Issue 37 - Article 9

Great expectations: (dis)integrated DDR in Sudan and Haiti

April 15, 2007
Robert Muggah, University of Geneva

Humanitarian and development donors, policy-makers and practitioners are increasingly advocating so-called integrated missions in transitional or post-conflict contexts. Such missions are being described as ‘the new reality’ for UN operations. Proponents of the integrated model are convinced that a system-wide approach to programming in post-conflict contexts can reduce the likelihood of conflicts resuming. More specifically, there is a growing sense that integrated approaches to disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) can enhance the work of the two primary UN contributors – the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

While few observers dispute the desirability of integration in principle, many practical constraints confront integrated missions on the ground. In the two countries where integrated approaches to DDR are being piloted – Haiti and Sudan – interventions recently stalled. Despite the elaboration of comprehensive guidelines to help navigate the process, there appears to be comparatively little consensus on how integration should be defined, or how it can be operationalised. The ‘new reality’ of integration has been a hard pill to swallow.

A number of lessons are emerging from the recent experiences of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the UN Stabilisation Mission for Haiti (MINUSTAH). In both cases, weaknesses in political leadership within and outside the UN, the absence of clear direction from headquarters, competing understandings of DDR among managers and practitioners and confusion over financing mechanisms have all limited effective integration. Despite optimism among diplomats and senior UN officials in New York and Geneva, there are growing concerns on the ground that ‘integrated’ DDR missions are in fact ‘disintegrating’.

To integrate or not to integrate?

The impetus to integrate UN missions arose from a long-standing debate over how best to close the relief–development gap in humanitarian and post-conflict recovery contexts. The drive to integrate and ‘join-up’ was also fuelled by a conviction among some donors that the relapse of post-conflict countries into war had as much to do with incoherent and uncoordinated UN stabilization and recovery efforts as with structural factors in the countries themselves. The former Secretary General Kofi Annan referred to this as a ‘gaping whole’ and regularly lamented the lack of inter-agency cooperation.

From the beginning, the agenda was UN-specific. Early examples included efforts to promote greater synergies between the UN Resident Coordinator and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator. At the level of planning and programming, the integration of humanitarian, development, peacekeeping and fiscal priorities was encouraged in Common Country Assessments and UN Development Assistance Frameworks. Early experimentation reinforced the conclusion that the ‘form’ of integration should follow ‘function’ and that standardised templates were to be avoided.

Predictably, these early initiatives were afflicted with a host of growing pains. Whilst officials at the headquarters level lauded the coherence and coordination brought about by integration, there were fierce disagreements at the country level over how to convert plans into practice. Was integration expected to promote joint planning and prioritisation, joined up programmatic interventions, or both? Managers and practitioners complained that the parameters of integration were unclear, and that few guidelines were issued to support the process. Tensions surfaced between UN agencies over mandates and priorities, particularly in resource-scarce environments.

Integrating DDR in Sudan and Haiti

Although disagreements persist over what exactly DDR is expected to achieve, there is a consensus that it has a central function in transition and peace-support operations. In fact, there is a widespread – if empirically unfounded – conviction that DDR is causally associated with preventing renewed war in fragile post-conflict contexts, reducing victimisation and promoting durable reintegration of ex-combatants.

The UN has long had a lead role in DDR. It launched its first mission in 1989, in Central America, and has since undertaken or supported DDR in more than 20 countries. Lessons emerging from past DDR operations emphasise the importance of improving predictability and coordination among political actors and implementing agencies. The sheer range and variety of state and UN actors and budget lines involved in DDR, and the frictions that can ensue, seemed to make a coherent approach imperative.

DDR was identified as a prime candidate for ‘integration’ because it theoretically spanned the security-development continuum. A UN inter-agency working group on DDR composed of more than fourteen UN departments, agencies and non-governmental agencies was established in 2004. By 2006, the group had crafted operational guidelines – the Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards (IDDRS) – to define a ‘common and integrated international approach to support national DDR efforts’.

A two-pronged approach was adopted. First, in order to generate the necessary political and normative conditions for integration, DPKO and UNDP encouraged donors to adopt recommendations in UN Security Council resolutions endorsing ‘joined-up’ operations. Second, DPKO and UNDP headquarters strongly advocated for the creation of ‘joined-up’ DDR Units/Sections within UN country missions in two pilot countries – Sudan and Haiti. It was expected that unified ‘decision-making mechanisms’ could readily translate policy prescriptions into practical interventions.

DDR in Sudan

The case for an integrated approach to DDR in Sudan was firmly embedded in various legal documents, including UNSC Resolution 1590. The preconditions for DDR were also theoretically enshrined in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ending Sudan’s civil war in the south. National commissions were established in 2005 and 2006 to oversee DDR in the north and south of the country, and an UNMIS DDR Unit – comprising DPKO and UNDP – was set up to guide the process. By the beginning of 2007, it was expected that over 91,000 government and rebel troops would be involved.

The reality on the ground was far more complex than anticipated by drafters of UNSC Resolutions and CPA supporters. Neither the Sudanese government in Khartoum nor the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Juba demonstrated much serious interest in supporting DDR. The UNMIS DDR Unit soon discovered that there were far more armed groups than originally anticipated, including a combination of SPLA factions, pro-Khartoum militia, pastoral self defence groups and others deliberately excluded from the CPA. The issue of civilian disarmament was exempt from the CPA, and the integrated DDR Unit struggled to define a coherent way forward.

Within the DDR Unit, tensions emerged between the DPKO and UNDP over the best way forward. The UNMIS DPKO contingent endorsed the conventional top-down approach prescribed by the CPA. UNDP – together with a number of local organisations – advocated for an alternative model that included a ‘community security fund’ and the promotion of needs-based disarmament. This emphasised local and participatory approaches to defining ‘community security needs’, and supported ‘development’ incentives in exchange for voluntary disarmament. UN policy makers and practitioners admit that, despite their best intentions, very little has been achieved over the past two years beyond the approval of a national DDR policy.

DDR in Haiti

MINUSTAH adopted an integrated approach to DDR, as prescribed by UN Security Council Resolution 1542. But planners and practitioners quickly realised that the preconditions for DDR did not exist. Unlike Sudan, there had been no ‘conflict’ per se, there were no clearly defined armed groups and there was no peace agreement to guide the process. Nevertheless, an approach was developed by the new national commission on disarmament and the integrated DDR Section. The initial focus was on the former armed forces, the FADH, which had previously been ‘demobilised’, albeit unsuccessfully, by the US military in the mid-1990s. They also focused on Haiti’s disparate armed gangs.

From the beginning, it was acknowledged that this was no ordinary DDR process. The situation on the ground defied conventional approaches. The country’s estimated 170,000–210,000 weapons and 15,000 gang members and former FADH troops were highly dispersed. In the face of pressure from the UN Security Council, the SRSG and donors to ‘do something’, the integrated DDR Section began to come unstuck. The original proposal adopted elements of a classic DDR programme, emphasising the formal cantonment of ‘ex-soldiers’ and some gang members. It also emphasised a community-centred strategy to reduce violence, similar to that piloted by UNDP in 2003. But with disagreements over the direction, content and financing of the intervention, the DDR programme failed to launch.

The integrated DDR Section rapidly fractured. Those on the DPKO side continued to argue for the encampment and reinsertion of former FADH troops and ‘hard-core’ gang members. Funding was provided from the assessed MINUSTAH budget, and was administered by DPKO even though start-up funds had been supplied by UNDP. Meanwhile, UNDP staff began to promote ‘community violence prevention and development committees’ around the country. The integrated DDR Section was thus effectively administering at least two separate programmes. In 2007, several bilateral donors began supporting the UNDP intervention, though it is too early to say whether the new approach will be more effective than the last.

Integration inertia

Achieving genuine integration requires a clear, shared understanding of what it actually means in practice. There are still fierce disagreements within the UN over whether integration constitutes an ‘enabling framework’ for planning and prioritisation, a mechanism to promote coordination or the de facto‘merging’ of administrative and operational polices and programmes.

DPKO and UNDP view DDR differently. Military planners often adhere to a narrow reading, focused primarily on the technical aspects of disarmament and demobilisation, including arms collection, registration and the cantonment and discharge of ex-combatants. In addition to sticking to the letter of UNSC resolutions and peace agreements, they tend to reproduce operational procedures dividing areas of operation into discrete units that do not necessarily correspond to administrative boundaries.

Meanwhile, development agencies are believed to adopt ‘softer’ approaches to DDR – focused primarily on reintegration and enhancing the absorptive capacities of areas of return. UNDP tends to be more innovative in its approach to DDR, having experimented in dozens of countries with bottom-up and community-centred violence reduction, weapons collection and reintegration programmes since the mid-1990s. The agency also operates within administrative boundaries that are recognised by governments, but which are at odds with DPKO planning.

The fact that there are different conceptions of what is and is not DDR has implications for how programmes are ultimately planned and executed, and for the division of responsibilities between agencies. For example, in UNMIS and MINUSTAH, DPKO claimed the lead for disarmament and demobilization, while UNDP was assigned responsibility for reintegration. This division of labour reflected the comparative advantages of each agency. This is a necessary, but insufficient, condition of integration. Although some efforts were made to link planning and programming in both Sudan and Haiti, segmented understandings and expectations of what DDR was expected to achieve resulted in at times acrimonious disagreements both within and outside the integrated DDR Sections.

Another widely acknowledged obstacle to ‘integrated missions’ relates to financing. In virtually all cases, the funding of DPKO-led DDR is via assessed budgets pending a UN Security Council resolution. As such, disarmament and demobilisation are frequently adequately covered with resources controlled by DPKO. By way of contrast, UNDP often arranges its budgets according to annual development planning processes and voluntary bilateral contributions executed either directly by the agency or through the government of the country in question. In both Sudan and Haiti, additional ‘preparatory’ funding was provided by UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) for direct execution.

In each case, there were disagreements over who to report to, how funding should be accounted for, and the adequacy of funding for resource-intensive activities such as ‘reintegration’. If assessed and UNDP resources could be transferred to integrated DDR Sections/Units in a more predictable fashion, as some UN officials in New York believe is possible, it is likely that a more holistic and comprehensive management approach would emerge on the ground.

Recent experiences of UNMIS and MINUSTAH remind us that ‘post-conflict’ environments are exceedingly challenging contexts for any intervention, not least integrated DDR. In such cases, conventional or ‘classic’ DDR focused exclusively on ex-combatants may not be the most appropriate course of action. Grounded and bottom-up approaches, such as those emphasising ‘community security’ or ‘community-centred violence reduction’, may be more important. Where the political will for DDR is lacking, alternative approaches may be required. In the case of both UNMIS and MINUSTAH, the ruptures between DPKO and UNDP were shaped as much by function as by form. A renewed focus on clarifying the expectations of integration, the division of labour and the nature of financing could vastly enhance effectiveness in the future.

Robert Muggahis based at the Graduate Institute of International Studies (University of Geneva) and Queen Elizabeth House (University of Oxford). He is also project coordinator of the Small Arms Survey and a regular consultant to multilateral and bilateral agencies. His email is:


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