The cessation of hostilities does not necessarily mean the return to security for civilians and former combatants. Without a concerted programme to build trust among warring factions and disarm and enfranchise former combatants, risks of a resurgence of violence remain high. Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) seeks to achieve these goals and stabilise post-conflict societies while providing an environment conducive to long-term peace. Yet, despite the obvious importance of DDR, it is often neglected or improperly implemented.
In Demobilizing Irregular Forces, Shibuya aims to conceptually introduce readers to the DDR process and provide insight into the essential factors of a successful DDR programme. Drawing on real world examples from South America, Asia and Africa, Shibuya emphasises the cultural and psychological aspects of DDR, while categorically rejecting a uniform ‘one size fits all.’ approach.
In the first two chapters Shibuya provides a useful introduction to the history and evolution of DDR with the first chapter situating DDR within the larger framework of peacebuilding. To avoid confusion, effort is expended on ensuring that key terminology is defined. Despite arguing that DDR process is a “symbiotic” and “holistic” process, Shibuya organises the subsequent chapters around each component part of the DDR process in isolation.
The third chapter addresses disarmament. Shibuya argues that disarmament is the most visible element of the DDR process and indicates that the confiscation or surrender of weapons provides the public with a tangible sense that ‘something is being done.’ Consequently, it is especially alluring to politicians and is often over emphasised in DDR programmes. However, disarmament faces a number of tactical challenges, including the proper stockpiling and destruction of surrendered weapons. Shibuya also addresses the psychological (developing trust amongst the parties) and cultural (domestic gun culture) aspects of disarmament, which are often undervalued in the implementation of DDR programmes.
The fourth chapter addresses demobilisation which Shibuya considers the true heart of the DDR process. The demobilisation process includes the discharge of active combatants and initial phases of reintegration of former combatants into society. Shibuya argues that demobilisation has an acutely psychological component, namely the reduction in the psychological state of combat. In accordance with Shibuya’s thesis – that psychological and cultural aspects of DDR are paramount to fostering peace and reconciliation in post-conflict societies – the proper demobilisation sets the psychological framework for successful DDR. Shibuya also raises concerns about the unique social and cultural challenges faced by children and female combatants, an issue which is often ignored or undervalued.
The fifth chapter addresses reintegration and while demobilisation sets the stage for DDR, Shibuya argues that the fate of a DDR programme lies squarely on its ability to achieve reintegration. Reintegration is the phase where combatants are transitioned back into society and is a multifaceted transition which includes economic, social and political factors. For Shibuya, the psychological factors in this phase are of great import. Moreover, Shibuya argues that reintegration requires a psychological shift not only by combatants, but by the society to which the combatants are returning. Therefore, Shibuya argues that successful reintegration programs must incorporate both tangible elements (e.g. non-violent economic opportunities for former combatants) and intangible elements (e.g. efforts to address the psychological impacts of reintegration).
In his conclusion, Shibuya returns to his point of departure that ‘social context and psychological shifts will always trump bureaucratic and technocratic processes’ in successful DDR programmes. Accordingly, Shibuya concludes that DDR may have a general framework, but that such a framework must remain flexible. Indeed, effective DDR programmes require a tailored response to the unique circumstances of the specific post-conflict society at issue. Despite the allure of focusing on tangible elements such as weapons collection and reintegration programs, the absence of emphasis on more intangible elements such as cultural and psychological factors and a DDR is unlikely to truly be successful.
In Demobilizing Irregular Forces, Shibuya provides a fresh look at the DDR process; emphasising psychological and cultural underpinnings of successful DDR programmes. Succinct and easy to understand, this book is excellent for novices and security studies students. More advanced readers may also find value in Shibuya’s focus on the cultural and social elements of DDR which are often undervalued in the implementation of DDR programsme.