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Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) aiming to remove the means of violence from a society and to reintegrate ex-combatants into functioning communities lays the groundwork for safeguarding and sustaining the communities to which these ex-combatants return, while building capacity for long-term peace, security and development (United Nations 2018). We can say DDR is extremely critical to the post-conflict reconstruction environment. However, history has taught us that DDR programs always have significant difficulties and not every DDR program could success. Since DDR program in Albania got really good results and can be regarded as highly successful, it is very essential to discuss the success factors of this program as well as learn from them.
Albania’s weapons problem can be ascribed to a financial failure. After the Cold War ended in 1991, the Democratic Party of Albania won the nation’s first free elections in 1992 and tried to adopt a market economy. However, due to a lack of experience, financial system became dominated by “pyramid schemes”.
Many Albanians moved their entire savings from banks to pyramid accounts seduced by high interest rate. In early 1997 the schemes could no longer make payments and finally collapsed. Investors believed that the government would repay the money but they gradually found that this investment scheme was not guaranteed by the government and they couldn’t get compensated for their losses either. Then, furious protests began and they quickly evolved into riots. People took to the streets and raided about 1300 armories, police stations, and National Intelligence Service sites. It is believed that over 550,000 light weapons, 900 million rounds of ammunition, and six million explosives were stolen and were now in the hands of civilians.
Since such a large amount of weapons were looted and seriously harmed the national security, in February 1998, President Rexhep Meidani asked the Secretary-General for United Nations assistance in the retrieval of these looted weapons. Whereupon, an evaluation mission began leading by then United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala. After analyzing the evaluation results, he suggested that a community-based approach would be more suitable for Albania. And since Gramsh was saturated with weapons, it was identified as a testing community.
The basic concept of this program was to have turn-in sites which were established at the target community. After the looted weapons were turned in, the community would hold a meeting to discuss the most needed developmental projects and determine which kind of project the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) could afford. Then the decided developmental projects would commence. This program achieved good results. A large portion of the 550,000 looted weapons were no longer in the hands of the populace and were exported and surrendered in this program or confiscated by the Albanian police. As a result, order in chaotic areas was reconstructed and the number of murders and homicide also declined sharply. Last but not least, this program also significantly enhanced economic and social development.
According to my research, five success factors can be summarized in Garmsh Pilot Program. The first one is that Albania had a favorable implementation environment. As I mentioned above, Albanian government actively invited the UNDP in and provided support for its operation as well. This environment was conducive for carrying out the follow-up work. The second success factor is the good coordination with other agencies. The UNDP, in charge of the whole operation, coordinated with various international and local agencies so that it was able to ensure all efforts were synchronized to achieve the same desired results.
The third one is all stakeholders were involved in the process of the DDR program. After Mr. Jayantha decided on the community-based approach to accomplish disarmament, he sent a team in mid-August 1998 to determine the feasibility of it. The team communicated with national, district, community, and village leaders and individual citizens to determine where and how the program should be implemented (Doolan 2008). Stakeholders at all levels reached a consensus that a community-based approach would be appropriate to Albanian case, which later brought them success. The forth success factor is this disarmament program addressed the root causes of the weapon problem as well as populace’s grievances. According to the UNDP’s analysis, Insufficient security and poor economic conditions were the two main reasons why the civilians were unwilling to turn in their weapons. Therefore, the UNDP decide to solve those two basic problems.
To increase the capabilities of the local security, a new police station was built in Gramsh. Meanwhile, the police were also equipped with basic equipment that they had lacked such as cars and communication. The improvement in the local police capabilities brought an increase in security so the citizens did not need weapon for protecting themselves any more. To improve the economic conditions of the target area, the UNDP invested heavily in labor intensive jobs to try to employ as many people as possible. For instance, they strengthened infrastructure development such as road construction, improving street lights, building a new post office, and installing telephone services. These services and employment created by the UNDP were were greatly appreciated by the citizens and were also considered as compensation for their investment failure.
The most important factor among all success factors is that the community was engaged and involved throughout the entire disarmament process. When the UNDP arrived at the target community to implement the program, a community meeting was held and everyone in the community could participate in the meeting. In other words, what the DDR program would be was decided by the members of the community rather than by the UNDP. As a consequence, the UNDP was able to get and keep the support of the citizens in the community by involving them in the development and implementation of this DDR program.
The United Nations Development Programme used a skillful community policy to force the citizens within Gramsh to disarm, which demonstrates how effective disarmament could be if incorporated the communities into the process. Albanian case offers a new perspective to other areas to solve the problem of disarmament. Moreover, we can also learn from Albanian case that in order to get people to disarm, implementers had to convince them that the crisis had already over and they would be safe, and more importantly, they would be compensated with jobs and developmental projects as well.
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