Engaging Communities

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Engaging Communities

The successful reintegration of former combatants depends on their ability to be accepted into the communities of resettlement. Yet, often times community members are also survivors of human rights abuses from the conflict. Consequentially, peace agreements among leaders do not always find acceptance from society, creating another barrier to sustainable peace. Below is a list of questions to serve as a starting framework for the discussion in this thread:

  • What role should the community have in developing and implementing reintegration programs for former combatants?
  • How are the tensions between supporting a community that has suffered as a result of conflict and supporting former combatants resolved?
  • How can reintegration programs be designed to benefit both former combatants and their home communities?
  • How can reintegration mechanisms account for combatants who frequently are both perpetrators and victims of human rights abuses?
  • Share stories of success
How can reintegration programs benefit combatants and communites

While we know that conflict impacts the lives of former combatants and non-combatants (community people at large), reintegation programmes often tend to benefit ex-combatants and igore the needs and priorities of other conflict-affected people. In many post-conflict society, this devisive programmatic focus runs the risk of causting tensions between ex-combatants and conflict victims. In Nepal, for example, tensions occured between ex-combatants who went received cash package as reintegration support and those IDPs who were deprived of conflict victim supports promised to them. Tensions also occured when one group of verfied ex-combatants received a cash pacakge whereas unverified ex-combatants received a poorly conceived rehabiliation support. When reintegration programme is conceived as part of a post-conflict recovery programme, it is possible that recovery programme focuses on those key actors such as ex-combatants while other direct and indirect victims of conflict often remain at the margins of recovery programme. It is for this reason, reintegration programme should be tied to post-conflict development initiatives so that the benefits goes to former combatants and the people from their home coummunities. But our experince suggests that often times, reintegration programme becomes  a top down process here community consulation becomes far from a reality. Nonetheless, if reintegration programme is expected to rebuilt soceital relationships between former combatnats and the communties, reintegration programme must be tied to wider recovery and development process and must be carried out by engaging both government and non-government actors.

Communities are Paramount in Reintegration

Long-term reintegration depends on how demobilised ex-combatants can re-find their position in communities.. How they can reweave themselves into the social fabric and its attendant social capital inter-linkages. To be accepted and participate in communities requires concerted relations with those communities, the nature of their roles in the conflict. Unfortunately international community approach to reintegration has been short-termist; get weapons from the hands of would-be trouble makers, offer some economic incentive (reintegration grants) and push the reintegration problems to some future date.

The role of communities is paramount, for, while reintegration is an individual process, it takes place in communities. At the outset of the process, ‘quick impact projects’ to gain a buy in from the communities are implemented, often badly and never without a follow-up or not responding to the needs of the communities. Once these projects are completed, the challenges of reintegration continue, often worsened by the rancour of members of the community who may not have been involved. Thus DDR programmes have often been perceived as rewards for participating in conflict, and not as a mechanism for long-term peacebuilding. However if ‘community projects’ are embedded in development projects, the rewards are astounding. The need for involving communities in the planning and implementation of reintegration programmes cannot be overestimated.

community members and demobilised ex-Combants build a road, Rwanda
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