A major challenge to improving human security and establishing sustainable peace in countries emerging from violent conflict is how to reintegrate ex-combatants – many of whom are used to making a living through violence – back into society. This involves helping ex-combatants move away from the roles and positions that defined them during the conflict towards identifying themselves as citizens and members of local communities. In such situations, employment and income generation are often the principal concerns of both local people and ex-combatants alike, and are among the key determining factors as to whether those who have been living by the gun are willing to disarm and reintegrate into society. Furthermore, if ex-combatants can play a constructive economic role in the communities to which they return or settle, their presence tends to be seen in a more positive light by these communities. In this context, economic reintegration can also contribute to the complex, long-term process of social reintegration.
However, sustained conflict tends to destroy pre-war economies, infrastructure and markets; break down the public sector; leave land uncultivable due to unexploded ordinance and landmines; and undermine the social relations often at the heart of trading, meaning that livelihood opportunities are scarce. In addition, ex-combatants may have limited levels of education, skills and work experience, further hampering their ability to gain employment.
The EU Concept for Support to Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration, agreed in December 2006, states that the ‘Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) of former combatants has been identified as a key area for the European Union’s engagement in post-conflict peacebuilding’.1 This commitment, combined with the increasing focus on human security2 as a guiding principle for the EU, offers the opportunity to bridge the divide between security and development approaches and actors in order to enable a holistic, human securitydriven approach to DDR, and reintegration specifically.
International Alert is seeking to build on previous initiatives to inform and advance EU thinking on DDR.3 The aim of this paper is to reinvigorate the debate about socio-economic reintegration; provide a platform for linking a broader range of actors who could be involved in ensuring the related aspects of the DDR concept move beyond policy to practice; and to explore what role the EU can play.
This paper is based on ongoing research by Alert, including background research in Burundi, Liberia and Nepal. A draft of the paper was used to inform discussions at an Alert roundtable of the same name, held in Brussels in September 2009, and the paper was subsequently finalised. It provides a discussion of the following points:
1. Why is socio-economic reintegration important?;
2. Challenges to socio-economic reintegration;
3. Current approaches to socio-economic reintegration;
4. Implementation considerations and challenges; and
5. Recommendations: Enhancing the role of the European Union.