The United Nations supports a range of efforts that aim to resolve conflicts and build peace. Part of the UN’s conflict resolution and peacebuilding infrastructure is dedicated to supporting and implementing interventions that provide the conditions and means for individuals formerly associated with armed groups to successfully transition to civilian life. Much of the UN’s attention over the last 30 years has been oriented to efforts, commonly termed disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), to help individual ex-combatants reintegrate into civilian society – often to bolster peace processes or manage potential spoilers following a peace agreement. In recent years, the UN has supported DDR in contexts where there is no semblance of a peace process, during active conflict, and in places rife with listed terrorist group activity. Alongside these and other challenges, DDR interventions have developed over time and become broader in scope and ambition. Despite important lessons learned as a result, there remains a gap in knowledge on which models work effectively, for whom, and under which conditions. This scarcity of knowledge undermines effective UN and Member State programming, mandating, policymaking, and resource allocation, and ultimately decreases prospects for sustainable peace.
The objective of this report is to provide a history of DDR policy and programming in Colombia and derive lessons learned that can be applied to other contexts. The paper pays special attention to how international and national factors (including the work of the UN) have influenced the design and implementation of relevant interventions in Colombia; how policy and programmatic decision-making have served the overarching goal of conflict resolution in the country; and what the impact of these factors and decisions has been on children, women, and ethnic minorities within the population of individuals formerly associated with armed groups. This paper traces the shifts and policy and programmatic outcomes that have shaped Colombia’s approach to DDR today. It draws on an extensive literature review and more than 15 interviews conducted between November 2020 and August 2021 with stakeholders involved in the design and implementation of relevant interventions at different points of Colombia’s history, to better understand the evolution of Colombia’s approach to disengagement policy and programming.
This report first provides an overview of the background to the Colombian conflict until the late 1980s. The subsequent section is divided into key time periods, from 1989 to the present, which represent key inflection points in Colombia’s policy and programmatic approach to DDR interventions. This analysis will also note how changes in eligibility requirements over time impacted different groups of people, by employing “differential approaches” used by stakeholders in Colombia. This section also analyses the role of the UN in DDR efforts in Colombia, reflecting the needs of the Government and other stakeholders as they evolved over the decades of national and international shifts. The report then analyses the implications of these shifts for ex-combatants themselves, the conflict, and the 2016 peace agreement between the Government and the FARC-EP, and highlights some lessons learned.
MEAC is supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Irish Aid, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and is being run in partnership with the UN Department of Peace Operations (DPO), UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the World Bank.