Press Kit
Fact Sheet 8

Today’s Peacekeepers

Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration: An Essential Component of Peacekeeping

Over the past decade, the United Nations has deployed peacekeeping operations in many countries torn by internal conflicts in which massive quantities of light weapons have been used. Experience has shown clearly that a disarmament programme can be considered a success only if it is accompanied by measures to demobilize and reintegrate former combatants into civil society through viable economic alternatives and, more generally, a socio-economic development project for the country as a whole.

In the course of peacekeeping missions in Cambodia, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Guatemala, Eastern Slavonia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations has acquired vast experience in the area of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants.

In the context of United Nations peacekeeping, disarmament activities include the inspection, collection and destruction of light weapons, ammunition, explosive devices and heavy weapons in the hands of combatants and, in many cases, of weapons used by the civilian population. Demobilization is defined as a process whereby armed forces (the Government and/or the opposition or armed factions) are significantly reduced in numbers or completely disbanded in the framework of a transition to peace.

Reintegration programmes consist of measures of assistance for former combatants and their families and are designed to enhance their opportunities for economic and social reintegration. They may involve direct financial assistance, compensation in kind, or vocational training programmes and income-generating activities.

The success of a DDR programme assumes, on the one hand, that it is embodied in the peace agreements and, on the other hand, that such agreements set out a precise timetable for the process, recommend methods to be used for the destruction of arms and ammunition, establish the modalities for restructuring the defence and security forces and, lastly, designate the institutions which will be responsible for the implementation, coordination and supervision of DDR activities.

In fact, DDR programmes constitute a natural continuum for any peace process. When disarmament activities end, the demobilization of combatants and their reintegration into society begin.

The example of Sierra Leone

When the Security Council decided, in October 1999, to establish the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), this new mission, composed of some 6,000 troops,

was given the task of cooperating with the Sierra Leonean Government and the other signatory parties in the implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement.

In November 1999 the DDR process provided for in the Agreement was initiated with the support of the World Bank and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID). Nevertheless, it was only in May 2001, following the arrest of Foday Sankoh, head of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and the progress made in the peace process as a result of the Abuja ceasefire, that the DDR programme really got underway.

A joint committee, consisting of the Government of Sierra Leone, the RUF and UNAMSIL, was formed to supervise the process. After four years of operation, 72,500 combatants have been disarmed and demobilized, and some 42,500 weapons have been confiscated and destroyed. Moreover, progress has been made recently in efforts to create opportunities for reintegration: 38,850 former combatants have benefited thus far from reintegration projects launched by Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations Development Programme and UNAMSIL, along with the International Organization for Migration and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Information in support of disarmament

In launching a DDR process, it is crucial that former combatants are made aware of their rights and obligations with regard to disarmament, so that they can act in conformity with the process under way. Civic education and awareness-raising campaigns are also an integral part of the DDR operations implemented by the United Nations.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance, the Division of Information of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) recently expended its activities in Kisangani, in order to ensure coverage of the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and resettlement or repatriation (DDRRR) activities in the eastern part of the country. The goal of the process is to ensure a return to civil peace through disarmament and the return of all foreign armed groups based in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to their countries of origin.

Since last October, a programme entitled “Gutahuka” (returning home), aimed at certain target groups, has been broadcast twice a day over the airwaves of Radio Okapi, the MONUC radio station, including in Kinyarwanda. Moreover, a special team specifically entrusted with contributing to the DDRRR process regularly distributes brochures and publications and disseminates information about former combatants and their dependants who have been repatriated to Rwanda.

In view of their importance in the achievement of a lasting peace, DDR activities for former combatants will continue to require a commitment on the part of both national authorities and the international community. Likewise, in the future, the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping missions will more systematically include a DDR process — a prerequisite for the return to peace.

DPI/2311 (8) -- May 2003