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Linkage between DDR and SSR - Understanding the DDR-SSR Nexus: Building Sustainable Peace in Africa

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What are the key linkages between Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) and Security Sector Reform (SSR)? How can these inform the development of policy frameworks in post-conflict contexts? This paper developed on behalf of the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa presents some of the key challenges to achieving better synergies in practice between DDR and SSR. Supporting security sector governance institutions provides an important under-acknowledged means to link SSR and DDR concerns. 

Linkages are particularly apparent between DDR and SSR because both concern the military, the security sector and other groups responsible for its management and oversight. Africa merits special attention because it has suffered disproportionately from conflict and has been the major theatre of post-conflict peacebuilding activities. There is a clear need to draw lessons from previous interventions in order to shape future policy and practice. 

Efforts to link DDR and SSR must address a number of challenges:

  • Whilst reintegrating former combatants into the security sector may meet the demands of both DDR and SSR, it can have negative results if candidates have not been properly screened or trained.
  • DDR decisions often form part of peace agreements. Yet agreements on numbers and type of soldiers retained and demobilised can be counter-productive from a SSR perspective.
  • A lack of explicit awareness in programming between DDR and SSR and transitional justice can lead to imbalances that might seem to favour former combatants over other parts of society.
  • DDR and SSR share a tension – that is the difficult balance between predominantly external assistance and the need to foster local and national ownership.
  • DDR processes are often judged by the numbers of former combatants that are disarmed, demobilised and successfully reintegrated. However, there is significant debate on how success of SSR processes can be measured. 

A security governance approach must lie at the heart of efforts to address these challenges because it provides a means to integrate activities and actors at international, state and sub-state levels based on common understandings and core principles. Greater clarity on roles and capabilities of different actors and how they have been deployed in specific contexts is an essential precursor to meaningful policy frameworks for the UN and other bi- and multilateral actors. 

  • Better co-ordination between DDR and SSR stakeholders can be achieved through mechanisms that provide for structured information sharing that prioritises a division of labour based on comparative advantage.
  • Co-ordination between international actors will be of limited value unless national actors play a central role in these processes.
  • The reintegration of former combatants should not be an ad hoc process but reflect clear SSR-driven criteria.
  • To integrate DDR and SSR concerns, DDR provisions should be flexible and process-based to meet shifting perceptions of threat and need.
  • DDR and SSR programmes will be best linked if they reflect an expression of national priorities and will. Local actors need to be intimately involved from the start.
  • Fostering national capacities in security sector governance institutions provides a key means of linking DDR and SSR through supporting those best placed to design and implement those programmes.


Author: Alan Bryden
Source: Bryden, A., 2007, 'Linkage between DDR and SSR - Understanding the DDR-SSR Nexus: Building Sustainable Peace in Africa', Issue Paper at the Second International Conference on DDR and Stability in Africa, 12-14 June, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Size: 28 pages (260 KB)