“Reintegration – Evolution or Revolution?”, by Salma Yusuf and Dominique Mystris


A focus on reintegration requires consideration of the economic, political and social aspects of the process. In addition to the broader definition of reintegration, it is proposed that any definition of ex-combatant should be broad enough to cover as many individuals involved and directly linked, as in the families of the combatants, to bring them back into the community.

In this paper, some of the challenges and obstacles to reintegration are considered, culminating in an analysis of best practices and recommendations to inform the work of practitioners, thereby complementing the ongoing discourse on reintegration of excombatants in post-war contexts. The obstacles and challenges to the reintegration process have been explored from four perspectives, namely, third party, ex-combatant, community and general.

For third party obstacles, there is a focus on what occurs prior to any programmes – the focus is on the lack of attention given to reintegration, funding issues and the consequences, how using a cookie-cutter approach is detrimental to reintegration as it doesn’t take into account the context specific realities of each situation. The obstacles associated with who can be defined as an ex-combatant, who to include and the lack of coordination between actors has negative repercussions, which can be overcome through the use of mid-term reviews. Third parties need to ensure the relevance of any initiatives undertaken to be as effective as possible, while the time frame should be realistic but not overly long and thus creating a dependency on support. During the programmes, the obstacles are once again a lack of coordination and the importance of distinguishing between processes and programmes, ensuring the right activities are undertaken at the appropriate time and by the relevant people and organisations.

In terms of ex-combatant obstacles, prior to any programmes commencing it is important to not treat combatants as a homogenous group. Distinctions need to be made between men, women and children as a minimum. It is advisable to take into account whether all combatants are ideological, or what their motivations for fighting are, as this will impact on the reasons and requirements for their reintegration. The type of conflict and combatant also needs to be taken into account. Conflicts which are solely ideological will have specific issues which need to be addressed before any successful and sustainable reintegration is possible.

During the reintegration phase obstacles may take the form of conflict resurgence. Where issues are not addressed or combatants are enticed to rejoin fighting for other reasons, this will seriously impact on any reintegration efforts. Linked to this is the notion of spoilers, those combatants who are outside the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process but continue to pose a security threat, be it in terms of physical security for communities and ex-combatants or merely in terms of providing an alternative for unsatisfied ex-combatants. A final point looked at is the implications of ex-combatants forming groups and the impact this may have. While such groups can have negative impacts on community security and can be a disguised form of illegal activity, such group structures can be utilised for positive results as well.

The community obstacles occur both prior to and during programme implementation. The capacity of a community to absorb returning ex-combatants is key to success, as well as their willingness to accept such individuals back into a community. There are numerous factors which determine such, however, measures can be undertaken to increase them, whether it is helping to increase the number of facilities within the community to cope with the reintegrating individuals and their families, education and information campaigns, or utilising traditional forms of reconciliation to increase willingness.

Discrimination can be problematic no matter who it is directed against. It is vital that excombatants are not perceived as benefiting from their activities during the conflict, while at the same time it is not advisable to attempt reintegration of ex-combatants into communities which are likely to discriminate against and between ex-combatants, given the atrocities felt by the community at the hands of the ex-combatants. In such situations alternative areas for reintegration are preferable.

General obstacles surround the security situation of the country. Peace is ideally needed for successful reintegration efforts. Monitoring should be carried out to ensure potential problem areas are identified and dealt with. Places of reintegration are not all the same. Rural areas are easier to reintegrate into due to less land and job constraints, whereas urban areas suffer from larger competition for jobs, housing and additional stresses to overcome. The level of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) returning will prove an additional burden for communities where ex-combatants are also returning. Measures should be taken to increase infrastructure and capacity for the communities, as well as official efforts such as land reform to help ease the process.

Any post-war country will most likely suffer from a weakened, if not almost non-existent, infrastructure. This is where short to medium-term labour intensive employment opportunities for ex-combatants can prove mutually beneficial; the communities get their infrastructure, while the ex-combatants receive a livelihood and are less likely to be perceived as unfairly benefiting from fighting. These initiatives also provide a useful stop gap, while education and training programmes are being set up.

Following from an examination of obstacles and identification of related best practices to overcome the obstacles, a broader context-neutral consideration of best practices is undertaken. The United Nations DDR Resource Centre is identified as a helpful database which provides tools and information to help initiate and follow-up any DDR process and programmes.

Security sector reform (SSR) can prove invaluable for ensuring that reintegration remains sustainable. This is due to its ability to address many of the underlying issues, peace settlement areas and solidifying of the reintegration efforts.

Demobilisation and disarmament should be continued as long as possible to encourage late joining ex-combatants to the reintegration process. This helps to reach the greatest number of combatants as possible and increases the likelihood of combatants becoming part of society.

Consideration is given to second generation DDR and how it can be used as a follow on from traditional DDR or where preconditions to traditional DDR are absent. Three approaches are presented, namely, post-conflict stabilization measures; targeting specific groups; and alternative approaches to addressing disarmament and unregulated weapons.

The focus of second generation DDR is on the community as a whole and not the military, unlike with traditional DDR. The importance of economic security is highlighted in terms of sustaining reintegration through addressing real opportunities and working with those who are in a position provide accurate data on public and private sector opportunities available.

Continued access to psychosocial services will help to deal with residual effects from the conflict which may be felt by the ex-combatants or the victims of the conflict. This should take the form of healing, social cohesion and public information.

One of the most effective ways to ensure sustainability of reintegration is through monitoring and review. This enables action to be taken to address any problem areas or potential conflicts from erupting.

Title: Reintegration – Evolution or Revolution?

Lead authors: Salma Yusuf and Dominique Mystris

Date: March 2012

Published by the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, Sri Lanka


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