The Negative Consequence of Hyper-Political Integration in Bosnia & Herzegovina

By: Kaitlyn Lynes

Political reintegration is an integral component of a successful disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program. Ex-combatants, associated peoples, and communities must participate in decision and policy-making processes at regional, national, and international levels in order to ensure local ownership. The ideal conclusion of a DDR program is when fair and free democratic elections occur, which should follow the occurrence of a political reintegration process. Ex-combatants often have legitimate grievances, which fuels the wars and conflicts they fight in. Providing political opportunities is often a productive way of compromising with illegally armed groups, ensuring remobilization and the continuation of violence will not occur. Therefore, it is crucial for communities to be involved and supportive so that political reintegration does not appear to be only a buyout or reward for “perceived” war criminals. The transfer of ownership of civic responsibilities to communities and new political parties also serves as a transformative and restorative process for all actors involved. Subsequently, political reintegration has become one of the few durable solution in conflicts where the illegally armed group can not be decisively beaten or allowed to create their own state.

Prior to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina there was no established Bosnian government, as the war caused the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Political reintegration, therefore, faced a particularly unique challenge in Bosnia. Unlike most conflicts, there was no single rebel group looking to be given political opportunities in a previously established governance structure. Instead, the international community had to create a government that provided opportunities to the various groups within Bosnia, including the Muslim Bosniaks, Bosnian Serbs, and Bosnian Croats. This has led to a tripartite Presidency, directly elected, that consists of one Bosniak, one Serb, and one Croat at all times. Representatives can only claim one ethnic identity, and voters can only vote for one ethnic identity. Instead of creating an equal power-sharing government, the system has only served to institutionalize ethnic divisions from the war. Further segregating different ethnicities, politicians at the state level have little power over the entirety of the country. The defined territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina is separated between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska, the self-autonomous district of Brcko, and ten self-governing cantons across the federation, all working at different levels of government. Superseding all of this, the internationally organized governance structure led by the United Nations still oversees much of the Bosnian state. While this highly structured and overlapping system of government was supposed to ensure equal access to political opportunity in the immediate post-war era for all ethnicities in Bosnia, it has instead allowed ethnic tensions and divisions to flourish while avoiding the reform it desperately needs.


Women’s essential contribution to peacebuilding

By: Lina Castellanos

Including women in peace negotiation processes is essential to sustainable DDR

efforts. Throughout history, all sorts of arguments have been made to exclude women’s

participation in peacebuilding: lack of negotiation skills, lack of experience, war being a

men’s field and some others that have proven to be mistaken not only because it is

clear war isn’t exclusively dominated by male combatants but also because women

have experienced war in different roles: as victims, perpetrators and peacebuilders. In

2000, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and

Security acknowledged the importance of including women in peacebuilding. The

Security Council, urged member states to increase the representation of women at all

decision-making levels for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict, and

expressed its willingness to incorporate a gender perspective into peacekeeping

operations and involving women in all peacekeeping and peacebuilding measures. For

the first time, women’s perceptions and contributions were recognized in post-conflict

scenarios. Yet, since the approval of Resolution 1325 it hasn’t always been the case

that women are actively included in peacebuilding efforts. In that sense, women are still

stigmatized and marginalized in their communities in a post conflict environment.

Women tend to be the most affected during conflicts but they are also more likely

to unify and advocate for peace. Besides, they have proven to create non-violent

resistant strategies that enrich the creation of a peace environment. In Colombia, for

example, la Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres –The Women’s Pacifist Route- is a non-violent

feminist movement that has made visible the way war has affected Colombian women.

Since 1996, the movement has claimed for truth and justice and has successfully

transformed the idea of women perceived solely as victims of the conflict into a more

active role of women being socially and politically engaged in peacebuilding. Today

more than 10,000 women in Colombia belong to the Pacifist Route and without doubt

one of their greatest achievements has been sensitizing society on realities that were

commonly ignored. These women mobilize pacifically and originally; they usually want

to ridicule war by using tactics such as dressing in vivid colors -to challenge the vision of

war as a black and white subject-, they make soap bubbles to imitate war bombs and

they have confronted illegal armed groups with pacific chants when they have been

stopped before starting their protests in areas hard hit by the conflict.

A clear understanding and promotion of women’s rights accompanied by

initiatives to vindicate them is key to conflict and post-conflicts situations. Without those

elements it is difficult to create sustainable peace.

The Need for Psycho-Social Approaches

By: Sam J.Trudeau

The idea that DDR approaches to reinsertion and reintegration are increasingly focusing on  security and development issues and therefore devoting less attention to psycho-social aspects has been an issue of concern for some. While security, sustainable development, reconstruction efforts and programs to bolster employment are obviously crucial to reinsertion and reintegration efforts, the success of these initiatives is also closely tied to the relationships between participants and the communities they are returning to, as well as the social environment within those communities. From the perspective of ex-combatants participating in DDR, a psycho-social approach to reintegration can help make the transition from combat and military life easier. It can take on many forms, but at its core recognizes the particular psychological challenges such a transition can present for participants. These challenges, although related to reconstruction and economic concerns, cannot solely be addressed by development. In Afghanistan, such an example can be found in programs that compensated former combatants to participate in the de-mining initiatives.  After decades of foreign intervention and civil war notoriously made Afghanistan the world’s most mined country, the value of a program to deactivate and destroy mines seemed self-evident. However the use of former combatants in the process has had at lest three relatively important psycho-social benefits. First, by utilizing former fighter in a noncombat role while leaving them to conduct their work under the familiar command and control structure of their former groups is believed to have facilitated their transition back to civilian life. Second, the important nature of the de-mining process for Afghanistan gave former combatants a meaningful way to contribute to the security, development and reconstruction of the country, withdraw them from the security equation while also allowing them to earn a living.Third, the considerable security threat posed by landmines in Afghan society saw communities greet the initiative with enthusiasm, and also often improved societal attitudes towards ex-combatants. Former fighters were often viewed with mistrust or contempt within the communities they were slated to be reintegrated into. However by holding consultations with local communities on how and where to undertake their de-mining efforts, ex-combatants are believed to have created a measure of goodwill within society. Indeed, it seems that an important aspect of psycho-social approaches is carefully balancing the needs of former combatants without destabilizing those of local communities. This is in turn engenders communal support and acceptance of former fighters. Approaches that consider psycho-social components when devising reintegration schemes can also be key to engaging and assisting vulnerable groups in DDR processes, such as the spouses of former combatants, former child soldiers and the disabled. Including these vulnerable groups into reintegration processes helps demonstrate good faith to communities but also has important impacts on security and preventing relapses in conflict. For instance child soldiers, many of whom have been forced away from their families and have experienced serious forms of trauma, present a considerable risk to rejoin militias if they are not provided treatment and support to facilitate their recovery. In these cases, psychological treatment and support are closely tied to former child soldiers successful social and economic reintegration.

Implementing Community-Based Security in Bosnia and Herzegovina

By: Kaitlyn Lynes

Inherent in the second generation of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programming is the focus on development objectives and caseloads beyond the scope of ex-combatants. All aspects of society negatively affected by conflict, including women, children, the elderly, and disabled ex-combatants, must be considered to engender sustainable reintegration and peace. The ultimate goal of successful reintegration is the return of ex-combatants to a community, whether the community they originated from or a new one. However, before a return can be achieved, prior conditions must exist. At a minimum, there must be an adequate absorption capacity for ex-combatants. This means there are economic opportunities for both people living in the community and the arriving ex-combatants. An additional complication often includes the return of internally displaced peoples and refugees, all of whom expect a job when they return. Beyond socio-economic reintegration, critical psychosocial issues must be addressed. Intensive community sensitization is the process of dealing with the traumas of war, often in the form of transitional justice and reconciliation mechanisms.  At times ex-combatants are reintegrated into communities which they attacked during the conflict. In essence, victims are expected to live in the same small towns and villages as their former aggressors, causing an extremely fragile security situation that can be improved with targeted psychosocial reintegration approaches. Most importantly, there must be strong local ownership of reintegration processes, ensuring a credible, context-appropriate program designed and implemented by those directly affected.

Community-based security is most effective in weak or failed states, yet has not been implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the end of the war with Serbia following the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in December 1995, the country has been primarily governed by several international organizations. Many post-conflict initiatives—meant to solve immediate security issues at the local level—are still implemented today. The most well-known example is the two-in-one schools, school buildings across the country that have separate classrooms, administrations, offices, and recess hours based on ethnicity. Students and teachers of different ethnic identities never cross paths, even while occupying the same building at the same time. Recent protests against this system by students highlights the urgent need for community ownership over security considerations. The Bosnian government continues to struggle with a lack of authority and reach, as well as widespread corruption, both strong indicators that a bottom-up approach linking security and community development would positively benefit Bosnia and Herzegovina. Community-based security across the country will allow for efficient and effective governance structures to take hold and provide better mechanisms for finally dealing with psychosocial grievances experienced during the war.

Family, Reintegration & DDR:


– by Ardra Manasi:  The New School

The measurement of DDR outcomes and the evaluation of its success often poses serious challenges. The complexity of the third generation DDR approaches, typified by measures in countering violent extremism (CVE), lies in its shift of engagement from state centric actors to non-state actors, that include often violent extremist (VE) groups like Taliban as in the context of Afghanistan. How does one measure the success of DDR in such a setting? The conventional measurement parameters like the number of weapons collected, the funds utilized and the number of ex-combatants demobilized might present a useful scenario. But can a non-conventional measurement parameter like monitoring the number of days that the individual militant spent with his/her family after demobilization be a useful measure to guide DDR practitioners? How far can family be helpful in understanding an individual’s integration into the community at large?

The Integrated IDDR Standards, the key operational guidelines for implementing DDR on the ground does not pay much attention to the role of family in its reintegration efforts. The disarmament and demobilization phase is followed by ex-combatants eventually returning to their homes, often equipped with socio-economic reinsertion packages. But it is useful to think about of how ‘home’/ ‘family’ becomes a site of both confrontation and adaptation. Is the combatant’s family receptive and welcoming? Or are they hostile and condescending? This gets even more worse for women ex-combatants returning home as they are perceived to have defied their gender roles by taking up arms (The case of women ex-combatants in Sri Lanka’s LTTE illustrate this).

Can an ex- combatant’s family play a role in ensuring that he doesn’t take up arms again? Conversely, what role may a family play in willfully getting an ex-combatnat to become a recidivist?  The family members can turn out to be either positive or negative influencers i.e they can either play a role in “radicalization” of fighters or can play a reformatory role. The latter revealing fact can be leveraged for reintegration efforts, especially for engaging with VE groups. For instance, the family members of such groups can receive special training in terms of taking care of the psychological needs of these ex-combatants and also for aiding in their de-radicalization efforts, supported by the UN or other community organizations. Drawing upon the case of Iraq, Doug Stone (2015), the brain behind the ‘Rome Memorandum’ (a compendium of best practices for rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders) argues that for addressing radicalization issues among the violent extremists, the receiving community should be involved along with the militants, either one-on-one or in groups.

Ex-combatants often end up caught between their old extremist affiliations and the very society or community they sought to represent in their struggle. Usually, to the ex-combatant, the former extremist linkages have become unattractive and while the society they seek to integrate into has little need for them. Being caught in such a bind, this results in maladjustment and worse, an incentive to relapse into old ways of violence, criminal behavior, or extremism. This often results from a feeling of being unwanted in their old homes and an ongoing sense of drift. This is particularly true of non-ideological foot soldiers who, unlike ideological leaders, were conscripted into violent struggles to provide “muscle”.  It is here that the families become very important in terms of actively participating in the ex-combatant’s ‘normalization’ process.

Instead of a homogenous rehabilitation package devised for treating individual combatants as an undifferentiated mass, a more effective approach is one that is tiered in how it is administered, is continuously engaged over time, and multi-pronged as far as interventions are concerned.  To this end, this could include bringing families of those affected into community events together, to help them understand the pitfalls and potentialities ahead for themselves and the ex-combatants. This could also involve sensitizing the wives of men who have returned and helping them to cope with the returnee’s stress which may result in psycho-sexual anxieties as well.  On an economic front, if packages for families are tied to the ex-fighters’ continued cooperation and non-violence, there is a collective pressure at work that forces the fighter to aid his family on one end, while simultaneously, it allows the family to see the fighter as one among them.  Furthermore, the family members can be trusted sources for providing reliable information about the ex-combatants and their interactions once they are back home in terms of psychological profiles by a non-professional third party.

It is equally important to design DDR policies which address the psycho-social needs of such families who often face social stigma and alienation from the rest of the community. Developing policy guidelines in the IDDRS for family based integration as a component of ‘Reintegration’ can be a right step in this direction.


Moving beyond Peace keeping – Second Generation DDR and the case of Haiti

By Senani Dehigolla of The New School

“UN peacekeeping operations are now increasingly complex and multi-dimensional, going beyond monitoring a ceasefire to actually bringing failed States back to life, often after decades of conflict. The blue helmets and their civilian colleagues work together to organize elections, enact police and judicial reform, promote and protect human rights, conduct mine-clearance, advance gender equality, achieve the voluntary disarmament of former combatants, and support the return of refugees and displaced people to their homes.” ~Kofi Annan

Increased number of conflicts around the world while making the world more insecure demands drastic and effective methods in countering insurgency and to transform nations into peaceful and liveable environments. Authoritarian regimes, religious extremism, barbaric violence, secular nationalism, refugee crisis etc. around the world emphasises the increasingly complex reality of DDR operations that requires dynamic models to operate. It is noteworthy that DDR practises around the world has progressed over last few decades encompassing many political, military, security, humanitarian and socio economic dimensions depending on the diverse nature of conflicts.

Second generation DDR in particular, could be tremendously valuable in moving beyond the military structures towards the entity of community which is severely hindered by armed violence. It is quite obvious that the community play a significant role in successful DDR as it becomes substantial ground for further violence or lasting peace. Therefore, moving beyond traditional DDR is crucial to successful Disarmament and Reintegration given the fragile post conflict contexts where everything that is humane is lost. Many states around the world which were ultimately reduced to ‘failed states’ through conflicts inherits weak public institutions particularly those pertaining to law and justice, constant struggle for power ,illicit drugs, HIV/ AIDS , economic insecurity, lack of political will and pervasive poverty making positive change through DDR an extremely  challenging task. Thus, the evolution of DDR has progressed from a security tool towards a peace building tool in achieving development and improving livelihoods of the affected which in return intensifies its scope and responsibility.

With many dedicated and selfless contributions made every day to make DDR achieve its goals, it is also prone to heavy criticism ranging from failed DDR to outrageous behaviour of ‘blue helmets’. Considering the much debated case of Haiti, it is clear that unique methods need to be implemented to address the changing dynamics of conflicts arising from different contexts. Detached relations of New York and Geneva from the actual intensity of ground realities, financial issues, and poor identification of issues on the ground are some of the negative aspects pertaining to the case of Haiti. MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) was widely criticised for its limited response to the root causes of the conflict where social and political aspects were largely ignored. Since 1991 a number of UN missions have intervened in Haiti and by 2004 the situation was much worse. However, with constant harassments from natural disasters Haiti was in the brink of destruction and admirably the UN support was still available to them. Thus, UNDP’s more innovative approach to DDR in restoring daily life help build the social fabric of these communities with individuals gaining employment, self-respect and creating space for change. Furthermore, to increase its positive impact, DDR programs require better training for the blue helmets, inter cultural dialogue and dedicating longer period of time in conflict affected areas. Long term stabilization also depends on optimistic government participation and increased national capacity to manage weapons and to curb violence.

Children in DDR: Lessons from Sierra Leone

By Nick Palombo

Recruiting children into governmental armed forces, or other armed groups, is illegal under international law and a violation of human rights. Seen in many conflicts, such as in Uganda, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Namibia, and many others, child combatants make up a significant portion of many armed groups. Because of this it is critical that security approaches are developed, adopted, and incorporated into DDR programs that pertain to disengaging minors from militant groups in conflict settings. Children that are soldiers are first and foremost children. This fact must be the basis for all child-soldier reintegration in DDR programs.

The Cape Town Principles and Best Practices (1997) define a child-soldier as:

“Any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to cooks, porters, messengers and anyone accompanying such groups, other than family members. The definition includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and for forced marriage. It does not, therefore, only refer to a child who is carrying or has carried arms.”

Incorporating child soldiers in DDR programs require a holistic and child-centered approach, founded on protecting children and honoring their rights. Children are significant to reintegration as they may re-take up arms, especially if they are returning to a situation of poverty, rejection, and socio-economic marginalization. Child-soldiers can be both combatants and non-combatants, as well as both boys and girls ranging from infants to 18. It is important that DDR procedures and peace agreements reflect their needs. This ensures that programming is tailored to suit their successful and permanent reintegrating into society. Measures should be adopted and directed at the individual child, their families, and the greater community.

The rights of children, codified in numerous international documents such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, provide a general direction for practitioners in protecting children in contexts of war. DDR for children should be driven by international legal standards, and accordingly, planned and operated by organizations with child protection central to their mandates.  All programming aimed at children should have the “best interest of the child” in mind. This will require a targeted approach that is specific to each child’s needs, which is counter-intuitive to the traditional ‘cookie-cutter’ approach that regular DDR programs usually entail. Despite many similarities, the experiences of children in conflict will always be vastly different. Therefore, the child reintegration assistance must be customized to help each child in their unique situation.

DDR programs targeting minors must be age appropriate, time-sensitive, and should include children who participated in war, as well as children who supported it, and were affected by it. According to the IDDRS, ‘child-centred reintegration is multi-layered and focuses on family reunification; mobilizing and enabling care systems in the community; medical screening and health care, including reproductive health services; schooling and/or vocational training; psychosocial support; and social, cultural and economic support’.[1] Incorporating this range of operations in DDR programs can help practitioners appropriately include child-combatants, while keeping in mind the exceptional psycho-social necessities for children in warfare. Implementing a child-centered and rights based approach is both resource-intensive and time-sensitive. Also, children do not reintegrate in isolation. Outside factors can heavily affect the process and potential success of this DDR type. Therefore a child-centered approach that focuses on strengthening the family and the community will allow for the best and most sustainable protection of a child’s welfare.

A prominent example of child soldier reintegration took place after the invasion of Sierra Leone by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). This group became known for its extensive use of child soldiers. Through the abduction of children during village raids, the RUF forced children to commit atrocities against their own families or others to instil in them the sense that they could never return back to their village. In the time between 1991 and 2001, 10 000 children were forced to fight in Sierra Leonean armed forces (Odeh and Sullivan 2004). Children became rejected from the community, following their infliction of violence by the command of their militant groups.

The Child-Soldier DDR program in Sierra Leone focused heavily on reuniting children with family and the community, as opposed to solely the individual development of the child itself. The reason for this was because after committing such grave atrocities, child soldiers at risk of being rejected by the community. In Sierra Leonne, because children were so central to the conflict, the standard of dealing with child soldiers was at the forefront of peace operations. Laid out in a comprehensive peace agreement, the Lomé Peace Accord specified that children combatants would be given particular attention and handled differently than adults in DDR settings. One example of this difference was in allotment of cash stipends and skills training. Adult combatants were given financial packages for reintegration and incentive, as opposed to children, who were not given these in fear that holding monetary value would leave them vulnerable to their commanders. Instead, children were assisted with unifying with their families, and they were given a choice between education and skills training. In spite of this, difficulty arose when some children requested to be reintegrated as adults, while others, requesting the same, only wanted to participate to receive cash incentive.

Selection and eligibility for child-soldier DDR was a point of contention in Sierra Leone’s program. Determining the age of a child, which is conducive to determining their needs, was made very difficult for a variety of different reasons (aside from the one mentioned previously). Some children were left out of the program because they did not possess arms. Young girls experienced the greatest marginalization in this respect, as they often do in most child-soldier reintegration programs. For an abundance of reasons, such as inability to access programming, feelings of shame, ‘bush-husband’ influence, and gender bias in programming, many girls and young women were overlooked in the process. Out of the 6845 children reintegrated by 2004, 92 percent were boys and only 8 percent girls (UNICEF 2004).  A large part of this exclusion was that girls did not have weapons and therefore were turned away. An important lesson, which can be found in the IDDRS, is that child-soldier DDR programs should have alternate means for child soldiers, in particular girls, to access reintegration services that are not dependent on weapon ownership or the willingness of commanders.

Many lessons like this one can be drawn from Sierra Leonne to be applied to future projects of child-soldier disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. One is that interventions must be made on a basis that is appropriate and specific to the context that a child is engulfed. In Sierra Leone, this was through ‘community sensitization, formal disarmament and demobilization, a period of transition, family tracing and unification, mediation, traditional healing ceremonies, school and skills training, and encouragement and facilitation’ (Williamson, 192). Undoubtedly, returning children to their families was the most important aspect of child reintegration. Families played a prominent role in the sustainability of child-soldier reintegration, therefore building partnerships with these groups and the community was integral to the sustainability of disarmament.

Another lesson from Sierra Leone is that peace agreements must reflect the fact that children can be both combatants and non-combatants, and accordingly there is a need to incorporate both in the reintegration process.  Special attention to procedures and considerations regarding children must be incorporated into not only peace agreements, but also the training of peacekeepers and military observers. Additionally, young women and girls are at most risk of exclusion, therefore special attention should be given to ensure their inclusion when the process is planned and implemented.  Furthermore, even more attention, as well as humanitarian assistance, is due to young adults (both male and female) who were abducted or otherwise forced as children to become part of a militant group and as a result have been permanently socialized to war.

Understanding the needs of child-soldiers is best understood through a contextual analysis. This involves looking at the political, social, economic and cultural origins of a conflict, as well as the ideologies and structures of armed groups, recruitment targets, the living conditions of children in these groups, and the community’s feelings about the impact of the conflict on the needs of children, to best understand the caseload. DDR for children is separate and different from DDR for adults. Programming should be tailored to the needs of boys, girls, young men, and young women, aside from the normal case-load of former combatants. Since children and young people are disproportionately affected by war and conflict, their special needs must be reflected in their reintegration programs.

[1] IDDRS Chapter 5. Pg.30

Technology and Post-conflict Reconstruction: Lessons for DDR

In 2014, the World Bank released an interesting study titled ‘The role of information and communication technologies in post-conflict reconstruction.’ The report reflected the untapped potential of technology in addressing post-war challenges. In general, conflicts mark the disruption of a State’s information and communication channels. From a DDR standpoint, the restoration of these networks might not be an immediate priority but evidence shows that it can reap its own benefits, especially in terms of confidence building measures among the affected community.

Some supranational initiatives, such as The Expert panel on Innovation in UN Peacekeeping (2014), commissioned by DPKO[1] do already acknowledge the role of technology in making peacekeeping a more innovative enterprise. The examples that the Expert Panel cited include:

  1. PMP[2] which was piloted by MINUSCA[3] and allowed 80 users to connect to a single point, internal web-based radio stations developed by UNMIK[4] and MINUSMA[5] to broadcast news alerts accessible anywhere on the intranet grid.
  2. ASIFU[6] developed by MINUSMA to provide the mission’s force commander with timely and integrated intelligence analysis.

Such technological interventions can be of interest to DDR as well. In places such as Sudan, which houses a DPKO Peacekeeping Mission that worked in tandem with UNDP on DDR, the sharing of technological inputs to achieve better connectivity and coordination can be a great blessing.

However, treating technologies as an end goal in itself can be counterproductive.  Instead, depending on the end user, the technological formulations ought to be customized. For instance, DDR practitioners can leverage off the fact that cell phone penetration among the population is generally high. The focus can thus be on developing training modules on skills training initiatives for ex-combatants which rely on SMS/MMS based technologies.

The idea is to actualize their hopes of access to another world, one far removed from conflict and violence. On the other side, where issues like resource provision and efficient administration become important concerns, technologies like biometric identification for ex-combatants (already used in places like Afghanistan) can be examples of useful interventions. Additionally, local peace builders can use cell phones and social media to build trust between hostile groups; crucial to any successful community reintegration effort. The example of a such an initiative includes ‘Peace Factory’, which shares messages of friendship on Facebook, allowing for people to people contact to foster amicability between warring population groups like the Israelis and Palestinians.

Reliable information is crucial for making informed policy decisions and for availing donor support and international help. Civil society organizations can play a greater role here by disseminating information through local communication networks like the public radio. In this light, The World Bank Study (2014) points towards the need to have Early Warning Systems (EWS) and technology-enabled intelligence gathering mechanisms to identify conflict hotspots well in advance.  In terms of collaboration, the internet offers new possibilities for UN DDR practitioners, donors, community organizations and national actors to come together. For instance, UNDP created an online platform called ‘Mahallae’ in post-conflict Cyprus for online collaboration among the community members to discuss matters related to peacebuilding.

In short, post-conflict societies have different histories and different socio-economic trajectories. Still, as underscored by the World Bank study (2014), they tend to share the common feature of social cohesion disrupted by violence. As Winston Churchill famously said, “jaw jaw is better than war war”, i.e., talking, communicating and negotiating is better than violence that seeks any form of redressal. But communication needn’t happen at that upper echelons alone.  In fact, in post-conflict situations, greater knowledge of each other is crucial to allow for intangibles like empathy to burble up to the fore. For all this, we need to provide for a channel of communication which can be addressed by various technological solutions discussed here. Nevertheless, it is important to not forget that one has to be cautious about the unequal access to technology and digital divide, especially in the post conflict setting. Despite such nuances and potential complications, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ought to be placed as one among the priorities for the long term national reconstruction and socio-economic development, both of which are essential ingredients to the peace-building process.

– by Ardra Manasi

[1] Department of Peacekeeping Operations

[2] Point-to-Multipoint

[3] United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic

[4] United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo

[5] United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali

[6] All Sources Information Fusion Unit

Enhancing our Understanding of the Social Reintegration of Ex-Combatants ~ The case of Aceh

Since the First Generation DDR programs were launched, there has been a major concern on how to socially reintegrate ex-combatants into the community. The social reintegration process as understood within DDR has focused on ex-combatants and the importance of transforming their identity from combatant to civilian. To avoid the return to war and reduce the threat they pose to domestic peace and social cohesion, DDR programs have emphasized the importance of providing them with jobs and economic assistance. Measurement are first and foremost linked to the element of economic reintegration.

Gradually, the importance of including community members into the social reintegration process has also been highlighted. The reason is discussed in regard to the broken relationship between ex-combatants and community members, which is argued to create a potential stigmatization of ex-combatants. More specifically, previous research has looked upon the issues of acceptance, trust and forgiveness by community members towards ex-combatants. When discussing these aspects a polarizing rhetoric has often been used, where ex-combatants are seen as perpetrators and community members as victims. This understanding of social reintegration is closely connected to the field of transitional justice, where different kinds of healing mechanisms, such as truth and reconciliation commissions, are said to promote the success of social reintegration.

While it is clear that social reintegration is about the relationship between ex-combatants and community members, the ways of measuring this relationship have been inadequate. One reason is the lack of conceptual clarity, which, in turn, has to do with the tendency of lumping a diverse set of community members under a single voice and opinion. Moreover, the discussion of community has focused primarily on the individual level and the relationship between ex-combatants and their family, friends and neighbors. As a result, there is little discussion about how the relationship between ex-combatants and community members materializes at the community level, despite the fact that the Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS) recognizes that social reintegration of ex-combatants occurs at the community level.

In an attempt to develop our understanding of the community, and consequently bring more clarity to the concept of social reintegration, a field study in Aceh was conducted. The field study was based on a the idea of social citizenship – that all citizens have certain social rights, such as the right to education, work and health care. More specifically, it was argued that the social reintegration of ex-combatants should be defined in terms of ex-combatants and community members having equal access to different social sectors within community.

To measure this, community members in four different sectors (the job sector, health care sector, religious sector and general community sector) in two antipodal type areas were interviewed. One area where the social reintegration of ex-combatants was considered to be successful, according to the theoretical argument that reintegration is less problematic where ex-combatants receive support from community, and another area where the opposite situation was said to prevail.

The role of power
The findings showed that ex-combatants and community members had different access to the social sectors under consideration. What became clear was that this is strongly related to a power dimension

When looking at the social reintegration process in Aceh, one could see that the relationship between ex-combatants and community members varied due to how much power the ex-combatants had within the different sectors and whether community members’ attitudes towards ex-combatants were negative or positive. More specifically, community members talked about ”high” and ”low” level ex-combatants as well as ”good” and ”bad” ones.

In the area where reintegration was considered successful, ex-combatants were, on the one hand, referred to as powerful. On the other hand, attitudes towards them where mixed. While interviewees from the job sector explained how difficult it was to run their own businesses because of threats they faced by the ex-combatants, and sometimes even killings, interviewees in the religious sector referred to the ex-combatants as highly educated and respected. In the health sector, it turned out that ex-combatants had tried to use their power to get special health care treatment earlier on in the post-war period, but that they did not have any special power anymore. As a result, attitudes had become more positive towards the ex-combatants. In contrast, in the area where social reintegration was considered unsuccessful, the power of ex-combatants was weak. Often they were referred to as uneducated, poor and followers, and some interviewees even felt sorry for the ex-combatants because of the hard life they were living.

This shows that within the area where social reintegration was considered as successful, there where tendencies of ex-combatants excluding community members from some of the social sectors investigated. However, within the area where social reintegration was considered as unsuccessful, there where no signs of community members excluding ex-combatants. Nevertheless, one explanation to this can be related to the difficulties of finding an area clearly characterizing an unsuccessful reintegration, since the conflict in Aceh did not use atrocities against civilians as a war strategy to the same extent of many other civil wars.

Based on the findings, the following recommendations aims to provide a better discussion on how the Second Generation DDR programs should define and measure the concept of social reintegration.

  1. DDR research and practice seem mostly to have talked about social reintegration in relation to post-war situations where community members’ attitudes towards ex-combatants are likely to be negative. In turn, this may increase the likelihood of exclusionary behavior by the former towards the latter. However, little attention has been paid to the potential of ex-combatants acting exclusionary towards community members, which might be the larger issue in cases where the power of ex-combatants is strong. Important, therefore, is to identify whether ex-combatants are most likely to exclude community members or the opposite way around in each post-conflict context as well as to discuss how DDR programs can help to promote an equal power balance between ex-combatants and community members. For example, how do DDR programs focus on economic reintegration and affect the relationship between ex-combatants and community members in terms of power?
  2. The result shows that to consider community only in terms of family, friends and neighbors cannot fully measure the social reintegration process at the community level. Therefore, DDR programs must create clear indicators for social reintegration at the individual, community and national level in order to capture different problems within the social reintegration process. At the community level, this would, among other, imply investigating which sectors in each specific post-conflict context it is that ex-combatants might have greater interest in increasing their participation. Thus, which sectors within the community can result in greater material or non-material benefits for ex-combatants?
  3. A better understanding of the social reintegration process at the individual, community and national level is necessary in order to capture different aspects of failure and success within the social reintegration process. That would also enable DDR programs to better identify what role they can and should play in the social reintegration process.

A Sociological Interpretation of DDR 

The sociological process of cutting ties to militant groups requires a significant rearrangement of an individual’s social structures. Considering the function of symbolic and social ties can help practitioners gauge the social factors that lead to the successful reintegration of ex-combatant. Sociology overall can provide a valuable interpretation of DDR, and can help practitioners understand the sociological processes underlying the success of DDR programming.

From a sociological perspective, DDR is the re-socialization of ex-combatants into society. Through a process of social and symbolic engagement, ex-combatants are subjected to more stable and productive social forces and structures. Considering the sum of practices, symbols, norms, ideologies, and material objects present in ex-combatants’ everyday lives, can help practitioners unpack the complex sociological processes entrenching DDR programming.

DDR programs are a string of symbolic interactions and social constructions. Disarmament and demobilization happens through micro-level social interactions. In this, combatants perform an action to the community signifying a change in his/her behavior and status in society. From society’s perspective, this process is an initiation right, signifying the ex-combatant’s loyalty to his/her new social group. From the perspective of society, the ex-combatant is making him/her self socially accountable to the community, whereas from the perspective of the ex-combatant, he/she is symbolically beginning to socially-construct a new identity in society.

Reintegration is a continuous socializing practice, more so than a symbolic ritual. In the long-standing endeavor, ex-combatants subject themselves to a different set of social norms and social values in daily engagement. Not only do they change their identity from combatants to civilians, but also reduce or eliminate their contact with or reliance on their previous military networks. This often includes relatives and essential support systems, which makes it difficult for ex-combatants to maintain a degree of seperation.

Similarly to communities, militias are social groups consisting of support networks, norms, a common identity and boundaries of separation. They offer a sense of belonging, and in turn demand a degree of conformity to function. In a sense, militias have push and pull factors, which DDR programs can benefit from understanding. Eliminating a social identity linked with militant groups requires diminishing ties and support systems connecting them to ex-combatants. This is possible only if DDR programs can fill substantial voids left from previous social support systems.

Successful reintegration requires embedding productive abstractions into the social institutions within a given society. On an individual level, it requires newer and stricter forms of cooperation and an increased capacity to create a complex social life by submitting to a generally accepted degree of conformity and set of moral judgments. On a societal level, it requires the infrastructure to socialize ex-combatants. The greatest method of socialization is in the form of educational achievement. While current forms of short-term vocational training in the past has been successful in certain outlets, longer-term infrastructure for educational attainment can have inter-generational effects and provide lasting outlets for continual community engagement.

Self-sustaining education infrastructure is an important center for re-socialization, thus more research should be conducted to explore the practical application of this endeavor. Furthermore, providing long-term education can face many different operational impediments, for example educating participants in remote rural areas. Thus, more research should be done in areas developing strategic solutions to these problems. The nexus between information and communication technologies (ICT) and education in DDR is also another area that is in need of more research.

Given the simultaneous social processes taking place throughout the DDR trajectory, it is imperative that practitioners both consider and address the sociological dimensions of ex-combatants in their community reintegration. Sociological approaches can help professionals account for both individuals and communities in DDR programming. By viewing reintegration as a process of social disengagement and engagement, re-socialization, and the (re-) consolidation of social values and norms, practitioners can better understand the social dimensions of reintegration in DDR.

By Nick Palombo