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A critical review of evidence from ex-combatant re-integration programs

Sharif, Sally (2018) A critical review of evidence from ex-combatant re-integration programs. Politics of Return (2). Social Science Research Council, London, UK.

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Determining the criteria that have contributed to the success or failure of a Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program has led to the publication of countless documents on lessons learned, new pathways, and revised theories. The large number of DDR reports is justified, considering the high value that a successful program would yield: DDR is the largest intervention in nearly all of the United Nations’ ongoing large-scale peacekeeping missions tasked with restoring social capital and promoting long-term peace. However, the argument also holds true in reverse: the post-conflict era risks renewed war if demobilized combatants are not properly reintegrated into society. Despite numerous lessons learned publications, reintegration programs seem to run into the same obstacles in every new context, resulting in badly implemented plans and at best suboptimal results. The constant evaluation and negative assessments suggest that we have not learned our DDR lessons; so we repeat mistakes of the past, run into unforeseen problems in the implementation phase, and face unexpected results that defy explanation. This paper critically reviews the conceptual literature on DDR/DDRRR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement) as well as practitioner/donor publications on DDR approaches and lessons learned. The review focuses mainly on programs in Africa’s Great Lakes Region, specifically the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda, and the Central African Republic (CAR). Reviewing a large number of works between 1990 and 2017, the paper draws conclusions on the conditions that contribute to endemic violence in the post-conflict period and the factors that make social repair possible among and within communities that have undergone acute social stress. It shows the ways in which standardized peacebuilding approaches to return within DDR programs are irrelevant to people on the ground that negotiate conflict realities, and explains how ex-combatant returnees affect local governance structures. In the end, it considers the possibility of reintegration programs dealing with ex-combatants in conflicts characterized by violent extremism.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 The Author
Divisions: IGA: Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2018 11:45
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 23:45
Funders: Economic & Social Research Council, Arts and Humanities Research Council

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