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.


Colombia, Peace, Social & Political Absorption Capacity

By:  Lina Castellanos – The New School

Reintegration and Absorption Capacity

Last Sunday, October the 2nd, Colombians were asked to vote Yes or No in a national plebiscite to approve –or not- the Government’s peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). After 52 years of war, the bewildering outcome was No. All of a sudden, the four year negotiations between the Government and the leaders of the FARC in Havana-Cuba, were reduced to No 50,21% (6.431.376 votes) and Yes 49,78% (6.377.482 votes). Even more shocking than the rejection of the peace agreement, was the number of Colombians that didn’t vote (around 62% of Colombians didn’t participate in the plebiscite). The outcome to some was absolutely appalling but at the end demonstrates -within a long list of other conclusions- that Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration -DDR- processes are certainly highly unpredictable and need to constantly evolve. Moreover, it demonstrates that the concept of Absorption Capacity was definitely a serious setback in the recent Colombian events.

Absorption capacity is the ability of a community, economy and/or country to include ex-combatants as active full members of the society. The term can also refer to social and political reintegration opportunities. In the 297 pages of the peace accord document -for example- FARC were given the opportunity to become a political party and were given relatively small punishments for their crimes. Those two elements –again, in conjunction with many others from different natures- are precisely a clear sign of the challenges Reintegration and Absorption Capacity represent. Political reintegration was for sure one of the main issues Colombians who voted were evidently divided. Those who believed this was an historic opportunity to end a long-lasting war voted Yes, and those who didn’t agree with the content of the accord, and specially with the benefits given to the FARC, voted No. In that sense, there is a relevant percentage of Colombian population who may be an obstacle when trying to undertake reintegration initiatives and who would at some extent threaten the DDR process, specially the absorption and reintegration of FARC members.

Armed conflict destroys the social fabric of a country; it is clear that for those who personally suffer the consequences of war forgiving is a major thing. Yet, not everyone who voted No has experienced the conflict and many of the regions directly affected by the conflict voted Yes; this proves the myriad of personal experiences that can highly influence a peace process. In the Colombian case, there was an agreement between the Government and the guerrilla group, however we can’t forget that the basis of reintegration is a result of sustainable, community-driven efforts. Efforts hard to achieve when a peace process is tremendously politicized.

In Haiti, Statebuilding in the Wake of DDR and SSR

I had no way of knowing that my beloved Haiti ushered in the second generation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes worldwide prior to taking Professor Dean Piedmont’s course on this subject. I did however always wonder why MINUSTAH – the UN’s peacekeeping force – has been in Haiti for so long. Upon learning that DDR is in fact a peacebuilding process aimed primarily at reintegrating ex-combatants into civilian society post-war, the presence of MINUSTAH became even more perplexing to me since Haiti was never at war.

Furthermore, while the 2004-2006 period in Haiti’s history was marked by a critical upsurge in violence before and after a U.S. supported coup d’etat, there were also no clear ex-combatant groups to reintegrate back into Haitian society. Therefore, rather than looking to DDR to reinforce a newly independent country’s statehood as the first generation of DDR did after the Cold War, the failure of DDR in Haiti led to this second wave where DDR increasingly focused on the role of development in reducing livelihood concerns that often lead to violence (as an aside, today’s third generation of DDR emphasizes attempts to counter violent extremism [CVE] through political integration).

In addition to DDR, Haiti has also been one of the sites for a related process known as Security Sector Reform (SSR). SSR is more of a statebuilding measure designed to strengthen a country’s ability to create and uphold a climate of peace so that the country’s institutions can actually function. The Haitian National Police (HNP) was the main target for SSR initiatives and was actually making encouraging strides towards its goals in bolstering the civilian police force as recent as November 2009. Of course no one saw the January 2010 quake coming and almost all of the SSR gains being made were completely set back as a result. With the collapse of the national penitentiary, the Supreme Court, and almost every other major government building (the presidential palace included), renewed security concerns emerged in various ways.

Post-quake Haiti has not been wracked with no where near as much violence as that which initially warranted MINUSTAH eleven years ago (though the mission continues to maintain a reduced presence with its mandate having just been renewed at the end of October 2015 for another year). Even SSR, which was not as much of a failure as DDR, has not been a major topic of discussion for the Haitian state since it historically was viewed as an external process rather than one that had national ownership. At the same time, it goes without say that Haiti’s institutions remain underdeveloped and this reality will continually hinder long-term peace and security if it remains unaddressed.

With presidential elections currently underway and a new administration that starts in February 2016, the incoming Haitian president has a critical opportunity to establish a commitment to the country’s institutional building priorities that the Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation has outlined in its post-quake Strategic Plan for National Development. For one, this administration should diligently look to restore the citizenry’s faith in its state actors. The previous administration never executed the local and regional elections that were stalled by the earthquake and therefore ran his presidency by decree once the term of the parliamentarians expired. Since this will be the first time in a while that the state will have a functioning Parliament, actively working with the various branches of government – while also reinforcing the capacity of local and regional stakeholders – is one of many efforts that readily come to mind in terms of finally putting Haiti on a path towards sustainable development, peace and security.

By: Vanessa Leon

Editor: Jerilyn Scutlieri

DDR – “Fit for Purpose?” – Countering Violent Extremism & The Human Security Agenda in Force Operations

The opinions expressed below were first presented by Dr. Desmond Molloy at the Demobilizing and Disengaging Violent Extremists (DDVE): 
Practical Experience from Somalia validation exercise of the UN DDR in an Era of Violent Extremism: Is it Fit for Purpose? On June 4th 2015. The below is based on the 1st presentation to which Dean Piedmont was present, and considers dialogue and reflection between Dean and ‘Des’ prior to posting.

After twenty years as an officer in the Irish Defence Forces, and various UN missions, ‘Des’ remains a DDR practitioner/scholar who has contributed to the evolution and operationalization of innovate approaches to ex-combatants and armed gang member DDR in many recent post-conflict and rule of law strengthening environments. His work in Haiti was instrumental to the genesis of “2nd Generation” DDR approaches. He facilitates at numerous international DDR seminars and publishes on related matters. Des is currently Programme Director with The Nippon Foundation in Myanmar.

While DDR was initially envisaged as an aspect of SSR in post-conflict stabilization, greater emphasis rapidly evolved regarding the necessity to prioritize a people centered approach as the focus moved onto socioeconomic reintegration of participants. Demobilization phases include the removal of the fighter from the armed structure; more importantly the change in mindset that converts a fighter to a civilian.

As practitioners found themselves in a “non-classic”, other than post-conflict, or non-permissive environments they clung to human centered principles as embodied in the Human Security Agenda. This is largely a qualitative overarching philosophy that guides practice. The difficulties of attempting to carry out DDR while maintaining this “people centered” approach during robust military (or Force) operations came to a head in Haiti in 2006 where DDR practitioners assumed a confidential client relationship with gang members and leaders, while the peacekeeping mission wanted information on locations to engage on force operations. In Afghanistan attempts to implement DDR in contributing to SSR during counterinsurgency operations came to a head when human security motivated actors, providing what they considered humanitarian support found themselves targeted with the humanitarian space progressively narrowing in Taliban laden Helmand Province.

Today various attempts at disarmament and disengagement in Somalia are stark examples of conducting DDR in active conflict and force operations, a tendency that is becoming more the ‘norm’ than the ‘anomaly.’ The tensions concerning the centrality of the human security agenda in UN interventions persists and remains increasingly salient in the “3rd Generation” DDR environment. To abandon the Human Security Agenda in the context of DDR in force operations in an era of Violent Extremism (VE) exposes the field of DDR in non-permissive environments to the increased threat of its absorption into the portfolio of for profit operators and military actors for a primarily civilian led initiative. The absence of Reintegration in the proposed nomenclature DDVE (Demobilizing and Disengaging Violent Extremist) makes this apparent.

In an ongoing war, there is little humanitarian space as regards disengagement, particularly that mental transformation from fighter to civilian. Further, can it be expected that a government fighting for survival will not release major human intelligence assets to the oversight of any international organization espousing a human rights approach. This incongruence affects issues central to DDR, namely accountability, transparency, trust and a minimum guarantee of security. So the question, is there scope for compatibility and reconciliation between national security and human security approaches?

Since 2001, the overarching philosophical framework for DDR, guiding every decision; from program design to implementation and dynamic adjustment on a daily basis, has been the Human Security Agenda; from Sierra Leone, Haiti, Somalia, CAR and in Nepal to 2012. The newest incarnation of DDR is comingling with VE, and countering violent extremism (CVE). Current thinking in DDVE is devoid of the Human Security Agenda launched by UNDP in 1994 in favor of perceived national security imperatives. While UNDP is stepping away from DDR as a thematic area as demonstrated in its Strategic Plan for 2104-2017, the UN no longer owns the concept. Human security is beyond the UN, adopted by Civil Society, by the NGO and humanitarian sectors and remains relevant. It is time for the UN reconsideration the rumor of the death of human security or it may find itself struggling some distance behind humanitarian progress. For practitioners in DDR, the human security agenda should remains an overarching philosophical guide, especially in non-permissive environments.

In addressing DDR and CVE greater consideration must be given to the need for it to be addressed from a multidimensional perspective inclusive of Reintegration; a global approach at the UN, regional engagement and at community and national level. Civil society must be facilitated and empowered to address VE in developing normative environments at a local level part and parcel to the New Deal. Efforts must be made to disaggregate the threat of network mobilized VE so that it can be addressed and focused on at local levels. A lighter footprint is required while recognizing the role that Western hubris has played in creating the organizations currently promoting VE. The Institute for Islamic Strategic Affairs (IISA) in London advocates for Islamist Led DDR (IDDR) in places such as Libya. This may be a good place to start.

As regards the way forward, emerging policy must be highly flexible to permit case specific pragmatism in addressing disarmament and disengagement in offensive operations whether in addressing voluntary participation, some type of rule of law approaches such as parole or restorative justice. Regarding the roll of DDR in the aftermath of “successful” offensive operations; generally this is called a post-conflict environment, which is exactly what ‘classic’ DDR was designed to address. Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, at The Brookings Institution and author of the recent UN supported publication on disengaging end demobilizing violent extremists essays, DDR in the Context of Offensive Military Operations, Counterterrorism, CVE and Non-Permissive Environments and DDR – A Bridge Not Too Far: A field Report From Somalia, nails the most important consideration for the UN when contemplating engagement in DDR during Offensive Operations, including in the case of VE;  “The international community needs to judge very carefully at what point it’s engagement in suboptimal processes still has more positive impact and humanitarian conditions and conflict mitigation than negative effect”.

While laying the foundations for our broad policy parameters we must allow for pragmatic context specific responses grounded in the Human Security Agenda. The principles enshrined therein need to be reaffirmed at a policy level as the overarching guiding philosophy in the context of DDR and CVE.