By Priya Swyden
Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) is a hotly debated topic currently under revision at the United Nations. It was at the center of Monday afternoon’s panel at the UN, on the opening day of the annual Geneva Peace Week. DDR describes the complicated process of removing weapons from the hands of members of armed groups, taking these combatants out of those groups, and then helping them reintegrate as civilians into society, towards the long-term goal of having more peaceful, secure, and developed communities.
Monday’s panel, called “Journeys to Peace: The Reintegration of Former Fighters in Europe and Beyond” was hosted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA). It featured four distinguished panelists from across the spectrum of civil-society agents who focused on the UN pivot from a traditional, individual-focused DDR to a more community-based practice.
The panel kicked off with a discussion by Mimmi Milligan, a specialist at the UNDP and architect of the revised DDR standards. Milligan described how the nature of conflicts have significantly changed in the last decade, presenting new challenges for DDR. The increasing complexity of conflicts coupled with the increasing number of designated terrorist groups throughout the world has made greater challenges for movements. One of which is the Social Forum to Promote the Peace Process in the Basque Country, a movement composed of different civil organizations dedicated to peace, and where Tasio Azpirov, another one of Monday’s panelists, is a part of.
The panel also included a discussion by Robert Orell, who works as an independent consultant and as program director of ExitUSA at Life After Hate, an NGO which assists in bringing former supremacists away from extremism – a goal highly similar to DDR. Orell focused primarily on the psychology of extremism. The main takeaway from the discussion was about community – how the return of individuals into communities that they had left, impacts both the social fabric of that community and the identity of the individual.
Want to read more about the UN’s DDR mission? Check out https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/disarmament-demobilization-and-reintegration