UN launches new standards for disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating ex-fighters

DDR in the DR of Congo

18 December 2006 – With decades of experience in disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating (DDR) ex-combatants, including some 400,000 over the past five years alone, the United Nations today launched a new set of standards aimed at improving the process, which is considered essential to restoring stability to war-ravaged countries.

“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done so far in places like Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, where more than 134,000 combatants laid down their arms with the UN’s help, but we acknowledge that we can do better,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown.

“That is why these standards are so important; they will allow us to ensure that all phases of the process -- from disarmament to demobilization to reintegration of former combatants back into society – are carried out smoothly, with due attention to the special concerns of different groups and situations,” Mr. Malloch Brown said.

Many aspects of the new Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards (IDDRS) are “field-tested,” having been drawn from the best practices of various UN agencies and missions currently working in peacekeeping.

The UN has been involved in supporting DDR programmes since the late 1980s. In the past five years alone, DDR has been included in the mandates for multidimensional peacekeeping operations in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia and Sudan. Simultaneously, the UN has increased its DDR engagement in non-peacekeeping contexts, such as Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Indonesia (Aceh), Niger, Somalia, the Solomon Islands and Uganda.

This extensive experience has fostered a body of knowledge about the specific needs of key groups, including female combatants, children associated with armed conflict, and cross-cutting issues like gender, HIV/AIDS, and health. In parallel, attention has increasingly been paid to the longer-term requirements for stability, based on a growing awareness of the link between successful disarmament and demobilization and genuine and lasting opportunities for ex-combatants to reintegrate into their peacetime communities.

The new Integrated DDR Standards acknowledge the difficulty of transforming individuals who have been scarred by conflict, in some cases for years or even decades, into productive members of their societies. In order to ease the transition, the Standards call for measures to provide psycho-social counseling, job training, educational opportunities and mechanisms to promote reconciliation in the communities where they return.

Jointly developed over the past two years by staff members from peacekeeping missions, UN country teams and Headquarters, the Standards are being launched together with three accompanying tools that will ensure their widespread application.

  • The Operational Guide aims to help users find their way through the IDDRS by briefly explaining the key guidance in each area, highlighting practical steps for the planning, implementation and evaluation of DDR programmes.
  • The Briefing Note for Senior Managers contains key strategic and policy guidance.
  • The web-based DDR Resource Centre (www.unddr.org) includes all of these documents, and serves as the UN’s ‘one-stop shop’ for all related information.
“We’ve learned that while different combatants in various contexts may have similar concerns and needs, there are also many specific factors that must be taken into account,” explained Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. “A child soldier must be reunited with his family, while a person living with HIV/AIDS will have particular health concerns that require attention.”

“By refining our approach to DDR,” he continued, “We can better help each ex-combatant to ultimately reintegrate into society, so that they can go from being a cause of insecurity to a force for growing stability in countries urgently in need of committed people who can contribute to the rebuilding process.”

Also participating in the launch was Kathleen Cravero, Assistant Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), who said that a common approach to DDR in the UN system is a basic requirement for cooperation with its international and local partners.

“Whether in Afghanistan or Haiti or Sudan, we must operate based on a coherent set of principles. This new set of standards is a system-wide accumulation of our DDR knowledge and experience. It is a concrete example of how the UN can deliver as one,” she said.

The launch was simultaneously held in New York and Geneva. In both locations the launch of the IDDRS was followed by a panel discussion, including statements by representatives of Sierra Leone and Sweden on national or international initiatives on DDR.

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