanmar – An editorial response

In her article for PRSG “Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and Security Sector Reform (SSR) in Myanmar”, Helena Gronberg from the New School’s Graduate Program of International Affairs rightly points us to assessing the role the military will play in the political process. As the article concerns itself with ‘DDR’ specifically, as policy experts and practitioners we do well to note that a military junta, such as that in Myanmar, willingness to engage in political dialogue in and of itself sends a strong signal that a peace process may be ripe. To this end we can also examine Helena’s previous question in PRSG, “Is The Time Ripe for DDR in Myanmar?”

These are incredibly important, yet distinctly separate questions. To the first point we may acknowledge the military engagement in a process that even considers DDR as a step forward in the wider domain of peace processes. The reluctance of non-state armed groups (NSAGs) to undertake a comprehensive DDR is less telling, than it is expected. In the second instance we take note that conditions optimal for DDR to be credibly planned and executed are not firmly in place. To this end we may fathom the answer – No! The time is not ripe for DDR, though perhaps the more poignant question is whether DDR is the appropriate vehicle in its traditional configuration to forward the peace process and reshape the wider security sector environment. Conventional wisdom leads us the conclude DDR is not optimal, rather may be pasted upon the Myanmar context due to a lack of preconditions being existent.

In dispelling the use of DDR as an umbrella initiative to affect security elements of complex peace processes, Helena rightly points out the larger, and more nuanced components of an SSR agenda – police, the judiciary and community driven security functions. However, the unpacking of SSR as applied to Myanmar, and when juxtaposed onto DDR, does not go far enough. The situation in Myanmar is what may be aptly termed ‘political reintegration’. This may include wider issues of Governance, autonomy and rule of law (RoL). Termed ‘The Governance of DDR’, preliminary policy research by the UN was scuttled during a 2014 restructuring exercise.

So, if the time is not ripe for DDR, yet DDR ‘like’ processes are underway, where can policy makers and practitioners turn for illustrations and insights. Interestingly, Kosovo provides a model for consideration. The Civil Protection Corps, a Serbian hardline group under the command and control of Belgrade, though resident in Kosovo being considered to perform security sector functions akin to protection of national monuments and heritage sites. This dilutes the armed component of a formal DDR while preserving a security sector function. This is outlined specifically in Article 18 of the Brussels Agreement, which essentially calls for a DDR of the CPC. The purpose as related to ‘political reintegration’ or ‘political DDR’ is to move Kosovo and Serbia close to EU Accession. In this regard, DDR is framed within the ‘normalization or relations’ between Serbia and Kosovo.

Looking closer to home, and good regional illustration from Asia may include a look at the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement that initially outlined a framework for peace between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In this framework agreement political reintegration and cultural reintegration are considered due to that variety and variance in ethnic, religious and cultural makeup. Autonomous economic, educational and security structures are considered as part of a peace process. Where the nomenclature of ‘DDR’ was poorly received by NSAGs, and disarmament even more so, the use of terms such as ‘decommissioning’ seems more palatable and provide more flexibility to design and implementation.

Notions, concepts and prescripts for DDR and SSR are always context specific. Where some elements may not be applicable, or ripe, there are aspects of these programing options that have considerable and direct utility. At the same time, a blanket approach to using DDR runs the risk of program failure at best, and collapse of a peace process and return to conflict at worst. For the victor in a Liberations Struggle DDR may be a heroes option, for a armed rebel groups seeking agency and redress for grievance DDR may be a dubious effort and war by political means, and for a defeated group, DDR may represent humiliation.

The applications of our tools and policies, their context and timing are as important as how they are perceived and the language we use to convey their intent and meaning.

By Dean Piedmont – Director of the CVE & Reintegration Initiative


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