DDR: supporting security and development: The EU's added value

This report looks at the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants. It analyses the process and the role of the European Union, and makes recommendations on future EU involvement.

The problems faced by countries emerging from years of violent conflict are enormous, highly complex and intricately interconnected. Among the greatest challenges are the presence of large numbers of ex-combatants and the ongoing violence perpetrated by members of still-active rebel groups. These ex-combatants will ultimately need to be demobilised and reintegrated into civilian life or perhaps into newly constituted security services.

Ex-combatants, as well as the many others associated with them (such as wives, porters, cooks, sex slaves), are likely to have known no other way of life than war and violence. Their sense of identity is integrally linked with the armed structures they have been fighting with. As ex-combatants have a potent ability to ‘spoil’ the peace process and progress towards security and development, it is largely accepted that they need special attention.

At the same time, millions of ordinary people within communities will be continuing to suffer many of the extreme hardships that have resulted from their experience of the conflict and resulting violence. This suffering, and accompanying tensions over such issues as the availability of and access to land, may then be further increased by the return of thousands of displaced people. Often, they see widespread impunity enjoyed by those who have perpetrated acts of violence. It seems clear that if communities are not given the chance to voice their concerns, needs and expectations the initiatives of external agencies will be unlikely to win the public support and acceptance that are essential to successful outcomes.

The European Union is among a number of international actors that aim to address these kinds of issues relating to ex-combatants and to the communities or security structures into which they will move. It contributes substantial amounts of money to specific DDR initiatives, supporting time-bound linear demobilisation and reintegration programmes such as the World Bank’s Multicountry Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme (MDRP) and UN Trust Funds for DDR, and is involved in overall planning for DDR programmes in-country. In addition, and crucially, it has competencies and funding instruments that can be used to implement security, development, governance and justice activities. Combined effectively together, and reinforced through political dialogue, these can play a fundamental role in driving and sustaining reintegration processes.