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Questions and Answers: A new EU policy in support of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of former combatants

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op dinsdag 21 december 2021.

What is disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants?

Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants (DDR) is the process by which individuals or groups voluntarily lay down their arms, break away from military structures, and transition to live sustainably as civilians in communities.

By supporting these processes, the EU helps address the risks of re-occurrence of violence and build sustainable peace.

Whilst DDR processes may be incentivised, engagement is always voluntary and relies on personal, local and community ownership. These processes, which may take place at any stage of a conflict, bear political, socio-economic, cultural, legal, and security-related implications. To be successful, they need to be linked to long-term development and peacebuilding efforts.

Does DDR mean a blank cheque for those who committed war crimes and other grave violations of human rights?

DDR should never be equated with automatic amnesties.

The EU remains firm in its position that individuals who committed serious crimes should be brought to justice in due course, and in line with national justice systems, reforms and related transitional justice, while complying with International Human Rights Law, including the rights of the child.

Why a revised EU DDR policy?

The last EU policy on DDR is the 2006 EU DDR Concept. While it has enabled the EU to support DDR processes in different ways in several contexts, there is a need to update the approach for three reasons.

First, today's conflicts are increasingly complex and challenging, with a multiplication and fragmentation of armed groups that operate across borders and that may be designated as terrorist organisations, under certain circumstances, or maintain close ties with organised criminal networks.

Second, building on the Integrated Approach to Conflict and Crises and the EU Global Strategy, the EU has a wide toolbox that enables it to better address the needs of former combatants as well as those of the communities where they (re-)integrate.

Third, with a renewed political ambition to build and sustain peace - drawing on its development and humanitarian action, as well as on its peace and security efforts - the EU can better leverage its involvement with key partners, in particular the United Nations. The EU can act as a strong supporter of multilateralism in this field, as called for in the recently revised UN Integrated DDR Standards.

What is the EU's added value in support of DDR processes?

As a global political actor, the EU can rely on policy and political dialogue, mediation efforts, security sector reform, and development and peacebuilding efforts to support effective DDR processes. Through its principled and policy-driven engagement, the EU and its Member States will deliver tailor-made, sustainable and conflict-sensitive support to DDR by building on local realities and combining short-, medium-, and long-term actions.

How has the EU contributed to DDR processes so far?

The EU has supported the return of former male and female members of armed forces or groups to civilian lives, the release and reintegration of children in armed conflict, the prevention or reduction of violence at community level and, in specific circumstances, the integration of the vetted former combatants into the regular security forces. Contributions have been provided either directly or by channelling assistance through international, regional, national, or local partners, specialised non-governmental organisations and civil society actors, as well as governments, for example through development and humanitarian actions. The EU has also played an important role in donor coordination.

Longstanding support to the peace process in Colombia, searching for viable exit opportunities from conflict zones in the north-east of Nigeria, working on the implementation of the peace agreements in the Philippines or in the Central African Republic, as well as supporting the reintegration of veterans of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, are some examples of how the EU can support DDR processes.

Will the EU deal with the reintegration of certain combatants labelled as terrorists?

The Joint Communication makes it clear that groups designated by the UN Security Council or the EU as terrorist organisations or returning foreign terrorist fighters and their families cannot benefit from DDR support. Challenges relating to these groups are, instead, addressed in relevant counter-terrorism frameworks.

How will the EU address issues relating to child soldiers?

The EU pays particular attention to the protection of children associated with armed forces and groups. Within the area of DDR, the EU and its Member States work hard to ensure the unconditional and immediate protection, release of boys and girls from different armed groups and their (re)integration within their family and communities, when possible and considered in their best interest, irrespective of the potential designation of the armed group. To do this, the EU works closely with specialised child protection agencies in conflict settings.

Children at the age of criminal responsibility, and who are suspected of having committed a serious crime, shall be handed over to civilian actors, and justice should be provided within juvenile justice frameworks.

How will you ensure a gender perspective in the EU's DDR work?

The integration of a gender perspective is central to any work within peacebuilding and development cooperation in general, and of particular importance to DDR.

Men, women, boys, and girls of all ages have different and individual needs, capacities, and expectations, and it is important that these considerations are reflected in the EU's DDR work. Similarly, it is important to include and acknowledge the roles of youth in DDR settings. The EU Gender Action Plan (GAP III) for 2020-2025 integrates Women, Peace and Security as a core priority to be pursued.

How will this policy be implemented?

The EU is able to support DDR processes by bringing key actors together, linking short-term initiatives with long-term commitments, providing political and financial support to governments, partners and processes, and through CSDP missions and operations. Most importantly, all EU engagements need to be coordinated and specific to each context. To ensure this, the EU will develop structures for internal coordination, partner closely with international and multilateral organisations, governments and civil society actors, and develop the methodologies needed to ensure a conflict sensitive, gender responsive, adaptable and tailor made support to DDR.

What funding tools does the EU have at its disposal to support DDR?

The EU can draw on the full range of policies, tools, and instruments to support DDR processes through rapidly deployable assistance and specific provisions under EU external action funding programmes. The Global Europe: Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) and, under specific circumstances, the European Peace Facility (EPF) are key instruments through which the EU could provide conflict sensitive financial support and link long-term policy-driven development with short-term actions.

For More Information

Joint Communication

Press release



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