New DDR tools to “turn swords into ploughshares”


The year 2006 marked a turning point in UN efforts to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate (DDR) ex-combatants. In addition to building on its impressive total number of people disarmed over the past five years – some 400,000 – the UN also launched a new set of DDR standards aimed at improving this process,which is considered essential to restoring stability in war-ravaged countries.


While the UN has been involved in supporting DDR programmes since the late 1980s, in recent years these have become an even more vital part of UN peace efforts. Over the past five years alone, the Security Council has included DDR in the mandates ofmultidimensional peacekeeping operations in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia and the Sudan. Simultaneously, the UN has increased its DDR engagement in non-peacekeeping contexts, such as Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Aceh province of Indonesia,Niger,Somalia and the Solomon Islands.


Over the past two years, staff members from peacekeeping missions, UN Country Teams and headquarters worked jointly to develop the new Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards. Drawn from the best practices of various UN agencies and missions currently working in peacekeeping, these Standards are “field-tested” and ready for immediate application.


ANorth Kivu mobile team at work in Matembo,DRC, during the demobilization process, 8November 2006. (MONUC Photo by Martine Perret)


The standards take account of the UN’s extensive experience in addressing the specific needs of key groups, including female combatants and children associated with armed conflict, as well as cross-cutting issues like gender, HIV/AIDS, and health.The standards aim to bolster longterm stability, based on a growing awareness of the need to supplement disarmament and demobilization with genuine and lasting opportunities for excombatants to reintegrate into their peacetime communities.


The standards acknowledge the difficulty involved in transforming individuals who have been scarred by conflict, in some cases for years or even decades, into productive members of society. In response, they call for measures to provide psychosocial counseling, job training, educational opportunities and mechanisms to promote reconciliation in the communities where former fighters return.


In December, the standards were launched together with three accompanying tools that will ensure their widespread application: the Operational Guide, which addresses practical concerns, the Briefing Note for Senior Managers, which contains key strategic and policy guidance, and the web-based DDR Resource Centre (, which includes all of these documents, and serves as the UN’s “one-stop shop” for information on the initiative.


At the launch ceremony, senior UN officials expressed pride in the work the Organization has done in places like Sierra Leone and Afghanistan,where more than 134,000 combatants laid down their arms with the UN’s help,while voicing satisfaction that the standards will improve this process at each stage.


They pointed out 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. The standards pave the way for achieving this, for example, by uniting a child soldier with his family or by paying due attention to the health concerns of a person living with HIV/AIDS.


These new tools will refine the UN’s approach to DDR to better help each excombatant 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.


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Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.

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