Demobilisation and disarmament in peace processes

This policy brief explores the conditions under which non-state armed groups generate and maintain the political will to restore the state’s monopoly over the use of force by examining lessons learnt from recent peace processes with regard to the timing, sequencing, ownership, and modalities of disarmament and demobilisation. It argues that rebel movements will usually only agree to formally disarm and disband their troops and dismantle their command structures once they are confident that they can ensure the safety and well-being of their combatants, that comprehensive agreements have been reached over the substantive conflict issues, and that their political aims will be achieved, or at least that they will be able to pursue them effectively by non-violent means. Practical recommendations are thus offered for mediators and peacebuilding agencies to facilitate comprehensive negotiations; support a synchronised implementation of disarmament and state reform; delay demobilisation processes in order to maintain cohesion in fragile postwar transitions; suggest context-sensitive disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration terminologies; design appropriate protection measures for combatants and their communities; increase local ownership by supporting participatory and self-managed transition schemes; and verify the parties’ implementation of their commitments as confidence-building measures.