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Colombia – Deepening Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration


Office of the High Presidential Counselor for Reintegration - Colombia (ACR)

Country (ies):

Republic of Haiti, Republic of the Philippines, Federal Republic of Brazil, Sri Lanka, Department of Peace Keeping Operations of the United Nations – DPKO, Colombia


Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) processes require not only considerable human and financial resources, but more importantly innovative solutions that can only be attained with the contribution of every experienced practitioner in this field. Up to 2009 there were few mechanisms and forums aimed at promoting the exchange of experiences in DDR. Thus, the TSSC strategy on DDR objective is to provide an actionable plan to improve DDR practices by filling this void. This cooperation strategy began as a response to Colombia´s interest in internationalizing its experience and the need to understand the global know-how in DDR. However, the development of the process has taken its own dynamic and follows a path led by the specific needs and interests of the countries that participated in the first International Congress on DDR organized by the ACR.


The TSSC strategy on DDR brings together all the countries that are facing or have faced these processes, to share their best practices and challenges, to achieve sustainable development and to consolidate peace worldwide.

When Colombia was building its own DDR program, it was necessary to search for lessons obtained by other countries that had already gone through this path. However, significant gaps in the global DDR pool of knowledge were found. There were few mechanisms and forums where academics, experts and practitioners could exchange their DDR practices. Thus, the Colombian Government decided to host the first International Congress on DDR in May 2009 in Cartagena, Colombia (CIDDR).

The CIDDR was organized by the Office of the High Counselor for the Social and Economic Reintegration (ACR), the National Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation (CNRR), the Colombian Cooperation Agency (Acción Social) and the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Colombian Government found support on other international and national governmental and nongovernmental organizations – including World Bank's Social Development Department and the United Nations Development Program's Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR), the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, the European Commission, the International Organization for Migrations (IOM), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Peace Process Accompaniment Mission of the Organization of American States (MAPP-OEA), among others –, which were key to reach every interested country and assure the successful development of the Congress.

The CIDDR served as a forum to recognize that the DDR should go beyond the renunciation of arms by members of an illegal armed group. During this forum, it was evident that DDR should be integrated into socio-economic development policies, justice and reparation of victims and national security strategies.

During the Congress, the Colombian DDR experience brought new lessons to other countries because of its community-based approach, which guarantees sustainability. Representatives of countries such as Mozambique and Liberia, who knew little about the Colombian violence situation before the Congress, now deem the Colombian practice as a source of lessons to enrich their own DDR, mainly because it was completely designed and implemented by nationals, and beyond creating jobs, it provides strong psychological counseling to its beneficiaries.

The CIDDR was the first step of the TSSC, now being led by the specific needs and interests of the participants. During this event, the Philippines Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Colombian High Commissioner for Peace acknowledged the similarities of the violence situations they faced and signed a letter of intent to undertake a technical cooperation program in DDR, reconciliation and peace negotiation strategies. The UN DPKO, and other participants from countries such as Sri Lanka, Brazil and Uganda, expressed their interest in planning further activities to exchange experiences with Colombia.


The ongoing actions taken for the development of a South-South DDR Cooperation Strategy as a consequence of the CIDDR Congress include a bilateral technical cooperation agreement Colombia-Philippines, a Cooperation Program between Colombia and DPKO/MINUSTAH in Haiti, the Brazil-Colombia Cooperation Initiative, the Technical Training Cooperation Tour 2010 and conversations with countries such as Sri Lanka, Uganda and Afghanistan.

Philippines-Colombia Cooperation Agreement

The letter of intent signed between the Philippines and Colombia proposed joint work in the following areas:

1. Sharing knowledge, experiences, and best practices related to peace building.

2. Identifying and implementing potential technical cooperation initiatives in favour of peace.

3. Sharing innovative findings resulting from this cooperation with other countries and international organizations that are facing similar challenges.

Following this agreement, the ACR and the Philippine Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) coordinated the visit of a Colombian delegation to the Philippines focused on the exploration of specific cooperation needs. A team of five Colombian officers from the ACR travelled to the Philippines in November 2009 and their activities were:

  1. Explore the Philippine Government structure devoted to peace negotiation, consolidation of peace agreements and generation of peace culture
  2. Assess the tasks performed by the OPAPP and its organizational structure
  3. Explain to the Philippine Government the Colombian peace and DDR strategies
  4. Create a network of non-governmental, academic, and government organizations that work on DDR in Philippines
  5. Visit projects on DDR and peace culture being carried out by OPAPP and local governments at the time
  6. Preliminary identification of projects and specific topics that could require Colombian cooperation
Technical Cooperation Agreement Colombia - DPKO

During the CIDDR, the ACR High Counselor and the DPKO Sub-secretary General reached a cooperation agreement that would include various countries where DPKO operates, starting with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and its program of Community Violence Reduction (CVR). A mission of Colombian delegates from the ACR and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs traveled to Haiti to meet officers from DPKO, MINUSTAH and UNDP in order to:

- Familiarize Colombian delegates with MINUSTAH CVR program

- Establish contact with the CVR stakeholders: Haiti governmental institutions, external cooperators in Haiti, NGOs and UN agencies

- Visit current CVR projects

- Identify areas of potential cooperation between the ACR and Haiti´s government and between the ACR and MINUSTAH

Brazil-Colombia Cooperation Initiative

In June 2009, after the VI Meeting of the Brazil-Colombia Cooperation Commission, and a visit of the High Presidential Counselor for Reintegration to Brasilia in November, both countries signed a letter of intention formalizing a DDR technical exchange.

In December 2009, a Colombian mission of five ACR officers traveled to Brazil and worked with the Brazilian Ministry of Justice and the NGOs Viva Rio and Sou de Paz.

The objectives of this mission were:

- Get to know the Brazilian strategies for reduction of urban violence

- Learn about the governmental institutions in charge of the programs on reduction of violence in youth population, urban disarmament and improvement of relations between public force and community

- Describe the Colombian experiences on DDR, and the ACR's strategies on prevention of child recruitment

- Visit projects on peace consolidation ran by Viva Rio and Sou de Paz in cooperation with the Brazilian government

- Identify potential areas for the implementation of the Colombian cooperation in Brazil.

Technical Cooperation Training Tour "Peace-building In Colombia: An Integrated DDR and Development Experience"

During the CIDDR, a group of representatives from diverse countries requested to visit the DDR projects, to have a detailed understanding of the Colombian practices. Thus, the ACR developed the first 4-day Cooperation Tour to the Colombian northern region with a small group of participants. In late January 2010, the ACR held the second tour, during 8 days, where 60 participants from 20 different countries had the opportunity to visit 4 different municipalities and got to know the DDR Colombian effort first hand. With a combination of theory and field experiences and the facilitation of the Folke Bernadotte Academy of Sweden, the ACR presented not only successful projects to share its experience, but also current challenges to get creative solutions from the international participants.

During the visit, the participants had direct and private access to the beneficiaries of the DDR programs at every location. A midway feedback session took place during the week, and a final four-hour session for closing, recommendations and conclusions was also held.


Philippines-Colombia Cooperation Agreement

As a result of the visit to the Philippines, the ACR found many similarities in the geographical, political and cultural characteristics that conditioned the situation of violence in both countries, proving that the Philippines is Colombia's closest partner. The ACR learned about the Philippine peace negotiation strategies that can be useful for Colombia, and shared the Colombian Reintegration Program and the legal DDR framework. The identification of cooperation opportunities in DDR is still taking place with new inputs from the exchanges that took place between ACR and OPPAP officers during the Second Technical Cooperation Tour in Colombia, in February 2010.

Cooperation Program Colombia and DPKO/MINUSTAH Program

Through the mission held in September 2009, the Colombian delegation found that, while very different from the situation on the ground in Colombia, there are significant similarities between Haiti and certain regions of Colombia, namely Chocó, Nariño and Putumayo provinces.

The Colombian delegation found that perhaps the MINUSTAH CVR program could be enriched by the implementation of a strategy similar to ACR's civic values reinforcement program, where volunteers from the communities affected by the violent situation receive extensive civic education using pedagogical approaches, such as role playing. The ACR trains people from the communities in the skills needed to lead projects and continue working as community organizers after the departure of the ACR from the region. The ACR also provides workshops on civic culture to improve the community engagement in public policy.

Currently, the ACR is holding conversations with the DPKO to modify the strategy according to the new priorities of Haiti after the earthquake. The ACR and the DPKO have also been studying the feasibility of starting new cooperation programs in the other countries where this UN Agency has operations.

Brazil-Colombia Cooperation Initiative

- During the mission to Brazil specific areas of potential cooperation were identified:

- Prevention of violence in young population, social networks strengthening to prevent children recruitment

- Reinforcement of the role of women and family in the community and their importance in the peace-building process

- Cultural transformation in childhood and youth, civic values education

Technical Cooperation Training Tour "Peace-building In Colombia: An Integrated DDR and Development Experience"

In Cooperation Tour in January 2010, the delegations of Sri Lanka and the Philippines showed interest in a deeper training on the Colombian Peace and Justice Law and on the inter-agency coordination on DDR. Representatives from Sri Lanka and the Philippines stayed longer in Bogota and had a 3-day agenda with Colombian Government officials to further explore TSSC issues.

As expressed by some participants the Tour resulted in a valuable knowledge exchange. Mr. Dhammika Weerasekera Under secretary general for Rehabilitation in Sir Lanka, said that the best the Colombian Peace and Justice Law is valuable model that could be adapted in Sri Lanka's post-conflict situation. Nieves Confessor, Chief Negotiator of the Government of the Philippines, expressed her interest in the community-based reintegration approach and was highly impressed by the advanced thinking of the Colombian approach of DDR and Development proposal.

During the Tour, The Philippines officially accepted to host the next International DDR congress to be held in late 2010. The ACR has been providing technical assistance to them and will keep on supporting this effort.

The ACR in coordination with the MRE, Accion Social and the Agency of Brazil for Cooperation ABC, started designing a cooperation project on child recruitment prevention.

In the next phase, the ACR will continue strengthening its relations with Brazil, Philippines, Sri Lanka and international organizations such as the World Bank and UN DPKO, focusing on the implementation of the Technical Cooperation Projects. Currently, the activities included in these plans are: staff-exchange, and knowledge exchange among community leaders and DDR programs' beneficiaries. Additionally, a document on the experiences and best practices on DDR will be produced as a reference for future processes.

Aid Effectiveness:

The DDR Cooperation Strategy exploratory phase required a large amount of time and resources. The proper identification of DDR practitioners and beneficiaries and the creation of the right spaces to help them identify their specific cooperation needs and demands are essential to guarantee the ownership of the whole cooperation strategy. As the participants of different forums and missions request and offer support on specific issues, they start to own the process, gaining new capacities, and expanding their network. The careful identification of organizations involved in DDR in each country contributes to a proper harmonization of the Cooperation Strategy.

The ACR also develops alliances with other countries or international organizations in a Joint technical assistance effort to benefit third parties. An example of this is the work done with the UN-DPKO in Haiti, and the potential use of Colombian and Brazil's lessons on urban violence reduction to help third countries such as El Salvador.

Finally, the ACR has implemented feedback tools in each of its activities (missions, forums, tours) in order to evaluate their performance and make adjustments to better meet the needs of the participants.

Capacity Development:

The DDR cooperation strategy is finalizing an early stage of exploratory activities. Therefore, the main institutional changes are expected to take place in a couple of years, after some progress in the implementation phase. However, the Cartagena Contribution to DDR makes an explicit call to National Governments by pointing out three main challenges that DDR face today: (i) taking a strong role in articulating local needs, perceptions, and capabilities to the international community; (ii) taking local ownership, not merely by asserting sovereignty or domestic priority, but by taking an active role in policy formation, drawing on local democratic participation and good governance; and (iii) owning problems as well as solutions, and approaching peace-building and recovery with a desire to meaningfully address the root causes of conflict and prevent the scourge of conflict forever.

On the other hand, a network of countries involved in the conflict has been created, and the dynamics unleashed by this network are constantly creating new exchanges and initiatives. The institutionalization of the International Congress of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (CIDDR) is taking place and will guarantee the sustainability of this network and dynamism in DDR cooperation. Duration: The strategy started in February 2009 and it is estimated to end on the first quarter of 2011.

Budget (Optional):

Government of Colombia: $500,000; Government of Sweden: $50,000; Government of Brazil: $30,000; Government of the Philippines: $35,000; UNDP: $150,000; UN DPKO: $5,000; OIM: $50,000; To be funded: $250,000; Grand Total: $1,070,000

Name of Primary Contact Person:

Juan Viana

Title of Primary Contact Person:

International Cooperation Advisor, Office of the Presidential High Counselor for Reintegration