Operations, Programmes and Support
*Module revised June 2020
Disarmament is the act of reducing or eliminating access to weapons. It is usually regarded as the first step in a DDR programme. This voluntary handover of weapons, ammunition and explosives is a highly symbolic act in sealing the end of armed conflict, and in concluding an individual’s active role as a combatant. Disarmament is also essential to developing and maintaining a secure environment in which demobilization and reintegration can take place and can play an important role in crime prevention.
Disarmament operations are increasingly implemented in contexts characterized by acute armed violence, complex and varied armed forces and groups, and the prevalence of a wide range of weaponry and explosives.
This module provides the guidance necessary to effectively plan and implement disarmament operations within DDR programmes and to ensure that these operations contribute to the establishment of an environment conducive to inclusive political transition and sustainable peace.
The disarmament component of a DDR programme is usually broken down into four main phases: (1) operational planning, (2) weapons collection operations, (3) stockpile management, and (4) disposal of collected material. This module provides technical and programmatic guidance for each phase to ensure that activities are evidence-based, coherent, effective, gender-responsive and as safe as possible.
The handling of weapons, ammunition and explosives comes with significant risks. Therefore, the guidance provided within this module is based on the Modular Small-Arms Control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC)1 and the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG).2 Additional documents containing norms, standards and guidelines relevant to this module can be found in Annex B.
Disarmament operations must take the regional and sub-regional context into consideration, as well as applicable legal frameworks. All disarmament operations must also be designed and implemented in an inclusive and gender responsive manner. Disarmament carried out within a DDR programme is only one aspect of broader DDR arms control activities and of the national arms control management system (see IDDRS 4.11 on Transitional Weapons and Ammunition Management). DDR programmes should therefore be designed to reinforce security nationwide and be planned in coordination with wider peacebuilding and recovery efforts.
Transitional Weapons and Ammunition Management
*Module revised June 2020
DDR practitioners increasingly operate in contexts with fragmented but well-equipped armed groups and acute levels of proliferation of illicit weapons, ammunition and explosives. In settings where armed conflict is ongoing and peace agreements have been neither signed nor implemented, disarmament as part of a DDR programme may not be the most suitable approach to control the circulation of weapons, ammunition and explosives because armed groups may be reluctant to disarm without strong security guarantees (see IDDRS 4.10 on Disarmament). Instead, these contexts require the design and implementation of innovative DDR-related tools, such as transitional weapons and ammunition management (WAM).
When implemented as part of a DDR process (either with or without a DDR programme), transitional WAM has two primary aims: to reduce the capacity of individuals and groups to engage in armed conflict, and to reduce accidents and save lives by addressing the immediate risks related to the illicit possession of weapons, ammunition and explosives. By supporting better arms control and preventing the diversion of weapons, ammunition and explosives to unauthorized end users, transitional WAM can be a strong component of the sustaining peace approach and contribute to preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict (see IDDRS 2.40 on Reintegration as Part of Sustaining Peace). In settings where a peace agreement has been signed and the necessary preconditions for a DDR programme are in place, transitional WAM can also be used before, during and after DDR programmes as a complementary measure (see IDDRS 2.10 on The UN Approach to DDR).
Demobilization is both a physical and a mental process.1 The physical aspect involves the separation of an armed element (i.e., a soldier/combatant) from the systematic command and control structure of an armed force or group, thereby either reducing the number of combatants in an armed force or group, or disbanding it in its entirety. This physical aspect, as an element of security sector reform (SSR), in addition to dealing with the potential threat posed by the continued presence of armed anti-State elements and criminals, can be used to remove from service either military or police forces members who are considered to be surplus, thus contributing to the downsizing of the armed forces, if this is considered appropriate for the needs of the State. This has economic and security implications in that it allows a State, in a period of transition from conflict to peace, to reduce the size of its security forces while keeping those personnel most appropriate to its present requirements and simultaneously finding alternate livelihoods for the remainder.
The mental aspect of the demobilization process involves preparing the disarmed individual to find his/her place in civil society without the camaraderie and support systems of the structured armed force or group. This is a longer-term objective, and can be regarded as a by-product of successful reinsertion.
The phase of physical demobilization should be jointly planned and developed by an interagency team. The military have an important role to play in both disarmament and demobilization, particularly with regard to security and links to SSR. However, whereas disarmament is primarily the responsibility of the military, supported by civilian staff, demobilization is primarily the responsibility of the civilian component of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme, with military support. Civil–military cooperation is the key to efficiency in this part of DDR operations.
The mental process is supported by civilian specialist agencies offering readjustment counselling, personal profiling in identifying appropriate reinsertion options, domestic support, and a certain amount of monitoring and general support during the reinsertion process.
Demobilization is an integral part of DDR. Whether at the political/institutional level or at the individual or group level, it is voluntary. Demobilization normally follows individual disarmament, and must in turn be followed by a long-term reintegration programme. After a conflict, in particular one that has been civil or ethnicity based, reintegration requires both social and psychological rehabilitation, whether combatants are later recruited into new, more formalized and disciplined groupings, i.e., the national military or police services, or reinserted into the civilian community. In preparation for this phase, the demobilization process should include guidance and education to equip participants to more easily make the transition from combatant status to either new roles in national service, or a return to civil society.
Successful reintegration is a particular complex part of DDR. Ex-combatants and those previously associated with armed forces and groups are finally cut loose from structures and processes that are familiar to them. In some contexts, they re-enter societies that may be equally unfamiliar and that have often been significantly transformed by conflict.
A key challenge that faces former combatants and associated groups is that it may be impossible for them to reintegrate in the area of origin. Their limited skills may have more relevance and market-value in urban settings, which are also likely to be unable to absorb them. In the worst cases, places from which ex-combatants came may no longer exist after a war, or ex- combatants may have been with armed forces and groups that committed atrocities in or near their own communities and may not be able to return home.
Family and community support is essential for the successful reintegration of ex-combatants and associated groups, but their presence may make worse the real or perceived vulnerability of local populations, which have neither the capacity nor the desire to assist a ‘lost generation’ with little education, employment or training, war trauma, and a high militarized view of the world. Unsupported former combatants can be a major threat to the security of communities because of their lack of skills or assets and their tendency to rely on violence to get what they want.
Ex-combatants and associated groups will usually need specifically designed, sustainable support to help them with their transition from military to civilian life. Yet the United Nations (UN) must also ensure that such support does not mean that other war-affected groups are treated unfairly or resentment is caused within the wider community. The reintegration of ex-combatants and associated groups must therefore be part of wider recovery strategies for all war-affected populations. Reintegration programmes should aim to build local and national capacities to manage the process in the long-term, as reintegration increasingly turns into reconstruction and development.
This module recognizes that reintegration challenges are multidimensional, ranging from creating micro-enterprises and providing education and training, through to preparing receiving communities for the return of ex-combatants and associated groups, dealing with the psychosocial effects of war, ensuring ex-combatants also enjoy their civil and political rights, and meeting the specific needs of different groups.
UN Military Roles and Responsibilities
In the typical operational environment in which United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions take place, the primary contribution made by the military component of a mission to a the peacekeeping operation’s disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme, if it has been mandated to do so, is to provide security. The military component could also contribute through the gathering and distribution of information specifically related to a DDR programme, as well as monitoring and reporting on security issues. Specialist military ammunition and weapon expertise could contribute to the technical aspects of disarmament (also see IDDRS 4.10 on Disarmament and IDDRS 4.20 on Demobilization).
In addition, military capabilities could be used to provide various aspects of logistic support, including camp construction, communications, transport and health, if spare capacity is available. It must be noted that unless specific planning for military DDR tasks has taken place, and forces generated accordingly, then military logistic capacity cannot be guaranteed.
It is essential to the successful employment of any military capability in a DDR programme that it must be included in planning, be part of the endorsed mission operational requirement, be specifically mandated and be properly resourced. If this is not the case, the wider security-related function of the military component will be badly affected.
Involvement in a DDR programme does not take the place of the normal military component command and control chains.
A fundamental assumption in any military involvement in operational aspects of UN DDR programmes is that it is pointless to attempt disarmament or demobilization if it is not clear that reintegration is properly planned and resourced. Put another way, the combatants must see a future if they are to be expected to enter a DDR programme. If this is not clear, such programmes are likely to fail, and elements of the military component (and others) can be exposed to unacceptable risks.
UN Police Roles and Responsibilities
This module outlines the proposed involvement of the United Nations Police (UNPOL) in an integrated approach to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR). The relevance of policing to DDR is two-pronged and focuses on: (1) crime control, law and order, and security; and (2) police reform/restructuring and development in the post-conflict period.
As the peace process moves forward, a large number of activities start taking place in the social, economic and political arenas of the country emerging from war. These activities often present many challenges, which, if not properly dealt with, could seriously undermine the entire process of peace-building. The police services need to be aware of possible challenges and prepare appropriate plans of action to deal with them.
Previous DDR programmes have frequently experienced difficulties because they have failed to connect sufficiently with the police and other components of the criminal justice system in order to deal with the problem of increasing crime levels in the post-war period. The ineffective and often incomplete transition of combatants to civilian life can cause serious law and order problems. If reintegration activities do not succeed, there is the risk that increased criminal activity will develop among demobilized ex-combatants. When small arms continue to be easily available, some ex-combatants continue to misuse them in order to retain power and authority and to make a living. It will require both an attractive package of incentives and effective, collaborative programmes for them to give up their weapons and accept new state authority.
DDR is conducted in a dynamic and volatile environment and, as a result, excellent liaison and coordination across all security sectors are essential to the success of the entire process. This module discusses the likely involvement of the police services at various stages of DDR, from conceptual planning through to the practical implementation of community-based reintegration and long-term peace-building processes.
Public Information and Strategic Communications in Support of DDR
Public information (PI) plays a crucial support function in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process. Once the political framework for DDR is in place after parties agree to demobilize and have signed a ceasefire and a peace accord, planning for DDR operations begins. The conceptualization and preparations for the DDR PI campaign should start at the same time as the planning for the DDR programme.
PI is important because it both ensures that DDR beneficiaries are made fully aware of what the DDR process involves and encourages individuals to participate in the programme. It also serves the vital purpose of making the communities, to which DDR beneficiaries are to return, understand how the DDR programme will involve them in the reintegration of ex-combatants. The basic rule for an effective PI strategy is to have clear overall objectives based on a careful assessment of the situation in which DDR is to take place. It is the responsibility of DDR planners to define these objectives in good time, in consultation with their local PI counterparts, so that the machinery of PI can be established at the same time as other DDR planning.
PI should link to all the other DDR components as part of a multisectoral strategy for peace-building. It will make an important contribution towards creating a climate of peace and security, provided that the process of identifying the many different groups at which it is directed, the best local methods of communication and other necessary elements for the successful roll-out of a PI campaign are correctly put in place. It is essential that PI materials are pre-tested on a local audience and that the PI campaign is then closely monitored and evaluated.
It is important to note, however, that PI activities are just one component of the overall process and cannot compensate for a faulty DDR framework or on its own convince people that it is safe to enter the programme. If combatants are not willing to disarm, for whatever reason, PI alone will not persuade them to do so.
Concepts, Policy and Strategy of the IDDRS
Structures and Processes
Operations, Programmes and Support