Prospects for Peace & Security in Myanmar

Helena Gronberg in her piece for PRSG – “Is Myanmar Ripe for DDR?”, rightly points to a classic DDR ‘dilemma’ being faced in Myanmar. This is focused largely on the sequencing of a DDR effort, pointedly D-D-then-R. In what is called ‘classic’ or 1st Generation DDR lasting from around the late 1980s until the early 2000s[1] this was less of an issue as DDRs were governed by comprehensive peace settlements. These occurred most notably in Southern Africa and Central America. Countries like Angola, Mozambique, Guatemala and Nicaragua are notable examples. In the mid-2000s both the promulgation of the global policy guidance known as the Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS), as well as the 2nd Generation DDR in Peace Operations simultaneously, and respectively, cemented policy around historic best practices and lessons learned while also calling for a new policy construct based on lessons being learned. Part of this new policy call includes flexible sequencing for D-D-R.

While security sector reform (SSR) and/or security sector integration (SSI) is in play when discussing Myanmar, on the face of it this un-necessarily conflates issues related to a negotiated political settlement, and while more complex issues are at stake, the basis of Helena’s argument is one of DDR sequencing and political dialogue. As such, there is nothing inherent to SSR or DDR that requires disarmament prior to negotiating terms in a political settlement.

At issue is the fact that 7 of the 15 armed groups is not parties to the NCA as pointed out. The reasons for such exclusion, willful or otherwise, are as important to understanding the terms for SSR and DDR, as they are for the preconditions to undertake SSR and DDR. Are the conditions that are being established precluding bringing parties to the table? The question is relevant for armed groups, as well as government actors. Disarmament as a precondition for negotiating peace is quite dissimilar to sequencing D-D-R once a settlement is signed. Both require varying degrees to trust in the peace process, and both requires a certain type of entry points for negotiation assuming both parties are willing to do so. This can include incremental disarmament, arms management and verification programs and the like as part of a peace settlement. Disarming armed groups prior to getting them to the peace table is likely to be more difficult.

The above discounts armed group’s unwillingness to be included in any SSR/SSI process that would use DDR as a tool for implementation. As Helena points out, Myanmar’s conflict includes ‘root causes’ and ‘grievances’ related to deep ethnic divisions. In such cases, the very notion of a DDR effort must be challenged – “Is Myanmar Ripe for DDR?” is a suitable question.

The question then becomes is DDR the appropriate tool, program, policy and/or approach for durable conflict mediation and peacebuilding in Myanmar. If issues of autonomy are being pursued as part of a larger SSR, Rule of Law (RoL) and Governance agenda, then we must consider that references and pushes on the DDR issue too early in the peace process may ‘cause harm’ by stalling already fragile peace processes.

In this regard, Myanmar may wish to look to its neighbors both regionally and beyond for examples of ‘DDR-like’ processes that are facilitating peace through approaches that include armed group ‘decommissioning’ as was considered for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines, or the ‘normalization of relations’ as is being considered in the Brussels Agreement between Kosovo and the Serbian Civil Protection Corps (CPC). These convey a certain degree of dignity, recognition, respect and legitimacy on armed groups where DDR is often perceived by groups undergoing disarmament as the equivalent to defeat, loss and failure. In some cases this may include cultural, political and personal emasculation.

In all instances, Helena does point us in a direction that is relevant and warrants further analysis and consideration.

By:   Dean Piedmont.  Director PRSG & the Countering Violent Extremism Initiative

[1] The use of the term ‘classic’ or 1st Generation DDR is used by Adjunct Professor Dean Piedmont in at the Studley Graduate Program of International Affairs at the New School in the ‘DDR in Contemporary Peace Operations’ course. The conceptual framework juxtaposes DDR through 3 successive generations. The first deals with a ‘Statebuiding Era’ for DDR, the second is DDR in an ‘Age of Development’ while the third in ‘Political DDR’ typified by ongoing conflict in asymmetric settings with violent extremist (VE) groups. Currently DDR is in its 3rd Generation, though this is not where Myanmar sits in this construct.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *