Disarmament, Demobilization, Reinsertion, & Reintegration: DDR & Peacebuilding Processes

A comprehensive process at the core of peacebuilding

Disarmament, demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration (DDR) activities have played an increasing role in peacekeeping and the post-conflict reconstruction process.1 DDR is one of many elements in a peace process that can be used as a comprehensive instrument to support a peace-building framework.2 DDR programs have been used as a preventive intervention, a core component of peace agreements, and a post-conflict reconstruction initiative independent of formal peace deals.3 The context in which DDR programs are currently being run is increasingly complex. The approach to DDR needs to be adapted and tailored to the country or region in which it is being implemented. Although the integrated DDR standards lays down policy based on lessons learned, it does not provide a panacea and it must be understood that just as situations vary, so do possible solutions. 4 At the same time, DDR programs should not be viewed as a magic bullet with the potential ability to assist in almost every aspect of the post-war rehabilitation and reconstruction process.5 DDR programs alone cannot be expected to prevent further conflict and restore stability. It must be accompanied by other economic, political and social reforms. DDR must therefore be conceptualized, designed, planned and implemented within a wider recovery and development framework.6

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Why are DDR and SSR linked?

DDR and SSR are both recognized as key elements of post-conflict peacebuilding. DDR has a direct impact on the prospects for SSR since disarmament and demobilization often conducted before SSR is addressed set the terrain for future reform efforts by establishing the numbers and nature of the security sector. A successful DDR program may also free up much needed resources for SSR. Decisions on the mandate, structure and composition of security services can impact on the numbers of personnel that will need to be demobilized and reintegrated into society. It can also be argued that DDR is SSR to the extent that demobilization is a form of defense reform, albeit ad hoc in nature: decisions are often made by former warring parties and reflect concerns such as rewarding loyalty or removing troublemakers. This may result in performance improvements (depending on who is demobilized or retained) but may also run counter to the central goal of developing effective or accountable armed and security forces loyal to the state and its citizens (as opposed to the regime in power). If former combatants are employed in other parts of the security sector as a reintegration measure, DDR can also contribute directly to SSR. However, if not done selectively and according to clear criteria, this may only fuel insecurity if individuals with inappropriate backgrounds and inadequate training are simply re-deployed within the security sector. Finally, failed reintegration places significant strain on SSR by increasing the pressure on police, courts and prisons.

Source: Alan Bryden, "Linkage between DDR and SSR: Understanding the DDR-SSR Nexus: Building Sustainable Peace in Africa," Issue paper, Second International Conference on DDR and Stability in Africa, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
12-14 June 2007), 6.

The link between SSR and DDR

An important dimension of the reinsertion and reintegration component of disarmament, demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration (DDR) is its close linkage with security sector reform (SSR). This is considered by some to be paramount for long-term peace, stability and development.7 One common approach is to merge a select number of ex-combatants into the states military or police structures. This approach is often considered to be a pragmatic solution since the hope is that the new civilian structure will minimize problems. In all cases, DDR needs a clear perspective for future internal security, and thus has to be linked to SSR in order create conditions of security and stability.

Go to Security Sector Reform and Governance

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Common objectives in disarmament, small arms and light weapons control, and demining

Disarmament deals with the problem of controlling small arms and light weapons (SALW) and landmines in conflict and post-conflict environments.8 Often the collected weapons in the aftermath of war fall under the custody of the army or the police. These weapons are sometimes destroyed in public weapons burning ceremonies as a symbolic act of marking the end of war. The weapons burning ceremonies (also known as flames of peace) have taken place, amongst others, in Burundi, Cte dIvoire and the Central African Republic.

In cases where the collected weapons have been absorbed into the states military stockpile, the likelihood that the weapons will be diverted to illegal markets is high if the state lacks effective control and monitoring mechanisms.9 The majority of illicit weapons acquired by combatants and criminals alike are obtained from domestic sources via theft or loss from government stockpiles, captures during successful skirmishes, proxy arming of militias and civilians, ant-trade transfers, and purchase at local markets. Weapons are also acquired directly from regional suppliers and indirectly from extra-regional sources and then shipped or exported across porous borders legally and illegally to insurgents, criminals, and responsible gun owners alike. Without more accountable procedures to effectively manage government stockpiles, the problems that DDR is attempting to address will recur.

To be sustainable, disarmament and SALW interventions need to be complemented by other initiatives such as strengthening and updating civilian firearms regulations at the national level, restricting the trade and transfer of weapons, as well as more strengthening traditional security sector reforms (e.g. reforming the rule of law and judicial sector, improving the outreach and accountability of the police and customs officials, improving border patrols, and human rights and international humanitarian law training, etc). Both DDR and SALW have the same objective of the creation of a secure environment so that peace can move forward, even if they differ on target groups, timing, and the types of weapons they focus on.
Go to SALW and Mine Action

Comparing DDR and SALW control



Target groups

Individual members of armed forces and groups, their dependants, women and children associated with armed forces and groups

Individual civilians, including women and children, organized criminal groups, communities, national authorities and others

Types of weapons

All types of weapons and ammunition

All weapons and ammunition less than 100 mm in caliber



Any time


A specific mandate in support of the peace process

Supports DDR, security sector reform, and social and economic development

Source: UN Operational Guide to Integrated Disarmament Demobilization Reintegration Standards (IDDRS): OG 4.11 SALW control, security and development

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Economic dimensions of DDR

The policies adopted under disarmament, demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration (DDR) programs may affect socio-economic recovery efforts, as well as the rehabilitation of the market economy in post-conflict period.

The politics of post-war material policy

Sometimes employment has been the main sites of contestation in post-conflict environments. The case of Zimbabwe demonstrates that the relationship between the state and former combatants was marked by conflict and collaboration. The Zimbabwe government sought to retain ex-combatant support to build power and legitimacy by using them to symbolize economic transformation toward socialism, and giving them privileged access to employment (public sector jobs) and training.10 However, most ex-combatants lacked the qualifications to take advantage of priority employment in the civil service. The ex-combatants that did enter the work force used violence and intimidation to empower themselves, causing the state to retreat from their initial support. Ten years after the DDR program, ex-combatants were still considering themselves to be a separate group. Although Zimbabwe was initially regarded by the international community as an example of successful reintegration program, in the years after the DDR program it later became clear that it had been a failure.11

DDR as part of a larger peacebuilding process

What DDR can do
  • Provide the mechanism to separate combatants from at least some of their weapons (arms reduction and control than total disarmament) and to begin to break up command structures;
  • Provide rebel groups with a way of laying down arms without being seen as having surrendered;
  • Begin to build trust and confidence among and between former combatants and non-combatants that enables other elements of the peace process such as elections, SSR, reconciliation and economic recovery to go forward;
  • Provide ex-combatants with a much-needed transition period and an opportunity to begin to reintegrate into civilian life;
  • Provide a short-term safety net for ex-combatants and their dependents;
  • Start a process of changing the habits and identities of ex-combatants.
What DDR cannot do
  • A DDR process cannot substitute for inadequate will on the part of the parties to the conflict to engage in a political process that will enable them to lay down their weapons and resolve their differences peacefully;
  • Nor can it substitute for peace enforcement activities when those are necessary;
  • A DDR process cannot produce development. It cannot even guarantee that ex-combatants will successfully reintegrate into civilian society. A DDR process also cannot substitute for long-term programs to combat the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Source: Nicole Ball and Luc van de Goor, Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration: Mapping Issues, Dilemmas and Guiding Principles (The Hague: Netherlands Institute of International Relations, Clingendael, August 2006), 4.

Economic re-integration of ordinary ex-combatants

In general, ex-combatants are offered economic incentives such as labor, land, credit, information, and skills development to prevent them from being disenfranchised from the peace process. A national survey on ex-combatants economic reintegration in Liberia showed a positive impact of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program upon the lives of those who completed the program. There was an overall 8% increase in their socio-economic situation when compared against former fighters that never formally disarmed or registered. The most decisive factor seemed to be in receiving formal training benefits.12 But even so, in all cases, the actual economic reintegration varies according to the sector of activity chosen and its performance in a given economic situation, as well as the level of funding allotted for this stage of the process. These elements need to be carefully studied beforehand.
Go to Case Studies: Central Africa Republic: Financial Incentives for DDR

Economic re-integration of military leaders

The interest of warlords and military leaders is often the cornerstone of peace processes. A certain number of military leaders, in particular mid-level commanders, tend to be left out of the incentives structure agreed in a peace agreement. In contexts as different as Mozambique, Uganda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tajikistan or Cambodia, prominent former commanders have been given enormous economic privileges to convince them to leave violence.13 Some DDR practitioners have advocated for a two-tier system of benefit packagesone for mid-level commanders whose expectations are typically high, and another for the rest of the fighters. At the same time, a fine balance needs to be struck between providing incentives and over-indulging the interests of former commanders, since the latter may lead to feelings of resentment amongst the civilian population, as well as the rest of the regular fighters.

Criminalization of post-war economies

Some characteristics of war economies tend to be carried over in post-war environments, such as an informal economy, and sometimes criminalization. The link between DDR and economic criminality needs to be further explored. The transformation from conflict to peace often threatens to disrupt systems of production and exchange that have provided livelihoods to warlords and their followers during war. In some instances, the beneficiaries of war economies tend to be also the beneficiaries of economic incentives and labor opportunities in post-war environments. Some scholars have cautioned that unless the criminalized war economy is transformed into legitimate state institutions and legal frameworks, these types of economies will continue to be pervasive during peace time.14 However, international and national agencies looking to eradicate war economy activities in post-conflict environments need exercise careful judgment since post-conflict reconstruction policies may not be able to provide the requisite employment activities at the outset which former combatants regard as an important source of their survival.15

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The political transformation of ex-combatants

Agreeing the timing and scope of post-conflict disarmament is politically sensitive and highly context specific,16 varying based on whether the program starts after the defeat of one of the warring parties, after the peace settlement or due to a government decision to reduce its armed forces.17 Questions such as who is holding the weapons and why? How should temporarily armed civilians during conflict be dealt with? What is the nature and structure of ex-combatants? And where there are local traditions in the possession and use of weapons?need to be answered carefully since they all have an impact on the scope and timing of disarmament, demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration (DDR).

Military, guerrilla, and paramilitary groups that pursue ideological and political goals need to be converted in the course of the peacebuilding process. Therefore politics needs to be put back at the center of the DDR processes and armed groups need to be evaluated with different temporal perspectives. Demobilization and reintegration are not only an individual, but also a collective process. The evaluation should take into account the future of the former collective political group that was the guerilla, and also the electoral success of the political party, not only in the first elections, but also in a medium to long-term perspective meaning in a different temporal perspective than the one scheduled for the reintegration of former combatants in the peace agreement. 18

The political transformation of former rebel groups into political parties seems to be a logical outcome of groups seeking a place within state institutions after demobilization. This process has taken place El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mozambique, and Kosovo. Yet, in some instances, groups have become depoliticized such as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Indeed, very little attention is usually paid to the actual change and implementation of laws, which may not favor former guerrillas and minority groups that resorted to violence to achieve political aims. The transformation of a former armed group into a new political party, or any other kind of political actor resorting to democratic mechanisms to achieve its aims, should be considered an element of evaluation in DDR programs.19 All of this also requires a better understanding of how external actors can support the political aspirations of former warring groups and a clear awareness from all stakeholders of that key dimension of the process.

Go to Democracy & Governance: Electoral Processes and Political Parties

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The psychosocial reintegration of ex-combatants

Post traumatic stress disorder from combat, often characterized by delayed onset, frequently coincides with unemployment, divorce, homelessness, criminal behavior, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Ex-combatants coming out of conflict tend to view themselves as different and may continue to identify themselves as such for years to come. Reintegration tends to focus more on rebuilding a strong economy and stable political conditions, yet the social and psychological aspect of reintegration needs to be also factored into process.

War, particularly protracted war, tends to create new networks of solidarity, social structures and techniques for survival. This subjective atypical experience will not only have an impact on the lives of ex-combatants after conflict, but also on their families too. Programs that include psycho-social support and counseling need to take into account the cultural embedding of these dimensions.20
Go to Psycho-social Recovery: Trauma, Mental Health & Psycho-social Well-being

The process of rebuilding the fabric of human interaction that allows a society to function again in the aftermath of war requires psychosocial healing and empowerment of the survivors. However, often the ability of a society to rebuild itself depends on the resources available to the society to restore basic needs, such as safety and order, and the willingness and capability to undergo a process of psychosocial healing. Storytelling is an important part of acknowledgement. For societies, traumatic events can be discussed, acknowledged, and mourned within and between communities. It becomes a process not only for the victim, but also for individuals representing the aggressor group. In addition, acknowledgement of the past may also include acknowledging the roles of bystanders, as well as the roles of victims and perpetrators. 

Go to Psycho-social Recovery: Reconciliation

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Community accountability and ownership in DDR processes

Reintegration implies reintegrating groups or individuals into a community, ex-combatants (in the broader meaning of this category) cannot be considered without taking their families and social ties into account. Since they are not isolated from what is happening within the rest of the society, the broadening of the DDR framework is extremely challenging and not easy to ensure. Yet community consultation and engagement is, in fact, critical to successful and sustainable DDR.21

At the level of families and communities, community engagement and consultation is a way of ensuring social control over former combatants, establishing accountability, and creating a more balanced assistance to former combatants and communities.22 However, it is often the case that ex-combatants may require a priority-targeted assistance.23 One way to achieve such a delicate balance is to include joint work schemes involving ex-combatants and the community to rebuild trust and show that ex-combatants are making a contribution to the community. Similarly, the sharing of some financial benefits from assistance packages that ex-combatants receive in the community can assist in reconciliation. In addition, preparation for this process needs to take place while disarmament is underway and be linked to weapons collection programs in all sectors of society.

Ex-combatants that have committed atrocities have a difficult time returning home to their communities.24 Their presence may worsen real or perceived vulnerability of local populations, which may neither have the capability or capacity to assist ex-combatants with little education, employment training, war trauma or a highly militarized view of the world.25 Therefore, reintegration should be based on local communities support and complements a broader national strategic plan for reconciliation, reconstruction and development.26 It is often easier to conceptualize concrete avenues to deal with these issues at the local level.

The incorporation of local communities in reintegration process relates to the concept that implies that the community rather than the individual is the primary unit for consideration. Community-based reintegration is closely linked to questions on who should be the beneficiaries of the reintegration phase of the DDR process. By excluding certain groups from reintegration programs, inequality may be enhanced. Therefore expanding the scope of reintegration programs means that the program will not only address ex-combatants within the society but also the community as a whole.

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Linking DDR programs with transitional justice initiatives

Both disarmament, demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration (DDR) programs and transitional justice initiatives seek to establish sustainable peace. Whereas DDR seeks to create a stable environment to prevent ex-combatants from reverting back to conflict, transitional justice attempts to overcome the legacy of crime and impunity after conflict. Yet, in some cases, the quest for creating a stable environment has led to a complete neglect in prosecuting war crimes. Likewise, the desire to avoid impunity has obstructed the need for DDR programs. However, trust and reconciliation are very important parts of the reintegration phase of DDR, as it is considerable harder to achieve without dealing with crimes of atrocity that took place during war. 

Go to Justice & Rule of Law: Transitional Justice & Psycho-social Recovery: Reconciliation

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Comprehensive monitoring of the DDR process

Pre-assessment and actual monitoring of the socio-political contexts and consequences of disarmament, demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration (DDR) programs are important. In each operation, a few key factors and indicators should be identified, and concrete tools should be given to DDR teams so they can monitor and report on the way DDR actually works on the ground. This should be part of a comprehensive monitoring and verification system of the dynamics engendered by a DDR program in a given state, as well as in its regional environment, when such connections are important to consider. This work should be conducted in close cooperation with other agencies involved in activities directly or indirectly related to DDR. Currently, the focus of most evaluations tends to be on the number of guns returned or people relocated. More intangible, but equally important, issues relate to community victimization, security, and long-term development prospects. Unfortunately, these issues are often glossed over. Realistic deadlines should also be set from the beginning, and revised if necessary on the basis of the results of the verification process.27

1. Robert Muggah, "Managing Post-Conflict Zones: DDR and Weapons Reduction," in Small Arms Survey Yearbook 2005: Weapons at War (Small Arms Survey, 2005), 276.
2. Stockholm Initiative on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration Final Report (Stockholm: Regeringskansliet (The Swedish Government Offices), 2006), 21.
3. Batrice Pouligny, The Politics and Anti-Politics of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programs, Centre dEtudes et de Recherches Internationales Sciences Po/CNRS, Secrétariat Général de la Défense Nationale (France) and Program for Strategic International Security Studies (Geneva) (2004), 14; United Nations Secretary General, Prevention of Armed Conflict, Report of the Secretary General, A/55/985-S/2001/574 (2001).
4. UN General Assembly, Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, para. 29-37, 9-10.
5. Pouligny, The Politics and Anti-Politics of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programs, 7.
6. UNDP, Practice Note on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Ex-combatants (2005), 11.
7. Alan Bryden, Linkage between DDR and SSR: Understanding the DDR-SSR Nexus: Building Sustainable Peace in Africa, (Issue Paper, Second International Conference on DDR and Stability in Africa, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, 12-14 June 2007), 3.
8. UN General Assembly, Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, para. 43, 12; Alex de Waal, ed., Post-conflict demilitarization, in Demilitarizing the mind: African agendas for peace and security (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2002), 144.
9. Albert Carams, Fisas Vicen, and Daniel Luz, Analysis of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Programs Existing in The World During 2005 (Barcelona: Escola de cultura de Pau, 2006), 21.
10. Norma Kriger. Guerrilla Veterans in Post-War Zimbabwe. (West Nyack, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 141.
11. Irma Specht, "Jobs for Rebels and Soldiers," in Jobs After War: A Critical Challenge in the Peace and Reconstruction Puzzle, Eugenia Date-Bah, ed. (Geneva: International Labour Organization, 2003), 101.
12. James Pugel, Key Findings from the Nation Wide Survey of Ex-combatants in Liberia: Reintegration and Reconciliation February-March 2006 (UNDP, February-March 2006).
13. Liu Institute for Global Issues & University of British Columbia, With or without peace: Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration in Northern Uganda, Justice and Reconciliation Project, Field Notes, No. 6, February 6. (2008): 1.
14. Jonathan Goodhand, From War Economy to Peace Economy? Reconstruction and State Building in Afgahnistan, Journal of International Affairs 58, 1 (Fall 2004), 162-163.
15. Christopher Cramer, Labour Markets, Employment, and the Transformation of War Economies, Conflict, Security & Development, (2006); J. P. Dunne, "Challenges of Armed Conflict to Jobs and Other Socio-Economic Issues in Africa," in Jobs After War: A Critical Challenge in the Peace and Reconstruction Puzzle, Eugenia Date-Bah, ed. (Geneva: International Labour Organization, 2003).
16. UNDP, Practice Note on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Ex-combatants, 39.
17. Ibid.
18. Jeroen de Zeeuw, ed., From Soldiers to Politicians: Transforming Rebel Movements after Civil War (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2007).
19. Pouligny, The Politics and Anti-Politics of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programs, 18.
20. Ibid, 9-10.
21. Ibid, 11.
22. A Framework for Lasting Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration of Former Combatants in Crisis Situations (International Peace Academy 2002), 3-4.
23. Nat J. Coletta, Markus Kostner and Ingo Wiederhofer, The transition from war to peace in Sub-Saharan Africa, (Washington, DC: World Bank, 1996), 18.
24. "Social and Economic Reintegration: Summary," in Integrated Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Standards (IDDRS) (United Nations Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Resource Center), para. 4; Coletta, Kostner and Wiederhofer, The Transition From War to Peace in Sub-Saharan Africa, 7.
25. "Social and Economic Reintegration: Summary," in IDDRS, para. 4.
26. United Nations Security Council, The role of United Nations peacekeeping in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, S/2000/101, (2000), para. 80-81, 15.
27. Pouligny, The Politics and Anti-Politics of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programs, 13-14.

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