2015 Peace, Security and Conflict Other

Aiding the End of Conflict? Reintegrating Ex-Combatants in Colombia

Michael Jonsson

As the number and scope of peace operations has grown since the early 1990s, the question of how to ensure that ex-combatants do not resort to renewed violence has grown in prominence. The answer has predominantly been to create increasingly ambitious disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs.Against this background, this Dissertation Brief analyzes Colombian efforts to reintegrate AUC and FARC ex-combatants into civilian life. It is based on nearly 700 survey responses and some 80 interviews with FARC ex-combatants.

The report was presented during the seminar Conflict, sexual violence and statebuilding in Sweden´s development cooperation.

Main findings

  • The Colombian DDR experience offers some reasons for cautious optimism and illustrates the need to manage expectations and recognize challenges.
  • DDR is often an intensely political exercise and programs need to be tailored to local circumstance. It seems that it has been in many ways easier to reintegrate previous members of the state-hostile FARC, than the paramilitary AUC. In spite of ex-combatants having entered into the same reintegration program, the outcomes differed depending on the armed group they exited, and the manner in which they did so. 
  • It is important to ensure the security of ex-combatants as a means of making reintegration as successful as possible. A central finding was the importance of personal security in motivating defections.

Michael Jonsson is a Senior Researcher at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) and an affiliated researcher at the Department of Government and at the Department of Economics, Uppsala University. He defended his dissertation A Farewell to Arms: Motivational Change and Divergence Inside FARC-EP 2002-2010 at Uppsala University in October 2014.