From conflict to ownership: Participatory approaches to the reintegration of ex-combatants in Sierra Leone and Liberia
Kilroy, Walt (2012) From conflict to ownership: Participatory approaches to the reintegration of ex-combatants in Sierra Leone and Liberia. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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Programmes for the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants have become a standard tool in peacebuilding. Empirical data on their effectiveness suggest varying degrees of success. The need for a more holistic, integrated approach has long been recognised, but rarely achieved. The reintegration of ex-combatants takes place in the community, and merges with development and post-conflict reconstruction. This study uses the concept of “participation” from development discourse, to look at reintegration in Sierra Leone and Liberia. A participatory approach allows potential stakeholders to have a say in how interventions are conceived and implemented. Participation is largely unexplored in the context of DDR. The study looks at the extent to which the programmes were participatory. It also seeks to identify the constraints and enabling factors in taking a participatory approach, and the impact on stakeholders. It is based on focus group discussions and surveys of ex-combatants, and semi-structured interviews with a range of stakeholders.
It finds that participation and ownership are only seen to a limited extent. Many ex-combatants felt they did not receive adequate or accurate information, that they had been misled, and that programmes did not meet their expectations. Opportunities to have a say in the process were limited. Women in particular were more likely to be excluded. More participatory processes were however noted in specific areas, such as the programmes for children.
Constraints included short timescales for implementation, security concerns, differing agendas, and post-war disruption. Participation proves to be a useful framework for assessing reintegration programmes, and for planning the more integrated approach which has long been advocated. More participatory approaches were also linked with better programme outcomes for ex-combatants, in terms of employment, relations with the community, and living conditions. They are also seen as helping to rebuild social capital, which is itself a contributory factor in terms of how participatory reintegration can support the broader objectives of peacebuilding. This wider agenda of peacebuilding, which is ultimately what DDR is supposed to be part of, is supported by a participatory approach to reintegration, and undermined by one in which there is little ownership by those directly involved.
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