« Owning » The DDR Process? Lessons From Africa And Colombia
At a recent workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, jointly organized by TDRP and DPKO, 40 participants discussed what national ownership meant in their efforts to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate (DDR) combatants.
Eleven African countries and Colombia were represented. Participants included current and former heads of DDR commissions, and representatives from civil society, donor countries and multilateral organizations.
Why promote national ownership?
Externally imposed peacebuilding and development efforts, including DDR, have limited results if they are not embedded into a national effort, where the proposed solutions to the complex post conflict challenges are "owned" by the people they most directly concern.
Efforts to stabilize a country and secure its peace in a medium to long term horizon must involve all national actors.
But defining "national ownership" in DDR is difficult. Does national ownership mean that governments are leading the process? That they implement it? If yes, what happens in countries where no clear winner emerged from the conflict? And how is civil society involved in the DDR efforts?
National ownership is a process
Participants agreed that national ownership is a process that needs to be nurtured early on in post-conflict environments. Often, when the international and regional actors start talking DDR, state institutions are still weak; the national stakeholders who will participate in the DDR process have differing views, in some cases seeing DDR as an imposition rather than an agreed process; and political pressure may be strong to quickly start disarming and demobilizing combatants before the national environment is ripe enough to do so.
The workshop identified three levels for national ownership: 1. political/strategic, 2. technical/operational, , and 3. the population at large.
"The listing of all the possible elements of national ownership and how to engender those in national situations was very useful", noted Dr. Norman Mlambo, focal point for SSR/DDR in the Peace and Security Department of the African Union.
Professor Grevisse Ditend, Director of the DDR implementing unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo, added: « The workshop helped us see how the different paths taken in the various countries shaped the results of the DDR programs. We could see what was helpful and what was detrimental to the process ».
Variety of national actors
For national ownership to be effective, the engagement of stakeholders at all levels is important. This includes civil society organizations, youth groups, and even traditional authorities. It is the interplay between these actors that fosters buy-in to the DDR process.
Ruth Ojambo Ochieng, Executive Director of the NGO Isis-WICCE in Uganda, said: "For me the most useful aspect of the workshop is the urge to see that DDR works for the countries that are affected…. The most important is not only the whole issue of DDR being nationally owned but the inclusiveness of those most vital groups of people such as women groups who would effectively complement the entire DDR process."
Aspects of ownership
Through the presentations and exchanges that they triggered, the workshop participants identified five elements of nationally-owned DDR programs.
The DDR programs should be demand-driven, and the national authorities should demonstrate leadership and commitment to the process.
The DDR programs need to include clear measures to increase the national capacity (leadership, mediation, management).
Dedicating national resources—political or financial—alongside external aid leads to better national leadership of the DDR process.
Dialogue and inclusiveness are key to building capacity of local and national institutions.
Trust among national actors, and between national and international/regional partners is a critical component for successful DDR.
Capturing the lessons
The workshop achieved its stated objective to learn from national perspectives. Elizabeth Kissam, Operations Officer at the UN DPKO, agreed that "it was a fruitful and productive experience to have such a wealth and depth of DDR experience in particular several of current and former heads of DDR Commissions."
The participants also made some recommendations to promote national ownership in DDR programs and partnerships. Among them:
The need for a careful analysis of DDR stakeholders early in the process. This could help in facilitation the DDR negotiations among national, regional and international partners.
The necessity to link short term reintegration efforts to longer-term development objectives at the political and strategic level, to ensure the sustainability of the DDR process.
The call to include social information alongside legal and technical issues in DDR programs. This would help in addressing gender issues for example, which so often have been an afterthought in DDR programs.
The clear definition of roles and responsibilities at the outset to ensure that the partnerships built in DDR are mutually accountable.
From these and other lessons captured during the workshop, DPKO will draft a guidance note for practitioners on national ownership in DDR.