Disarmament and demobilisation in comparative perspective: patterns and policy recommendations

Disarmament and demobilisation (DD) programmes are vital components of strategic peacebuilding. DD provisions govern the collection and disposal of arms and ammunition, and oversee the discharge of active-duty combatants from the state’s armed forces, rebel groups, or both. Using data from the Peace Accords Matrix database, this report compares the five most recent cases of DD implementation: Nepal (2006), Liberia (2003), Macedonia (2001), Indonesia-Aceh (2005) and South Sudan (2005). A comparative analysis reveals several common patterns in the kinds of provisional and operational choices associated with efficient DD implementation. Having a definite timeline and largely completing the process prior to the first elections creates an incentivised environment for a timely DD process while diminishing the risks of election-related violence. Economic incentives associated with the process of cantonment can increase the duration of DD programmes. External actors with a strong mandate can solve problems faster and have been instrumental in achieving a swift DD progression. Disarmament programmes must be realistically matched to conflict settings. This can include the use of mobile collection units, which have proved to be successful in cases where a primary centralised site is not sufficient.