Can demobilized ex-combatants help improve water resources in post-conflict countries? Last fall, the Global Water Institute
(GWI) held a symposium in Brussels
to find out.
Seventy representatives from the African Union, the United Nations, civil society, research institutes, and EU water policy advisors discussed ways in which former soldiers could be employed in the water sector to create peace dividends, bridge divided societies, and improve water security in countries recovering from conflict.
GWI, which is headquartered in Brussels and led by Valerie Ndaruzaniye, formerly of the Institute of Multi-Track Diplomacy’s Global Water Program, hopes to use the water sector development to meet multiple objectives in post-conflict reconstruction, such as:
“The GWI’s suggested strategy is to exploit the enormous potential of demobilized forces who had made war,” said Ndaruzaniye at the symposium. “GWI proposes to re-channel this potential force for development of water programs and protection of the environment.” While this is a tall order for even the most established of organizations, GWI is already ahead of the game by recognizing the synergies between these issues.
- increasing environmental security,
- reducing the likelihood of future conflict over water,
- enhancing security and stability, and
- employing demobilized ex-combatants to create peace dividends.
While disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), is a fairly new process in post-conflict settings (the first program took place only 15 years ago), it has progressed rapidly in recent years, moving from a primarily military exercise to one focused on reintegration. Reintegration has also shifted from its exclusive focus on the ex-combatants, which often caused resentment in conflict-affected communities, to include women, children, youth, and the elderly and disabled, as well as the affected communities.
Reintegration is still the most difficult stage of any DDR program, not only for budgetary and political reasons, but also due to the processes of transitional justice and reconciliation. Through experience in the field, practitioners have realized that such programs are not simply technical exercises and must be better linked to wider recovery efforts and development programs for more sustainable results.
By supporting sustainable development in the water sector, and simultaneously contributing to reconciliation and peace dividends by involving ex-combatants in community development work, GWI can offer a substantial contribution to the reintegration process.
“Making the link between water management and DDR is a novel idea. GWI is a good example of integration of policy areas in order to build peace in some countries,” said Catherine Woolard, the director of the European Peacebuilding Liaison office.
Adrienne Stork is currently working on natural resource management and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs jointly with the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery and the UNEP Disasters and Conflicts Unit in Geneva, Switzerland.
Photo Credits: Flickr User ISAFMEDIA, 080816-N-8726C-019