[Dateline: New York | Author: Department of Peacekeeping Operations]
Bringing together over 1,500 participants from 57 countries, the first International Congress on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR), hosted by the Colombian Government, opened in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on 4 May.
In a statement to the conference, the Secretary-General noted that DDR “has become recognized as a critical ingredient in consolidating stability and building peace in countries emerging from conflict in the past two decades.”
This was the first international forum for government representatives, practitioners and academic scholars to exchange their experience and information on this scale.
The Secretary-General welcomed the “wider forum where we can join with other partners to push this work forward. I welcome this Congress’s focus on how DDR can fit into peacebuilding, and how DDR can be better coordinated with these broader projects.
In the inauguration ceremony, the Vice President of Colombia focused on the centrality of the reintegration phase of DDR noting that the sustainability of peace processes depended on how well and fully ex-combatants have reintegrated into society. He also stressed the need for reintegration to be inclusive and fully take into account the needs of victims and communities at large.
In hosting this conference, one of the aims of the Colombian Government is to share best practices such as community-based reintegration and DDR approaches that include an emphasis on psycho-social support to ex-combatants.
Another crucial element of the conference is to explore the linkages between DDR and other peace consolidation initiatives such as “interim security stabilization measures, promotion of rule of law, reconciliation and security sector reform (SSR).”
To best capture the knowledge and experience of the participants, the conference is divided into six thematic plenary panels and 16 separate smaller roundtable discussions over three days.
The Opening Day also featured high-level speakers from Colombia, Haiti, Kosovo, Angola and the Philippines, demonstrating the diverse circumstances in which DDR is being implemented.
The many challenges require approaches that are tailored to their specific contexts. And yet the presenters pointed to some common factors for success: political will, national ownership and capacity, and a comprehensive approach that accounts for local socio-economic circumstances, addresses the needs of victims and involves communities at large.
Dmitry Titov, the Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, who represented the Secretary-General at the conference, told the conference that it was important that “immediate and long-term post-conflict initiatives—DDR, SSR, rule of law, human rights, humanitarian assistance, transitional justice, and development—develop mechanisms through which to work effectively together and to incorporate ways in which to build national capacity for stabilization and peace consolidation.”
He also invited the conference participants to work with the United Nations Inter-Agency Working Group on DDR to create a world-wide network of DDR practitioners to build on existing knowledge and share best practices.