Disbanding Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) Program in Afghanistan: Flexibility of Peace Operations through Conflict Sensitive Designs.


The assumption that all peace interventions will in fact contribute to achieving peace is certainly obsolete and inaccurate. Peace operations have unintended consequences that might be harmful to the context in which they are taking place. As a result, a fundamental characteristic of peace mandates, should be continuous conflict assessments, as well as monitoring and evaluation of the mission performance.

Such characteristics implies that donors, implementing agencies and country-level partners should understand any peacekeeping operation as essentially flexible. This flexibility, in addition, does translate into the possible reconfiguration originating theories of change, as well as of goals, objectives, benchmarks and indicators. This process, might even result in the transformation of the defining goals of a mission, as some cases of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) shows.

DDR proves no different when it comes to the need to be a flexible mandate and intervention, particularly if one of the guiding principles is “Do No Harm”. This means that it has the capacity to rephrase its most essential and defining components, such as disarmament and reintegration, and replace them by context adequate initiatives and programs, or even accept a different implementing architecture. This is the case of DDR in Afghanistan.

When in 2003, a DDR mandate, the Afghan New Beginning Program (ANBP), was established by mandate of the United Nations Security Council in coordination with Afghanistan’s transitional government, the usual objective of disarmament proved to be partially effective.

As the country was still experiencing overall insecurity, and the war economy was effectively providing livelihoods, the measure to disarm seemed limited to attend illegal armed groups emerging all over the country. Giving up the arms for the case of illegal armed also proved difficult as the trust towards the “disarming” authority, the government, was still not consolidated. The measure posted the challenge of extending the mission until reconciliation and trust was achieved, or choosing to transform the fundamental concept of disarming into one of disbanding and weapons management. This resulted in the creation of the Disbanding Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) program which followed the original DDR program in 2004.

The DIAG focused on weapons management through the creation of data bases that could register and track small arms and light weapons (SALW) and positioned itself as a political guidance process as it tested a context-responsive and conflict sensitive program that was successful in such terms.

In the same manner, DDR in Afghanistan was transformed by the DIAG in its reintegration component in terms of responsibility to execute. As part of the follo-up to ANBP DDR, the ‘Disbanding’ a new architecture for implementation and funding was suggested to decentralize the reintegration component in order to prevent the concentration of resources among one particular group or region,

These to aspects illustrate the importance of thinking about DDR with updated approaches and Theories of Change, flexibility and conflict sensitivity. If transitioning is a big achievement within peace consolidation, thus the importance of transitioning from DDR mandates to other security-governance options and modalities may enhance DDR and the entire reintegration process.  

SSR, Statebuilding and Why the Two Go Together in Haiti

Statebuilding is an endogenous political process where a nation-state looks to strengthen its capacity to provide security and justice, to improve its management of political affairs, and to better promote social and economic development. To do this, a state needs to focus on developing the state institutions necessary for it to effectively govern and protect its territorial boundaries.

At its core, statebuilding is also about the relationship that a state has with its society. A state has to demonstrate its political and public authority, by way of its institutional and organizational capacity, in order to maintain its legitimacy within its own society as well as among international stakeholders. The state-societal relationship is characterized by:

  • How power is distributed between the rich and the poor as well as the political processes that connects society and state;
  • the ability and response rate of the state in being able to fulfill its main responsibilities and to deliver services to its people; and
  • overall societal expectations and perceptions of what the state should be doing, how it should engage with society and whether society can express its demands and actually be heard (OECD 2011).

The goal of statebuilding therefore is to translate these three components into policy action. Given that “statebuilding is not a linear process, [and] securing physical control over a territory [is] necessary to create the conditions for building state capacity to deliver public goods, and accountability and responsiveness to a broader range of citizens,” SSR is fundamentally a statebuilding process (OECD 2011). SSR, as it has been conducted to date, has overemphasized the technical aspect of developing or bolstering security sector organizations  “rather than on the politics of creating states” (Jackson 2001). The result that this has produced are entities resembling states but absent of the legitimacy and authority to function as a state or to even be respected as such by the majority of their populations.

Another major challenge of recent SSR mandates is that these endeavors have been externally led rather than championed an “innately political process that should be conceptualized as an outgrowth of the wider political transition” (Sedra 2010). This troublesome reality has thereby contributed to observed failures of SSR attempts in places like Somalia, Iraq, Timor-Leste and Sierre Leone among others (Jackson 2011). In order for a country like Haiti to uphold the rule of law, ensure a balance of power between various societal stakeholders (so as to curtain their ability to undermine the state), protect the rights of its citizens, to foster economic development and to raise revenue in order to better deliver public services, Haiti has to be at the forefront of its own SSR processes while maintaining short-term international support.

In order to reinforce Haiti’s statehood by way of an improved security sector, the Haitian National Police (HNP) should be decentralized into departmental units. There is no country that readily comes to mind where a police force is tasked with securing an entire nation as opposed to securing several distinct cities and/or states within that nation. Haiti also needs to utilize SSR as a tool by which to better engage civil society actors so that there is a framework for sustained public participation within the security sector. Opportunities for important representative groups and the public at large to dialogue regularly in a safe and open environment can facilitate the emergence of community-led solutions to violence prevention and reduction as opposed to the fear-based and heavy handed approach that the HNP often resorts to in complex situations.

Ultimately, the Haitian government has to look at SSR as one of many necessary policy tools that will enable it to take a comprehensive approach in tackling the socioeconomic and wellbeing concerns of its people. The perpetual and unacceptable abject poverty that Haiti continues to struggle with is by far the country’s biggest security threat. To move from persistent crisis to a stable path of sustained development, social and economic security has to be approach in tandem.

Exploring the DDR and SSR Nexus in State Building

In order to promote post-conflict peace through disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) in war afflicted countries, there has to be security. Primarily, affected countries have to guarantee minimum assurances of security in order for a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the very premise of which DDR efforts are built off of, to be upheld – let alone enforced. Understanding the role of Security Sector Reform (SSR) in post-conflict settings therefore becomes just as important as the implementation of DDR itself, especially given the role of divergent political interests, institutional deficiencies and the resulting lawlessness that provokes insecurity in the first place. DDR and SSR are inherently political activities that greatly impact a nation’s sovereignty as well as its capacity not only in executing these approaches but to ultimately lead its people through improved governance. For this reason, a substantive understanding and evaluation of what is often termed ‘the DDR and SSR nexus’ is critical to not only guiding a country’s post-conflict recovery process but to also promoting its long-term national development.

To be clear, both DDR and SSR are necessary to obtaining lasting peace as a country looks to overcome its war induced atrocities and move towards its long-term national development. At the same time, the conceptual linkage between DDR and SSR has been more readily observed than the implementation of an actual coordinated approach to the two processes have been in practice DDR is committed to advancing peace and security in post-conflict environments through recovery initiatives such as addressing the individual wellbeing of ex-combatants and affected communities in a manner that arguably fosters a sense of nation building among a war-affected populace. SSR on the other hand is more so concerned with peace building by strengthening state institutions themselves as a way of further protecting said populations.

Notwithstanding this reality, the conceptual linkage between the two processes has been more apparent than an actual achievement of a coordinated approach to implementing the two in practice. This largely has to do with the fact that DDR has had a more substantive history with UN engagement while SSR is a more recent endeavor as a complementary component to, as well as extension of, DDR efforts that seeks to maintain lasting peace beyond the conflict incident itself. The UN has recently posited however that a failure to approach DDR and SSR in concert with one another can unintentionally serve to completely undermine overall security efforts.

As a result, I am interested in conducting a case study analysis of Liberia and Haiti in terms of their utility of both DDR and SSR. Liberia employed DDR and SSR under a democratically elected president who maintained popular support in Liberia’s post-war setting. This context is an interesting one within which to explore United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) endeavor to achieve stability and lasting peace.

Haiti is also of interest because the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH, was initiated in 2004 without the necessary pre-DDR conditions that would typically be required for this approach. Additionally, MINUSTAH attempted to employ DDR alongside ongoing SSR efforts while Haiti was under a transitional government. The reality that the UN did not pursue Haiti in DDR after the first coup d’etat towards Aristide in 1991, most likely because the situation did not meet typical DDR requirements, provides an interesting backdrop for why DDR was the method of choice after his second coup d’etat. Evaluating the implications that this had on state building, given Haiti’s turbulent post-dictatorship political history, may speak to the political context necessary for an integrated DDR/SSR approach to be effective.

The Evaluation of DDR and CIP in Afghanistan

DDR in Afghanistan is one of the main pillars for their SSR(Security Sector Reform). According to the document, DDR was the most successful pillar out of the five pillars. The key part of the DDR process was the success at the political level. It helped the restructuring and reorganization of the Afghan National Army and the National Police. The document claims that the ANBP was a success due to its’ management, results, and impacts. However, we have to ask the question, did it meet the strategic objective of breaking command and control?

Overall, I would have to say that this was overall not successful. Of course, it brought a mixed bag of results The CIP did bring the commanders back in to civilian life. The first part of the DDR program, disarmament was a success. However, when we are talking about the success of a DDR program, we need all three departments to click which did not happen here. Demobilization and reinsertion were not achieved and therefore, reintegration was not a success.”We find that the R of commanders should have been better planned, and earlier: it should have been well on the way to being put in place before the disarmament and demobilization started. Disarmament should have been quickly followed by the delivery of promised reinsertion activities and reintegration incentives (pg. 23).” Also trust seemed to be a key reason, things did not go to plan.

The targeting structure of the commanders was initially a good idea considering the power they had and also the instability that is in the region. Therefore, this plan was understandable. However, there were problems that came up. The commanders remained close to the soldiers and knew their movements. There has to be more innovative ways in order to take this route of having the commanders in the program.

I believe without question this was a “buy out package.” The document even admitted this by stating that it was a “buy them off program.”  In the long run, it did not really help much and therefore, it just seemed like a temporary solution which was just papering the cracks over the real problem.

Overall, as we can see, it is very difficult to come up with proper solutions and to make the DDR program a real success. As we saw in this instance, the disarmament part of the program ended up working out but the other two parts ended up basically falling apart. This goes to show precise the planning and management has to be in order for a program to succeed.

By: Ahnaf Ahmed

Challenges in DDR and SSR – The Case of Afghanistan

By: Senani Dehigolla

Complexities those inherent to DDR around the world while deciding its degree of success or failure poses serious challenges and risks demanding novel analytical tools for sustainable outcomes. Afghanistan could be possibly identified as a classic example for intensity of challenges for DDR .Reintegration goals in particular are hard to achieve as it decides the durability of new found peace. Over the last few decades United Nations has been engaged in DDR around the word through operational and conceptual processes and Security Sector Reform (SSR) on the other hand is a recent and a broader concept in reinforcing successful DDR. The necessity of SSR is pivotal in achieving sustainable outcomes as the changing dynamics of conflict demand newer measures to counter various forms of conflict. The combination of DDR and SSR is crucial to eliminating modern day conflict as the former secretary General Ban Ki-moon once stated the United Nations ‘has come a long way from simply being ceasefire monitors. Today [it is] expected to keep, enforce and build peace.’

Integrated DDR and SSR programs in Afghanistan were challenged by many political and social aspects. Among them are the lack of political will, lack of willingness to political settlement and growing insecurity. Spoiler groups  such as Taliban, Al Qaeda and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-I-Islami faction opposing peace processes are a serious threat to peace processes in Afghanistan where majority of the population are either subjected to or willing to be a part of a gun culture which provides them some sort of ‘power’ without which they will be powerless. The government’s fragile commitment to the process is also worsened by the amount of government officials who are supporting the illegal armed groups.  Easy access and extreme low prices of arms encourages gun culture making disarmament a harder task .Apart from the challenges arising from the context the DDR and SSR programs themselves were faced with insufficiency of monitoring, lack of security strategy, deficits in coordination and poor operational linkages between the two programs of DDR and SSR. The critical requirement of funding and support also can be challenging if the balance of distribution of resources and the durable donor engagement is interrupted.

As far as the most important element of reintegration is concerned, focus on employment is vital in order to ensure that there are productive alternatives to gun culture. The biggest challenge for this would be meeting the rising demand for employment and vocational training, literacy and educational opportunities, strategic introduction to normal society through participation in programs such as de-miming should be included in the programs. The DDR in similar conflict environments such as Afghanistan needs to consider vulnerable groups ranging from child soldiers, ex- combatants to dependents of ex combatants in order to win loyalty and to prevent the resentment from the general population. Furthermore, the result has to be sustainable where the ex-combatants could face future fluctuation in the economy.

Finally, it is clear that DDR and SSR become extremely challenging in conflict environments such as Afghanistan due to the interdependent nature of the two processes. Post-conflict peace building and sustainable development needs to be achieved through the success of SSR projects which totally depends on productive demilitarization activities without which both DDR and SSR processes will be an uphill struggle.

The Central African Republic: A Model Country for DDR

By: Marko Stanic of The New School

Central African Republic (CAR) has become somewhat of a model country for Disarmament, Demobilization & Reintegration (DDR). Since claiming its independence from the French government in 1960, CAR has experienced chronic instability. With multiple overthrows of the country leadership, the mid-20th century CAR fits the mold of 1st Generation DDR nicely. Today the country is experiencing ongoing DDR programming, across all three phases, yet lingering challenges remain in the Northern parts of the country. Armed rebellions, and ex-combatants awaiting reintegration, if not addressed have the potential to undo the progress already achieved since the mid 20th century.

The DDR in CAR during the mid 20th century bares the definitive characteristics of the 1st Generation DDR. Known as the “era of statebuilding”, DDR during this period attempted to implement more powerful peace processes, with the backing of the United States and the Soviet Union. The Central African struggle for independence was an ideological one, it was a Liberation struggle. As such the DDR efforts focused on the security & stabilization efforts. The dominant caseload included male ex-combatants.

Since the 1960s there have been multiple overthrows of the government. Constitutional order was finally restored in 2005 with the launching of an all-inclusive Political Dialogue (PD). The PD was inventive at the time; it was inclusive of the politico-military groups which sought either rebellion or political inclusion. The latter was favored by the DDR. In 2008 the continuing peace talks had led to the disarmament of 2 main rebel groups, and the incorporation of their representatives in the country government.

The job however is not finished here. Presently there are 6,500 ex-combatants (XCs) and members associated to the armed groups in the prefectures of Ouham and Ouham Pende in Northern CAR. These persons have been disarmed and demobilized, but reintegration has yet to occur. Furthermore, there is resistance on the part of the country leadership to engage in a meaningful impact. The recurring rebellions in Northern CAR, coupled with the large amount of XCs in the same area creates a volatile situation – there is a risk of the non-integrated XCs taking up arms as part of the active rebellions.

The general lawlessness in the Northern CAR is further buffeted by the general absence of the state in the region. Security forces’ lack discipline and leadership, road-blockers acting with impunity, lend to regional instability. As such Northern CAR is highly vulnerable to internal and external shocks. The focus of DDR will need to be on the Northern regions of CAR. With the present instability created by the rebelling groups, and 6,500 personnel still awaiting reintegration the expectations are high for security stabilization and the reintegration of the ex-combatants.



Missed Opportunities & Future Prospects – SSR & DDR 2nd generation in South(ern) Sudan

Sebahate J. Shala

The DDR programmes in South Sudan–pre and post referendum era have been accompanied with serious challenges and delays in implementation. The lack of political will among the main actors, limited and delayed funding, miserable economic conditions, unsustainable reintegration packages, and lack of inclusion and participation account for the main factors to have hindered the DDR process (Turyamureeba, 2014:2). Lack of willingness (emphasized as key element in IDDRS guidelines), particularly within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army(SPLM/A) to begin downsizing active-duty forces under the perception that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was merely a ceasefire, preventing the Security Sector Reforms (SSR) efforts to be fully realized (Munive, 2013:7).

In fact, as some DDR specialists said, the most severe problem was that DDR was not introduced in the right time adding that “if the process had been started six months after the CPA, it might had worked.” (IRIN, July 2011)

The peace accord between the Government of Sudan and SPLM/A was signed in 2005 ending the long-lasting civil war between the North and Southern population, whereas the DDR was first launched in January 2009 – four years later. Additionally, ineffective and incoherent communication on the DDR has also weakened the operation (Stockholm Policy Groups, 2010:3). Further, the CPA did not include disarmament, as one of the main components of DDR; weapons were not destroyed, but just stored under the control of each army although the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and SPLM/A ensured that eligible combatants reported for demobilization and collected weapons (Munive, 2013:21). The prevalence of small arms within the communities remains a source of instability (UNSG, 2014).

As envisaged in the CPA, the DDR main objective was to ensuring favorable conditions for the implementation of peace-building activities by downsizing, standardization and rationalization of forces of both–the SAF and the SPLM/A as well as integrating of Other Armed Groups (OAGs) and creating a new national Sudanese Army. Typical for 2nd generation, DDR in Southern Sudan had development objectives and was community-driven approach–it was designed to preparing ex-combatants socially, politically and psychologically in order to fit into civilian life (Turyamureeba, 2014:1) as well as to contribute towards the three-year Strategic Plan for Recovery and Development in Southern Sudan (2009-2011) in order to meet the MDG in all recovery and developmental spheres (UNDP, 2013:5). While special attention in the agreement were given to other special need groups (SNGs) associated with ex-combatants, such as the disabled and elderly combatants, child combatants and children associated with the armed forces, as well as women associated with the armed forces, the Stockholm Policy Group (SPG) found in a review report, only 9,736 combatants and women associated with the armed forces had been demobilized, and even less assisted in their reintegration by early December 2010 (SPG, 2010:3).

The reintegration program envisaged 180,000 ex-combatants- 90,000 from the north and south respectively. The first phase included 34,000 participants, with only 12,525 combatants demobilized by April 2012 and even fewer had been supported by sporadic reintegration services (Munive 2013:8). The majority of ex-combatants were never reintegrated due to low economic opportunities, lack of access to land especially in urban areas (UNDP, 2013:6). That was mainly as a result of the operational disconnection between main stakeholders, Southern Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (SSDDRC), the SPLM/A, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the UNDP regarding demobilization and subsequent reinsertion and reintegration. Finally, the DDR, did not contribute significantly towards the achievement of the relevant outcomes of the UNDAF (2009-2012) and UNDP Country Programme Action Plan (2009-2012) to improve environment for sustainable peace, restoration of socio-economic infrastructure, and revival of the economy (UNDP, 2013:6).

A reassertion of the SPLM/A position has happened since the South Sudan achieved independence in 2011. The party changed its course by taking a leading role for a second phase of DDR, planned to have started in April 2012, where some 150,000 personnel has been planned to be demobilized and reintegrated, but it has postponed several of times, due to the irregularities found by the verification commission regarding the registered ex-combatants. The third phase has been launched in April 2013 including an approximately 500 participants (Munive, 2013:8-9). But, the relapse of conflict in December 2013 due to the government crisis within the ruling SPLM/A has plunged the country into civil war – the third one to date, and consequently has complicated the process. A new thinking is suggested in the South Sudan contexts, in order to move ahead with the DDR process.

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


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.

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) and Security Sector Reform (SSR) in Myanmar

By Helena Gronberg


Since the signing of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) between the government of Myanmar and eight of the 15 rebel groups active in the country (in October), the question on everyone’s mind is, “what next?” The main question begging for an answer is what role the military will have in the upcoming political dialogue. Other uncertainties include the competition for power among alternative political forces inside the country, the extent of participation in the political dialogue/ peace process by the country’s population at large, including women, and how the recent ceasefire agreements between the government and the various ethnic insurgent groups will play out.

It is widely understood that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) is an important process on the road from active military engagement to post-conflict settlement. But in Myanmar, a country where non-state armed groups (NSAGs) have long looked at DDR with great suspicion, putting forth a comprehensive DDR program will not be an easy task. Furthermore, NSAGs frequently prefer to focus not on disarmament, rather other issues, like social and economic reintegration of armed combatants – what they perceive as the grievances, or ‘root causes’ for their taking up arms in the first place.

As Security Sector Reform (SSR) has wider implications than DDR – in that it includes a range of reforms such as judiciary- and police reforms – DDR could be used as a tool for a broader SSR that might also be more attractive to the armed ethnic groups that are so suspicious of DDR efforts. DDR and SSR could thus be mutually reinforcing. Indeed, Knight (2009) argues that military integration in some post-war contexts can be integrated with SSR, including in the police and the judiciary. Furthermore, according to research undertaken in Myanmar (Kyed and Gravers 2014) this might well be an option there as well. Some NSAGs have indicated that they could envisage themselves in a reformed Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces).

According to the UN, SSR in a country in transitional like Myanmar can be aimed at introducing “the principles of democratic governance to the security sector.” The objective is to create public trust in security institutions. It thus seems imperative to include NSAGs in any SSR process. The link between DDR and SSR relates to rightsizing security bodies in the context of post-settlement restructuring. Security personnel who may be downsized as part of this process are likely to require reinsertion and reintegration support.

Kyed and Gravers (2014) suggest that community policing as an integration mechanism for ex-combatants could be considered as part of a wider SSR process that could include members of NSAGs as well as government militias. Such initiatives should be based on proper understanding of existing village defense forces, government militias and NSAG security providers, and the power dynamics that they are embedded in (Kyed and Gravers 2014).

But Myanmar faces many challenges to achieving this. The decades of military rule are still very visible as the military continues to hold on to power and call the shots. Any DDR and SSR will need to be integral parts of the political dialogue.


Knight, M. (2009). Security Sector Reform: Post-Conflict Integration, GFN-SSR. University of Birmingham.

Kyed, H. M and M. Gravers. (2014). Non-State Armed Groups in the Myanmar Peace Process: What are the Future Options? DIIS Working Paper. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies