Focal Points for Health Interventions: DDR and HIV/AIDS

By Nick Palombo

Health considerations in DDR incorporate human security, analyze key health concerns, and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable groups of ex-combatants. Major health concerns in DDR, among others, are chronic communicable diseases, HIV/AIDS, violence and injury prevention, and psycho-social support for mental health and substance abuse. However, health concerns vary greatly according to the geographical area of caseload and conflict dynamics. Types of interventions appropriate in DDR will be dependent on the number of combatants in the caseload, their relatives, the median gender and age, specific needs, and local capacities for the provision of health services.

The objective of integrating health care in DDR is to reduce the percentage of avoidable illnesses and deaths in a caseload, through basic healthcare and preventative epidemiological interventions. These include both reproductive-health and psycho-social care considerations. In all cases, there must be a minimum guaranteed basic medical screening, which should be conducted in the interim at first point of contact (disarmament and demobilization stage). However, ongoing access to healthcare and voluntary counseling and treatments must also remain available during long-term reintegration processes. Satisfying these conditions requires creating partnerships with local public health stakeholders to generate sustainable health services and long-term medical records. Health interventions in DDR are best facilitated through comprehensive partnerships with local health actors. These may include NGOs and international humanitarian agencies, like the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Joint United Nations Program on Aids (UNAIDS), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

A primary strategy for intervention should be treating ex-combatants in the interim. This means treating acute sicknesses and infectious diseases over chronic and non-infectious diseases. This strategy can decrease the rate of transmitted infections, and minimize the chances of co-infection in already infected individuals. Basic medical screening can permit monitoring of potential epidemiological and nutritional issues, and can build capacity for early detection as well as rapid response. Linking health interventions to DDR can take the form of many types of programming.  Therefore, the choice of programs should be based off an analysis of the political and legal arrangements of peace agreements and the specific nature of the conditions on the ground. Including and utilizing local healthcare providers can ensure that local public health concerns are taken into account. Therefore, local health sectors should be represented in all established programs to oversee the health intervention from the earliest possible stage.

When speaking to health interventions in DDR programs, it is essential to discuss HIV/AIDS infection. DDR programs frequently operate in locations with high HIV/AIDS prevalence. Ex-combatants are considered high-risk groups for infection given their age range, degree of mobility, and risk-taking behavior. Women associated with armed forces are also part of this high-risk group, given the widespread instances of sexual violence and abuse. Even child-soldiers are  part of this high-risk group, given that they are often sexually active much earlier than their non-combatant peers. Furthermore, in some conflicts, drugs are also highly prevalent. This further increases vulnerabilities by increasing risky-behavior and furthering transmissions of HIV infection. DDR providers should additionally take into account the movement of individuals across borders, and the heightened risk of epidemiological disease transmission from emigration. The best strategy for intervening on this is early detection and containment of disease in foreign ex-combatants, to intercede any potential outbreaks from the movement of these populations.

HIV/AIDS poses a grave impeding risk to the stabilization of peace operations. Integrating testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS in DDR programs is important for maintaining the well-being of male and female ex-combatants, women and girls associated with armed groups, and the greater public health of the civilian community. DDR programs can offer a unique opportunity to reach out to vulnerable groups and intervene in the spread of epidemiological diseases. Practitioners of DDR must co-opt this opportunity and incorporate health programming in their DDR programming.

As with many other diseases, HIV/AIDS prevention can be embedded in DDR through a variety of different outlets. Risk Mapping, based on prevalence, attitudes, vulnerabilities and knowledge, can be facilitated to define the needs of the geo-spatial community. Also, identifying and training HIV/AIDS focal points and developing awareness material and training for target groups can play a role in this type of intervention.  Voluntary counselling, testing and treatment must be available throughout the entire trajectory of the DDR program. Also, ensuring the availability of testing, condoms and post-exposure prophylaxis for ex-combatants is critically important. These types of interventions must be facilitated with existing national HIV prevention and treatment infrastructure, in order to develop and ensure their sustainability.

DDR interventions involving HIV/AIDS have been conducted already in many national initiatives.  In Colombia, joint UN efforts supported the Colombian government in training male and female ex-combatants in sexual and reproductive rights, gender equity, and HIV prevention.  DDR practitioners conducted surveys to determine HIV prevalence and sexual behaviors to tailor HIV-DDR programs to the Colombian caseload. Furthermore, the facilitators provided voluntary counselling and treatment alongside a string of other HIV/AIDS-oriented initiatives.  DDR in Côte d’Ivoire also incorporated a notable HIV/AIDS intervention program. The UN supported the DDR Commission in creating three voluntary counselling and treatment centers, as well as STI treatment infrastructure at all of these sites. These centers were focal points for screening and treatment, and ensured that medical aid would be widely available to all in need. Additionally, through partnerships with the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, the commission also trained uniformed personnel on HIV, human rights, gender equity, and technical support on HIV-DDR. They also trained peer educators to provide local training and support for diagnosis of HIV/AIDS and HIV prevention.

Colombia and Côte d’Ivoire are just two successful examples, among many others, of HIV/DDR treatment integration in DDR. However, many challenges exist in the integration of greater medical processes. Lack of human capacity and will is a major component of deficient health resources in DDR programs. Medical diseases such as HIV/AIDS are simply not a priority for DDR practitioners. Especially since the extensive resources needed to prevent and treat epidemiological diseases such as Malaria and HIV may simply not be available in the budget for DDR programs. Additionally, linking DDR health intervention objectives to community health infrastructure may not be possible, as no health infrastructure may exist to begin with in the country of operation. In this case, building the foundations for future health services may be too large of an operation for DDR. Therefore, because of these reasons, health initiatives become secondary and/or far too rudimentary to achieve their primary objective. While implementing health action in DDR programs can be an extensive endeavor, it is undoubtedly necessary to safeguard the most basic aspects of human security in DDR programs.

DDR in the DRC: Addressing Women as a Special Needs Group

By Ashley Dale

Since the end of the first war in the DRC there have been multiple attempts at DDR, including a multi-country DDRRR effort to deal with the hundreds of thousands of foreign fighters from six other countries that were engaged in the conflict. However, despite the complex and immense effort at demobilizing and reintegrating ex-combatants in the DRC, special needs groups (SNGs) including women and children were largely left out of the planning and implementation processes.

Both women and children are considered SNGs and fall into two sub-categories – those as dependents and outside actors to the conflict and those as ex-combatants and/or fulfilling conflict support roles. Each of these four SNGs needed to be considered in the DDR process from the outset, but early in the initial planning stages they were not. Later as DDR programs were evaluated and reconstructed, it became clear that these SNGs were too large to ignore, especially those who took part in the conflict. Special projects such as a Gender-based Violence Trust Fund and a Social Action Fund were set up to assist these groups specifically. With a high level of women ex-combatants, the National Demobilization and Reinsertion Commission (CONADER) developed a gender strategy. However, even with this strategy, women on both sides of the conflict were largely neglected in the DDR process.

Women as dependents rarely enrolled in the DDR program due to cultural stigma that the program developed. Many of these women self-reintegrated back into society instead. One issue was that women dependents only needed to go through the reintegration process, not the disarmament or demobilization phases so it was easier for them to fall between the cracks in the process. Some felt that their inclusion in the process could have perpetuated combat relationships.

Women who took part in the conflict either directly as combatants on the front lines or indirectly in conflict support roles didn’t have any more luck in the DDR process than women dependents. Women ex-combatants and supporters were unfairly discriminated against in the DDR process. One main issue was that in order to receive a demobilization package the ex-combatant needed to surrender a weapon. In the case of women ex-combatants, not all of them were engaged in active combat or were in possession of a weapon. In cases where women did have a weapon, it was common for their commander to strip them of it so they couldn’t get their demobilization package. For those who were able to get far enough in the processes to obtain a package, there were not enough to go around. The lucky few who actually received a package had them stolen by their husbands or families.

In Phase 1 of DDR, 3,478 female ex-combatants were demobilized, of which 1,520 benefited from reintegration assistance. However, in Phase 2, only 1,046 were demobilized as that was the total number of females who registered for processing. Out of the group of women ex-combatants who were demobilized overall, roughly 67 percent benefited from the reintegration process.

Currently a third DDR attempt (DDR III) is underway in the DRC. Only time will tell if this attempt will be more successful than the previous two and more inclusive of SNGs in general. Full inclusivity of SNGs all around will push the process closer to a ‘successful’ outcome. Women are a crucial part of Congolese society and the peace process to rebuild the country, and being part of the peace process means they need to be included in the DDR process as part of the peace-building effort.

DDR & the Women, Peace and Security Agenda

The adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), which celebrated its 15th anniversary just two weeks ago, was a milestone for countless women’s rights organizations and networks, both at UN headquarters and among women peacebuilders “on the ground”.

Resolution 1325 recognizes women’s important contribution to the prevention and resolution of conflicts, considering them not only as victims but as important agents for peace. Integrating both participation and protection concerns, the women, peace and security agenda stresses the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in conflict resolution mechanisms by partaking in all decision-making processes in regards to peace and security. It further emphasizes the need to address pervasive sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict, including through gender-sensitive training for peacekeeping staff, establishing special protection measures for women and girls, and ending impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence. Resolution 1325 further calls for mainstreaming gender in mission mandates and reports as well as for increasing the number of female special representatives. It also obliges the Security Council to consult with national and international women’s organizations before taking any steps regarding the WPS agenda. Additionally, the uniqueness of S/RES 1325 lies in the engagement of women’s civil society in the open drafting process that preceded its adoption.

The inclusion of DDR in the WPS agenda made slow progress. Resolution 1325 only goes as far as to include a paragraph stating that the Security Council “[e]ncourages all those involved in the planning for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration to consider the different needs of female and male ex-combatants and to take into account the needs of their dependents.” (S/RES 1325 (2000/OP 13))

However, the subsequent WPS resolution 1820 (2008) on sexual violence in armed conflict, which details the zero-tolerance policy for SGBV for all peacekeeping operations and calls for pre-deployment and on-the-ground awareness training, determines that the Security Council and relevant UN agencies have to consult with women and women-led organizations concerning the design and implementation of DDR and SSR programs. This commitment is reiterated in S/RES 1888 (2009), which also introduces specific provisions for the protection of women and children from rape and violence, such as Women’s Protection Advisors and Gender Advisors as part of peacekeeping missions. It particularly calls for measures to address, prevent and tackle sexual violence in DDR and SSR programming.

Finally, resolution 1889 (2009) introduces the term “women associated with armed groups” and “[c]alls upon all those involved in the planning for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration to take into account particular needs of women and girls associated with armed forces and armed groups and their children, and provide for their full access to these programmes.” (S/RES 1889 (2009/OP 13))

Resolution 2106 (2013) reiterates the Secretary General’s responsibility to assist national authorities in ensuring women’s participation in addressing sexual violence and further explicitly states that protection mechanisms for women and girls must be established in cantonment sites as well as “for civilians in close proximity of cantonment sites and in communities of return“ (S/RES 2106 (2013/OP 16 (a))) It also for the first time addresses the need to offer “trauma and reintegration support” to women and children associated with armed groups and ex-combatants.

Resolution 2106 (2013) further addresses women’s participation in SSR efforts, highlighting the importance of gender-sensitive training and a careful vetting process to exclude those that have previously perpetrated or commanded (the use of) sexual violence. Ultimately, resolution 2122 (2013) reiterates that mission mandates must facilitate women’s participation and protection in, inter alia, DDR and SSR processes.

While the repeated mention of gender concerns and women’s participation in DDR and SSR processes is positive, there are plenty aspects left to consider. Generally, women’s and children’s needs, including those of women and child combatants, differ and should therefore be addressed separately in all instances. Specific attention must be paid to reintegration programs, including gender-sensitive reintegration packages and psychosocial support for women ex-combatants and WAAGs who are survivors of sexual violence. Ultimately, regarding the mentions of DDR and SSR in the WPS agenda, the protection aspect outweighs the participation aspect. A stronger focus on the political reintegration of women ex-combatants and WAAGs is therefore highly desirable – which leads back to the core of the agenda, namely recognizing women as agents for peace.

By Nadine Lainer.

Reintegration of Female Combatants: Lessons Learned from Liberia

According to the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) 38 percent of all fighting forces during Liberia’s 14 years of civil war were women and girls.[1] Particularly during the first conflict (1989-1997) many women were forced to take part in the fighting, and did so as combatants, supporters, peacebuilders and political actors. During the second civil war (1999-2003), more women are reported to have joined the fighting forces voluntarily, often to protect themselves from sexual violence, and to survive challenging economic conditions. What happened following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), in Accra on August 18, 2003, when these women were to be reintegrated into society?

The framework for most Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programs are negotiated in peace agreements. In the case of Liberia, the CPA, also referred to as the Accra Agreement, was negotiated between the Government of Liberia, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and other political parties. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was tasked with forming a Multinational Force that was to be deployed as an Interposition Force in Liberia. Establishing DDR activities was part of the mandate of the Interposition Force.

On paper the Accra Agreement seemed comprehensive and promising, and included language on the protection and promotion of women’s human rights. Additionally, the Results-Focused Transition Framework (RFTF) developed by the World Bank, UN and others, stated the need for disarmament and demobilization of female ex-combatants. Furthermore, when the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was established under United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1509, the resolution mandated UNMIL to incorporate a gender perspective into its activities in accordance with UNSCR 1325 on women, peace, and security. It also called on UNMIL to develop a DDR Action Plan that would pay particular attention to the needs of child combatants and women.

While all of the above documents formed a comprehensive framework for inclusive DDR in Liberia, in reality, few proper programs targeting women were initiated. Liberian women’s rights activists on the ground have argued that the monitoring of the entire DDR program was poor, and that a lack of cantonment for women further complicated the process. Much like in many other DDR programs, one of the very first requirements for entering the DDR program in Liberia was the possession of a weapon or ammunition.

The requirement of a weapon in order to be defined as a combatant poses an obstacle for many women and girls, as women “are often tricked out of their weapons by senior commanders.”[2] While beyond the scope of this blog contribution, the issue of “having a gun” is in fact a problem that reaches much further than (or starts well before) the DDR process. For instance, women have often been completely excluded from peace processes as peace agreements are often negotiated between the warring parties, aka “the men with guns.”

In the case of Liberia, another requirement for access to cash payments through the DDR program was being on a list compiled by the commander of a specific unit. It is not difficult to see that in such a case, favoritism and discrimination might be a problem, and indeed many women were denied access to payments. Other reasons that have been sited as reasons to why women might actually have chosen not to take part in the DDR program were mistrust of the process, or fear of repercussions and social stigma if they were identified as ex-fighters. In conclusion, women often face multiple challenges in regards to DDR. They are often excluded from DDR programs altogether due to the failure to actually implement these programs in gender-sensitive ways, and they are not easily welcomed back into their communities, and are often stigmatized because they have transgressed traditional gender roles, and participated in the conflict.

[2] Coulter et al., 2008

By Helena Gronberg

Did the South Sudan DDR program leave women behind?

By December 2010, which was almost the end of the initially planned time period for South Sudan’s comprehensive DDR program, only 9,736 of the originally thought 90,000 ex-combatants were at least demobilized according to an independent evaluation. This number includes an almost equal share of female ex-combatants and women associated with armed groups. However, the meager result has of course contributed little to actual military downsizing, not to mention the anticipated security sector reform (SSR). Quite the contrary happened: with conflict looming on the horizon, and subsequently breaking out, the number of combatants even increased to an estimated number of 130,000.

As documented in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the 2008 National DDR Strategic Plan, and UNMISS’s mission mandate, the South Sudan DDR strategy has endorsed a gender-sensitive approach and called for the full and equal participation of female ex-combatants and women associated with armed groups (WAAG) right from the beginning. However, the implementation of the ambitious DDR agenda was heavily flawed and led to very mixed outcomes, particularly for WAAG.

The South Sudan National DDR Commission has early on recognized the importance of the social network component in successful reintegration processes and therefore aimed to actively involve the returnees’ home communities. However, community-based reintegration (CBR) must be sensitively adapted to the various special needs groups (SNGs).

As the 2010 Stockholm Policy Group report mentions, the inclusion of WAAG in the reintegration process is mandatory, but doing so through the official DDR channel might be rather harmful if it increases stigmatization in the home/host community. Returning from active conflict sites has a very different notion for women who might have engaged in activities that very much challenged traditional gender stereotypes. Women returnees might have a particular difficult time resuming their traditional roles and reintegrating into their previous lives.

The IDDRS framework suggests community-based reintegration with dual targeting, meaning that community members and ex-combatants with a similar profile should be targeted together. With regards to female ex-combatants and WAAG, dual targeting can, for example, simultaneously address economically disadvantaged women in the community by creating and supporting women-run cooperatives and microfinance projects. This allows ex-combatants to re-establish their livelihoods and local women to engage in income-generating activities. Such concerns highlight the importance of permanently deployed Gender Advisors as part of the UN mission.

Additionally, forces can be joined in regard to tackling the pervasive sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) that women civilians, WAAG and female ex-combatants are equally confronted with through offering comprehensive psycho-social support for survivors of SGBV as well as workshops on women’s health and HIV/AIDS prevention. The deployment of Women Protection Advisors as part of UN missions is clearly necessary for these aims.

The South Sudan DDR experience shows that reinsertion packages do not only need to be reoriented towards a needs-based approach so as increase flexibility and offer more choices (i.e. cash vs. food aid), but also have to be specifically tailored to the needs of women. Women’s circumstances, such as their setting (urban or rural), the number of their dependents, and the nature of their income-generating activities, have to be fully taken into account. Gender training for peacekeeping personnel and mission staff as well as the full and equal participation of women who are representative of their community and women’s civil society organization in the design and implementation of DDR strategies is therefore mandatory.

Ultimately, while reintegration programs have a limited timeframe, reintegration processes can take forever, which leads to the broader DDR and development nexus. Inclusive development can only happen if women participate as equal stakeholders in political, economic and social processes. The reintegration of female ex-combatants and WAAG in order for them to regain their livelihoods and make their voices heard is only the beginning.

By Nadine Lainer.

Gendering DDR: The case of female ex-combatants

Women and men are affected differently by armed conflicts, thanks to a variety of factors that include their access to the productive aspects of an economy, social roles ascribed to each gender by cultures, and the degree of exposure to violence.  Moreover, often as victims of sexual violence and as dependents of male combatants who are left to fend for themselves, the security debate has largely seen women as passive actors bearing the costs of war. The female combatants who step from the realm of “domestic” to “public” on a separate, but equal, footing with men present unique challenges to the dominant paradigm. Thus, the recognition that women can be both victims and perpetrators of armed conflicts is crucial to designing a successful DDR program in the post-conflict setting.

The Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS), the operational policy guideline by the UN for implementing DDR policies defines “female combatants” thus: “women and girls who participate in armed conflicts as active combatants using arms.” Women enter the conflict as “active combatants” for many reasons. As observed in conflicts worldwide, women might take up arms out of a sense of duty to fight for their nation/faction to which they belong or in extreme cases, to avenge the death of their near ones. They might act out of coercion, especially when they are abducted by their male counterparts to join the armed forces. The fear of rape can be another reason (as cited by many women who joined the LTTE in Sri Lanka). Also, other structural reasons such as poverty, alcoholism or forced marriages back home might compel them to be combatants. What defines this demographic? If one closely examines their composition, these women are often young, unmarried or in early stages of their marriage, physically fit, and demonstrate aptitude to learn “male” crafts.  This ought to be a crucial point for DDR, especially while designing the psycho-social care package for them after demobilization. For instance, in many cases they are not welcomed back into their communities as brides as they are perceived to be “less womanly”, reinforcing the existing gender stereotypes.

The module 5.10 of the IDDRS (titled “Women, Gender and DDR”) categorizes the female beneficiaries of a DDR program into three categories based on the life choices women make as well as their different functions during conflicts:

  1. Female combatants
  2. Female supporters/Females associated with armed forces and groups (FAAFGs)
  3. Female dependents (of the male combatants)

But if one examines the implementation of DDR policies on the ground, it is clear that often in absence of a governance infrastructure, such taxonomies are a second order of business. For instance, looking at the ongoing DDR program in politically fragile States such as Sudan or Central African Republic (CAR), which does not have the politico-legal structures in place which enable to cement the DDR process, the primary identification and assessment of beneficiaries (including both male and female ex-combatants) in itself is a serious challenge. In Sri Lanka, given the tenure of the conflict, individuals over their life cycle move from one category to another.

What then determines a successful DDR policy for female ex-combatants? A crucial component is to have more women ex-combatants at the negotiating table – from making decisions on the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of disarmament and demobilization to designing long-term policies for their socio-economic reintegration. This is very much in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which deals with increased participation of women in the peace building process. These efforts can be buttressed by donors who can place gender mainstreaming at the heart of their funding decisions. Most importantly, a DDR program for female ex-combatants should focus on how the positive spill over for women during the conflict- in terms of leadership and other unique skills acquired – can be transferred to the post-conflict reconstruction efforts. For instance, women combatants constituted about 60% of the LTTE guerrilla forces in Sri Lanka, who fought against the Sinhalese government. After LTTE was formally crushed by the government in 2009, the women ex-combatants underwent a DDR process. As part of the job training initiatives for ex-combatants, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) jointly worked with Sri Lanka’s Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) action plan. Rebecca Murray (2010) critiques this action plan on two grounds, substantiated by the data she collected by interviewing female ex-combatants. Firstly, she points out how disabled Tamil ex combatants, the survivors of physical injury were left out of these reintegration efforts. Secondly, she cites as to how these initiatives trained women to be “tailors and domestic helpers” as opposed to “bricklayers, computer repairers, masons”, the skills they might have mastered during their association with the LTTE.

This is an example which points to the complexity of the reintegration efforts of female ex- combatants. It is also an instance which shows how the local context and the cultural perception of pre-assigned gender roles plays a role in determining outcomes. The engendering of the DDR process should thus begin from the premise that women beneficiaries are a heterogeneous group with different skill sets, which should be effectively and efficiently channelized to contribute to the long term process of peacebuilding.

by Ardra Manasi

Sudan’s Second Civil War and DDR Attempt: Focusing on Special Needs Groups

Sudan is the largest country in Africa and one of the poorest in the world, despite the abundance of valuable natural resources it has. More than 20 years of civil war has destroyed the country’s economy and infrastructure, leaving devastation in its wake. A UN report from 2005 estimated that 20 percent of the population had been displaced and left severely impoverished (United Nations. Interim DDR Programme for Sudan. July 2005). It was in 2005 that a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SLPM/A), the two major warring factions, to end the war.

The much needed and long awaited CPA came after decades of a second round of violent conflict know as the Second Civil War, which raged from 1983 through 2004. The first civil war in Sudan took place from 1955 to 1972 and was marked by conflict between the north and the south. The Addis Ababa Agreement (also known as the Addis Ababa Accords) was signed in 1972 and marked the beginning of 11 years of relative peace. However, the Agreement failed to relieve tensions between the north and the south. The reintegration of the Anyanya, a southern Sudanese rebel army, was a complete failure. Mounting tensions and the failure of the reintegration of Anyanya ex-combatants along with other factors such as unequal access to the country’s rich natural resources (namely oil), and ethnic and religious divides are suspected to be the cause of Sudan’s second civil war.

It is in cases like this that we can see how the failure to design and implement a rigorous, detailed and conflict-specific disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) plan can have catastrophic consequences for a country. In Sudan’s case, the country plunged into another volatile civil war which killed roughly 2 million people and displaced another 4.5 million. The DDR plan following the CPA of the second civil war needed to be flexible and accommodating in a heterogeneous environment. The delicate handling of special needs groups such as women, children and the disabled along with other armed groups (OAGs) that contributed to the fighting needed to be taken into consideration when designing the DDR, especially the reintegration portion. This is because many of the ‘special’ groups would only be taking part in either the demobilization and reintegration or only the reintegration part of the plan. In the interest of keeping this post on the shorter side, I will only speak briefly about two special needs groups: women and children.

The CPA specified that special needs groups were to be addressed before all other ex-combatants. The DDR outlined the demobilization of child ex-combatants first before any adults. Even within this special needs group there were sub groups that needed even more specialized attention such as girls and girl mothers. Previous DDR attempts that addressed child soldiers failed to recognize the difficult situation girls and girl mothers faced in conflict and when attempting to return home. The CPA and DDR plan understood that this couldn’t be repeated with Sudan’s second DDR attempt, so specific conditions were laid out for these groups.

A few distinctions of the child DDR plan were to focus on child protection and to also include children in the process who had not been directly involved in the conflict, which is an interesting approach. The child DDR extended to other vulnerable children such as child IDPs (internally displaced persons) and child refugees returning from other countries. It also created special methods of protection and reintegration for girls specifically. The child DDR used some of the basic principles in the UN’s IDDRS including taking a community-based approach to reintegration. The collaboration between community groups, religious leaders, educators, youth groups, and families coupled with several years of follow-up was essential to the success of child ex-combatant reintegration.

Another special needs group addressed by the CPA and DDR was women. Although men are typically seen as the major threat to security in a post-conflict setting, women in the case of Sudan were seen as a secondary threat, but a threat nonetheless. Excluding women from DDR would have undermined the entire process and could have potentially caused a threat to Sudan’s future peace and stability. Women took on many different roles during the second civil war, making it harder to create tailored methods of DDR for the various sub groups within the women special needs group. Some women were combatants and fought on the front lines while others took on supporting roles such as porters, cooks, caretakers, messengers, and more – these women providing supporting roles either voluntarily or through coercion are known as women associated with the armed forces and groups (WAAFG).

Other women were indirectly involved by way of their husbands who were combatants. These women were considered dependents of ex-combatants and would also need to be included in the reintegration portion of DDR alongside their husbands. In Sudan polygamy is common and it was possible that combatants had more than one wife, further complicating DDR for dependents. The DDR plan had to be flexible enough to accommodate these special and sensitive situations. Other women were abducted and forced into the armed groups, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) became pervasive. Rape, prostitution, forced marriage, and sexual abuse further complicated the reintegration of women back into society. These complications needed to be specifically addressed in the reintegration of women and WAAFG in order for a successful outcome to be realized.

Women also had a large role to play after male ex-combatants went through the DDR process; women made up the majority of support for ex-combatants upon their return home. However, the women themselves had little support, which undermined their ability to provide adequate support to the ex-combatants (United Nations. Interim DDR Programme for Sudan. July 2005). Major community-based support and assistance from government agencies and NGOs would have been beneficial not only to the women but also to the ex-combatants they were supporting and to the entire community.

The reintegration portion of Sudan’s second DDR attempt utilized many of the same tactics that other DDR programs used such as monetary packages for transportation, food, and family support, health and psychological care, skills and vocational training, and education. However, what sets Sudan apart from other DDR programs are the carefully designed reintegration mechanisms catering to the special needs groups as well as the ex-combatants. In brief these include but are not limited to monetary packages for ex-combatants with varying amounts according to their rank held, vouchers for WAAFG to use in the community, thereby regenerating local economies, particular attentions paid to girls and girl mothers, the establishment of child protection networks, targeted catch-up education for child ex-combatants, the development of alternative family/living arrangements for child ex-combatants lacking family (or where family cannot be located), the inclusion of non-combat related children in the reintegration process, reintegration methods for women that were sensitive to the practice of polygamy,  HIV/AIDs awareness campaigns, and violence against women (VAW) awareness campaigns. The more detailed, flexible, culture-sensitive, and conflict-specific a DDR plan can be, the likelihood for a successful outcome will be greater.

By Ashley Dale