Post-Conflict DDR in BiH: First Generation Solutions for Third Generation Challenges

By: Kaitlyn Lynes of The New School

With the end of the Balkans War in 1995 by outside military intervention, the international community quickly stepped in to implement a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Although the UN had an earlier presence in the region, declaring “safe areas” under international protection since 1993, its mandate did not include the use of force, and therefore was quickly overrun by the Serb military. This ultimately led to the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica.

When the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed in December 1995, provisions for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) were exclusively based on a statebuilding and security-centric framework—what we now consider the first generation of DDR. There was no long-term perspective for the program, due to the political fragility of the DPA and the final goal being the immediate conclusion of violence. The peacekeeping mission in BiH was further defined by first generation DDR through its overt preference for political rather than development processes and embodiment of the post-Cold War era with international cooperation.

Primary responsibility for the implementation of DDR officially fell to the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), but in reality became a disjointed effort on behalf of the international community. Because there had been no prior Bosnian state before the war, institution-building was ignored in the short term, and an international transitional governance body was established that could not ultimately take responsibility or accountability for long term reintegration objectives. With approximately 400,000 to 430,000 combatants requiring DDR, the DPA simply called for the demobilization and disarmament of armed fighters, reducing their risk as spoilers and consolidating power into a governance structure. After disarmament, no further assistance to ex-combatants was provided.

The first generation statebuilding objectives could also not account for the communal nature of the conflict. As the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) states, “such ‘communal conflicts’ are generally long-lived, difficult to solve and represent great challenges with regard to establishing mutual trust: trust that is a necessary precondition for weapons collection.” Because the conflict necessitated the dissolution of Yugoslavia, there was no state for Bosniaks to return to or trust. If citizens could not trust the state to provide protection from the Serbs, there was no incentive to participate in a DDR program.

While second generation DDR objectives, focusing on development and reintegration, could have positively impacted Bosnia’s ability to support ex-combatants and enforce peace, third generation DDR programming better addresses many of the challenges Bosnia faces today. In order to achieve a total and lasting peace, there must be trust and transparency in statebuilding and institution-building initiatives, acknowledgement of shortcomings in the reconciliation process for victims, and the crucial role identity has played in the conflict. The international community must turn over ownership of the entire peace process to the Bosnian state, and a new political and legal framework must replace the outdated, first generation-driven DPA.


Moratti, Massimo, and Amra Sabic-El-Rayess. “Transitional Justice and DDR: the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” International Center for Transitional Justice (2009): 6.

Pietz, Tobias. Demobilization and reintegration of former soldiers in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina: an assessment of external assistance. Hamburg: Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik, 2004.

Rufer, Reto. “Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR): Conceptual approaches, specific settings, practical experiences.” Geneva Center for Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF) Working Paper. http://se2. dcaf. ch/serviceengine/FileContent (2005).

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