21 May

Measuring the success of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration

Posted By Politybooks

eric_shibuya Demobilizing Irregular Forces came about nearly by accident. I had been considering a book on postconflict reconciliation practices when the opportunity to write specifically about the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process arose. Since I work primarily with military officers, the thought of working on the area of stability operations that they are most likely to confront was an intriguing challenge. My thinking on the subject has been shaped significantly by the conversations with many of my colleagues and students with tremendous first-hand experience.

The greatest insights of the book are arguably not so much lessons learned as ones rediscovered. Questions over the sequencing of DDR phases, how well the phases should be integrated, and the scope and priorities of DDR are questions easy to identify, but very difficult to address.  Recognizing how dependent DDR success is on the context wherein it is applied is a near universal insight. However, this insight does not stop an almost pathological desire to find “templates” from one case to another. The search for “best practices” is an understandable desire, but practices considered outside of historical and cultural contexts are frequently not “best”.

Secondly, the real success of DDR is found in psychological shifts in combatants and the wider community and not in more quantifiable measures such as weapons collected. Finding ways to measure these shifts is the challenge, but agencies must measure what matters, not what they can see and count. This also leads to the implication that agencies must consider what the individual phases of DDR mean within the context (and timing) of their application. In some cases, removing weapons from an environment will build trust, but in others, it fosters insecurity. It is the context that influences the value of the DDR program, not objective measures of performance.

Finally, the book argues for recognizing “acceptable levels of failure”. Too often, politicians, combatants and communities expect too much from DDR. DDR is not a cure for all conflict, and will not make all forms of violence go away. It is impossible to fix everything, and promising to do so will only lead to greater disappointment. Managing the expectations of both those implementing the DDR program and (perhaps most importantly) the affected community is one of the more valuable reminders from the work.

Eric Shibuya is associate professor of strategic studies at the US Marine Corps Command and Staff College.