Updated: Aug 25
I am currently working with colleagues at the Research Group on UN Media and Peace Processes (RUNMAPP) to support the UN's revision of the Public Information and Strategic Communication Module (4.60) of the Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards (IDDRS).
On Thursday, June 25th, 2020, I facilitated a joint virtual roundtable consultation by the DDR Section of the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI), Department of Peace Operations, United Nations, and RUNMAPP. The roundtable brought academic experts together with UN policymakers and DDR practitioners from the field to explore research and theoretical perspectives on how public information and strategic communication can contribute to the DDR process. Watch out for details soon.
Download the Concept Note below
Read my Welcome Note below:
“Research perspectives on the Public Information and Strategic Communication during Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR)”
Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob, PhD
My name is Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob. I am a Visiting International Scholar in the International Studies Program of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. My teaching and research interest is located at the intersection between communications, broadly defined and war and peace in contemporary society with particular reference to Nigeria, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thank you for responding to our invitation.
Post-conflict societies face a myriad of problems, some of which are already well known by most of us. I will talk briefly about conflict recurrence.
Armed Conflicts are rarely resolved quickly. They can endure for years or decades and become increasingly complex. Fighters can become entrenched, societies, and the structures that keep society going, such as education, can be brutally disrupted. This is in addition to the human suffering, particularly of women and children and the toll on human lives and resources. Lasting peace is difficult. Increasingly so.
Whereas in the 1980s, seven times more conflicts ended in military victories than in peace settlements, as at 2017, about five times as many conflicts ended in peace settlements. This would have been a positive development if settled conflicts were less likely to relapse. Since the mid-1990s, a greater share of civil wars has been recurrent, rather than new onsets. According to the UK Government’s Stabilization Unit, 60% of armed conflicts resolved in the early 2000s relapsed into violence within five years. Of the 259 armed conflicts since 1946, identified by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), 159 were recurrent conflicts - in 135 different countries. The pattern underscores the need for new approaches to understanding and preventing conflict relapse. Evidence abounds that indicate that at the root of conflict recurrence is mostly a faulty DDR program. Conversely, at the root of successful post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery is an equally successful DDR program.
Although existing theories offer varying explanations to failed DDR programs and conflict recurrence, there is a consensus that conflict recurrence is symptomatic of unaddressed grievances. However, the roles of communication and local media in the framing of such grievances and War-to-Peace Transitions (W2PTs) in general, have largely been overlooked in DDR research, policy, and programming. This roundtable consultation seeks to contribute to a PI/SC Module that can help fill that gap in policy and programming.
Sometimes portrayed as potential spoilers or at best observers, the local media can play a crucial role in reintegration. So in this consultation, we ask how much of a role is public information and strategic communication likely to play in DDR. What are the legitimate roles of PI/SC in conflict and post-conflict societies?
In finding answers to these questions, our work compels a recognition that public information and strategic communication can be viable tools not only in modifying the behaviors of combatants but also in influencing the decision-making practices of ex-combatants and their receiving societies. This must inevitably lead to the recognition by the UN information and DDR officers and partnering media that their influence imposes a new role-set as well as new responsibilities, and new requirements for transparency and morality.
Conventionally, convincing rebel fighters to disarm mostly involves exerting military and political pressures on critical points in a manner that weakens the individual fighters' and their groups' capability and commitment to fight. In addition to military and political pressures, however, a third force will have to involve depriving the armed group of their legitimacy in society. This will have to go beyond developing 'Go Home' or 'My new life' messaging programs. As important as these programs are, they are located within a broader ecology of often contested meanings and meaning-making processes.
A well-planned PI/SC program should facilitate engagement with local communities. It should support new narratives that can build community cohesion and 'unframe' the memories of past grievances in communities that ex-combatants return. From challenging distrust of peace agreements to mobilizing community buy-in for DDR processes, PI/SC can indeed play a crucial role in preventing conflict relapse.
The purpose of this roundtable consultation is to bring together academic experts, policymakers, field officers and practitioners to appraise how public information and strategic communication can fulfill these functions and contribute to the DDR processes. As we consider new public information and strategic communication policy for DDR, we ask, what are the new, broader contexts and challenges to DDR? What are the blind spots and the possible or potential unintended consequences of external communication interventions? What gaps should we mind, and why? Who are the most important actors, and why? How about gender and their broader roles?
These and others are the additional questions we hope to wrestle with today. We hope to find solutions, not just within the context of this session, but in what we hope will be a long iterative process - where we learn from each other and develop a module and a set of guidelines, toolkits, and templates that are grounded in the field and research.
Today, participants are drawn from DDR within the UN, academic experts, policymakers, practitioners, and civil society organizations that work around crisscrossing and linkage areas. The Roundtable will feature brief presentations and discussions by a panel of academic experts.
Notes  Einsiedel, S. von, Bosetti, L., Cockayne, J., Salih, C., & Wan, W. (2017). Civil War Trends and the Changing Nature of Armed Conflict (Occasional Paper No. 10; p. 10). UNU-CPR.  Gates, S., Nygård, H. M., & Trappeniers, E. (2016). Conflict Recurrence (Vol 2; Conflict Trends).  Stabilisation Unit. (2019). The UK Government's Approach to Stabilisation: A guide for policymakers and practitioners. FCO, MoD, & DFID.  Gates, S., Nygård, H. M., & Trappeniers, E. (2016). Conflict Recurrence (Vol 2; Conflict Trends).