By Meredith Bapir
Practitioners in DDR note the need for both quantitative and qualitative indicators. Quantitative indicators are often reflected as outputs, or measured results that are numerical such as the number of arms collected in the field. Qualitative indicators are more often tied in with medium to long-term outcomes that measure the longer results of a program and its attributed successes. It can take into account feelings, belief systems, and cultural and historical affinities. Qualitatively a program can be indicated, for example, by how a community feels about the success of a reintegration project.
Little emphasis has been given, however, on using qualitative indicators to document progress. Quantitative indicators, due to their numeric nature, are often easier to gather and can quickly satisfy donor requirements. Qualitative indicators often involve multiple steps of acquiring permissions and participations from stakeholders in addition to setting up focus groups, surveys, and interviews.
While gathering qualitative indicators may seem like a daunting task, they provide a more well-rounded assessment of DDR programs. Take, for example, the DDR program in Sierra Leone. The main objective of the reintegration component of the DDR program was to support the return of ex-combatants to their home communities. Through conducting qualitative research, practitioners noted that it was the opportunity of ex-combatants to “dine, mix, and socialize” with the local community that facilitated their entry back into society. Quantitative evidence could only prove the “causal impact of community infrastructure and short-term employment projects” but it did not showcase the full picture of Sierra Leone’s reintegration struggle. It was therefore imperative in this example to provide both a mixture of quantitative and qualitative factors to view the program’s success.
Contrastingly, Liberia’s focus on only quantitative indicators caused a false reading on the success of the DDR program. This program chose to focus on mostly quantitative indicators such as the amount of weapons collected per overall number of ex-combatants. A narrow focus on indicators attributed to gross mismanagement and misdirection of the program, to where reintegration did not even occur. The inclusion of qualitative indicators would have showed a more well-rounded picture of the program and could have possibly attributed to some success.
Utilizing a qualitative process also allows practitioners to reassess their approach to a DDR program. For example, practitioners in Haiti were able to gauge the importance of focusing on a community-based approach to stemming communal violence. Practitioners in Somalia noted that quantitative indicators were continuously changing due to the dynamic and volatile security environment within the country. Qualitatively addressing the situation allowed for an evaluation to be conducted that called for a change in direction by assessing the changing dynamics in the field.
Qualitative indicators should be continuously emphasized in the field and partnered with quantitative indicators to provide a full assessment of the DDR program.