Case Studies

Case studies provide excellent insight into the practical challenges of SSR initiatives and provide an opportunity to learn from those that have been successful, and not so successful.  They help us to see the patterns of good practice, when to apply different approaches and what pitfalls to avoid.  Please add your own case studies to help us build a rich repository of examples from real experience.

"Chain of payments" project within the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC)

Context

From the height of the civil war in 1998 until 2009, there were over 5.4 million deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), making it one of the most deadly and protracted conflicts since the end of the Second World War. [1] The DRC has persistently ranked amongst the worst performing countries in the UNDP Human Development report rankings. [2] One of the lingering and most prominent causes of insecurity and threats to the civilian population directly stemmed from the poorly managed, ineffective and unaccountable armed groups, including both legitimate and illegitimate armed groups. Following the signature of the Sun City Agreement in 2002 and the subsequent creation of the The Forces Armées de la Republique Democratique du Congo (FARDC), the armed forces continued to frequently cited  for wide spread human rights abuses. In various reports [3] , no meaningful institution protecting human rights could surpass the threat posed by DRC’s state security forces to its own citizens. Reform of the security sector institutions was continuously neglected leading up to the civil war and immediately thereafter, leading to poor control and management, low troop morale, and high incidence of political interference and systemic corruption.

As a response, in 2005 the EU deployed the EUSEC RD CONGO mission, which was launched to support the Congolese Government and security institutions to set up effective institutions that were capable of guaranteeing the security of the Congolese people. An underlying aim of the EU support was to ensure that such security institutions were respecting democratic standards, human rights and the rule of law, as well as the principles of good governance. Initially, the EU deployed advisors and experts were embedded into various departments and administration in the security sector institutions. The small size of the EUSEC mission did not allow for large scale engagements at operational level and a strategic advisory niche was preferred that focused on information and data collection capacity. In parallel, MONUSCO provided most of the operational level support. [4]

Entry Point

Long-standing perceptions of impunity by FARDC and rebel groups, alongside the need to integrate rebel groups into the FARDC as part of the peace process, placed security sector governance and effective resource management amongst the initial EU priorities for supporting SSR in DRC. At the onset of the EUSEC mission an operational audit was conducted as a means of designing the future work programme of the mission. The assessment identified poor working and living conditions experienced by troops, as well as a limited centralised information collection system, as a key weakness influencing the effectiveness of the FARDC. It is notable that the assessment did not highlight or assess governance issues. [5]  Amongst the proposals of the assessment was a need to conduct a census of troops as an entry-point for jump starting a more holistic SSR process and to address the issues of non-payment or poor payment of salaries to troops, which was a contributing factor for the poor state of the FARDC. The operational audit became a key document shaping the overall reform of the armed forces.

Implementation/Impact

From the onset the census uncovered over 70,000 ghost soldiers (eg. soldiers who were receiving salary but were not in active duty or registered or simply did not exist). In parallel, the issuance of biometric IDs to soldiers of integrated brigades allowed for a documentation of individual soldiers. The issuance of IDs, census and a centralised salary payment process collectively allowed the separation of salary payments from the chain of command and helped to ensure that the central administration of the armed forces has a more realistic count of available manpower within the armed forces (120,000 soldiers instead of 190,000). The separation of salary payments from the chain of command helped to reduce the incidence of cases whereby senior officers were withholding pay or taking a percentage of salaries from lower ranked soldiers. Soldiers receiving even a limited salary were a visible and key impact for a relatively modest effort by EUSEC, especially compared to the large scale train and equip programmes of donor partners. The elimination of ghost workers from the payroll eventually allowed for salaries of troops to be raised using existing budget allocations previously allocated to ghost soldiers. In turn, this improved troop morale but also reduced the dependence of troops on illegal activities for subsistence.   

Lessons Identified

  • 1: One of the limitations of the EUSEC engagement was that it did not lead to regulatory or functional reforms in the short to medium term. The lack of additional reforms undermined the long-term impact of the EUSEC efforts. Eventually a narrow reform process of the payroll system and failure to address the underlying management/accountability deficits within the armed forces provided opportunities for senior officials to eventually circumvent the system related to salary payments by siphoning off other budget lines instead (e.g. food provisions). [6]
  • 2: The limited political engagement and political capacity of EUSEC restricted its ability to address the political impediments to reforming structures, management systems and accountability lines. In the DRC context the SSR process is heavily influenced, if not controlled, by the office of the President and a failure to engage politically meant that key issues related to human resource management and chain of command remain unaddressed.
  • 3: With programmes that have limited resources, focusing on high level governance issues can provide a niche for the programme and raise its profile and visibility.

Selected resources

EU Mission to provide advice and assistance for security sector reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the area of defence”; European Union - Common Security and Defence Policy, July 2015

EU Security Sector Reform Advisory Mission to the DR Congo Armed Forces”; European Union - Common Security and Defence Policy, April 2014

EU Mission to provide advice and assistance for security sector reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the area of defence”; European Union - Common Security and Defence Policy, December 2012

EU Mission to provide advice on and assistance with security sector reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo”; European Union - European Security and Defence Policy, July 2009

The Democratic Republic of Congo: Taking a Stand on Security Sector Reform (2012) 

Footnotes
[1] DCAF Yearbook 2009, p.89 
[2] Human Development Report 2006
[3]  Can the DRC army stop abusing human rights?
[4] DCAF Yearbook 2009, p.102
[5] Narrowing the Gap between Theory and Practice, DCAF (2011) 
[6] DCAF Annual Report 2009, p.111
Case Study

Mozambique: Civil Society Roles in DDR

From 1977-1992, a civil war traumatized the country, as both sides, FRELIMO and RENAMO, relied on child soldiers and committed atrocities against civilians. Religious leaders from the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM), the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church and its affiliates at the Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio based in Rome encouraged RENAMO and FRELIMO to bring an end to the war through dialogue in a 1992 peace agreement. The UN oversaw demobilisation of 100,000 troops and collected over 200,000 weapons between 1992-1994[1] . At the end of this process, the country still suffered from violent crime and a widespread sense of trauma. Millions of weapons and caches of ammunition, landmines and explosives still littered the country, obstructing agriculture, and economic development. These local stashes were a source of instability, as it remained unclear whether the peace agreement would hold or whether groups would return to fighting.

Capture1

Religious organizations and NGOs in Mozambique led a nation-wide DDR programme following the end of the UN’s program. The Christian Council of Mozambique’s (CCM) pivotal role in the peace process gave it trust and respect to also play roles in disarmament. CCM noted in its 2002-2204 report that “Mozambique is the first Country in the world with a government who accepted in 1995 to give the civil society, (Christian Council of Mozambique) completely the responsibility for collection, massive destruction of small arms and light weapons as well as all security process of these complex and political very sensible issue.” [2]

In addition, over a dozen Mozambican youths, some of whom were former child soldiers from both the RENAMO and FRELIMO forces, came together in 1995 to discuss effective ways for community participation in peacekeeping and security processes. Initially named the Community Intelligence Force (Força de Inteligência Comunitária, or FIC) the group eventually changed their name to FOMICRES (Mozambican Force for Crime Investigation and Social Insertion). FIC joined together with the CCM in a “transformation of swords into ploughshares’ or “TAE” disarmament project[3] . Early efforts included helping community members build trust with one another, establishing a culture of peace, and fostering understanding of the need for reconciliation and weapons collection. FIC trained community members on techniques to gain intelligence for public collection and destruction of small arms and light weapons that were still in illicit hands. The six elements of the project included:

• Weapons collection

• Exchange of weapons for tools

• Destruction of weapons

• Civic education in the community

• Transformation of the destroyed weapons into art pieces

• Post-exchange follow-up with beneficiaries

FIC staff worked with communities, former combatants and leaders on both sides to gather information on the location of weapons stashes. Individuals and communities would share information about weapons based on promises that they would receive tools such as bicycles, sewing machines, zinc roof sheeting or agricultural tools in exchange. General criteria for the exchange allowed for standardizing negotiations depending on the type and condition of the weapons.

For example, for 1 operational weapon, 12 non-operational weapons, or 520 units of ammunition, an informant could expect to receive 10 zinc sheets (often used for roofing) or 1 bicycle[4] . Technical staff from the capital Maputo would then travel to these areas to verify the information and arrange a process with the communities to collect and destroy the weapons.

In the capital city Maputo, artists transformed some of the weapons and ordinance into objects of art for sale such as the chair pictured here. The artists helped to attract attention to the project, reinforcing public values in a culture of peace. The art also attracted donor’s attention and sponsorship of FOMICRES other work.

FOMICRES also worked with Mozambican government authorities and the South African police in a project called “Operation Rachel;” a cross-border weapons collection and destruction initiative. This partnership brought together government-scale logistics and technical support, together with FOMICRES’ trust with communities, needed in order to enter communities and then locate and collect weapons.

FOMICRES expanded its programming to begin work on other security issues, such as the shortage of police. In Mozambique, more policemen die of AIDS than can be trained to replace them. According to FOMICRES reports, nearly a million community volunteers now assist the police. With new funding from the German Government via Peace Direct, FOMICRES is now refining the selection of policing volunteers and offering training course for community volunteers, hoping that this can bring down rates of violent crime.

Evaluations of the work of the TAE project indicate a variety of outcomes. First, the project collected thousands of weapons and hundreds of thousands of pieces of ordinance. While this is a small amount compared with the UN missions’ DDR efforts, it is a considerable contribution for a CSO without the scale of resources and logistics as government. Evaluators note that “collecting and destroying illegal weapons is not very meaningful unless it is part of a wider effort to improve security and maintain peace. In the case of TAE, it is an attempt to promote a culture of peace, advocate a life without guns, help ex-combatants to gain a peaceful livelihood and reduce the suspicion between former enemies. Much of this costs money, which is why a programme like TAE cannot be as cheap as a straightforward gun buy-back program.”[5] TAE asserts that the real value of its work is to foster public awareness of a culture of peace.

Excerpt from the book Local Ownership in Security: Case Studies of Peacebuilding Approaches edited by Lisa Schirch with Deborah Mancini-Griffoli and published by The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Footnote

[1] Sami Faltas and Wolf-Christian Paes, Brief 29 Exchanging Guns for Tools: The TAE Approach to Practical Disarmament–—An Assessment of the TAE Project in Mozambique. World Vision and Bonn International Center for Conversion April, 2004: 9.

[2] Ibid.

[3]  “Weapons collection in Mozambique: FOMICRES” in An Introduction to Local First: Development for the Twenty-First Century. London: Peace Direct, 2012.

[4] Faltas and Paes, p. 28

[5] Faltas and Paes, p. 31.  

Case Study

DRC: Peacebuilding-based DDR

Following the DRC’s Lusaka peace agreement in 1999, the World Bank organized funding for a Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Programme (MDRP). Beginning in 2004, a programme to demobilize, disarm and reintegrate 150,000 ex-combatants, mainly militia members, continued to function alongside active warfare. In North Kivu in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a small local Congolese NGO with fifteen years of local peacebuilding experience began a DDR program.

Capture1

Drawing on peacebuilding skills, a DDR programmes run by the Centre for Resolution of Conflicts (CRC) emphasized building an infrastructure of support for sustainable reintegration[1] . CRC viewed reintegration as the cornerstone of successful DDR, and as such advocated calling the efforts RDD to emphasize the need to think about reintegration from the very beginning of any DDR program. From CRC’s point of view, the donor-supported DDR programmes neglected to consider how ex-combatants would cope with reintegration. Money was available for “sensitizing” armed groups on the need to disarm and demobilize, but money was not available for reintegration or for considering how to prepare communities where they were to be reintegrated. DDR programmes assumed ex-combatants would be integrated into the state’s armed forces, even though these units also were to be demobilized.

CRC designed a programme for reintegration where it became an opportunity for community development. Creating a preventive infrastructure to handle land conflicts was a key component of the CRC approach. Together, there was a coherent plan for livelihood creation through seeds and agriculture kit. This paired with the development of a community-based conflict resolution system that addressed issues of IDPs and combatants returning and settling on land.

Six task forces worked on the reintegration process, each with approximately 12 people made up of community and religious leaders, former child soldiers, and former militia commanders. CRC trained the task forces on human rights and conflict resolution. The task forces play a variety of roles through CRC partnerships with other agencies such as FAO, UNDP, UNHCR and Save the Children/UNICEF.

First, CRC advertises their DDR programme in a variety of ways. Radio programmes encouraged combatants to leave armed groups individually. Negotiations with militia leaders encouraged demobilization and reintegration for entire militia groups. MONUSCO (and before that MONUC) dropped leaflets from helicopters inviting combatants to call the CRC director to discuss reintegration. 

CRC staff would then travel without protection into the bush – sometimes waiting for several days - to negotiate with militia commanders, to return with all of their men or to release child soldiers. CRC provided accompaniment for 4,276 ex-combatants (3532 men, 270 women, and 474 children). This accompaniment ensured the safe passage of ex-combatants to MONUSCO or FARD camps where they are demobilized by removing their weapons, military-style clothing or other symbols of their combatant status and recording their names. CRC then accompanied them to the communities where they were reintegrated. This helped make sure that militia members made it all the way into CRC reintegration programs, which CRC viewed as pivotal to successful DDR.

Simultaneously with advertising the programme to militia members, CRC prepared communities for receiving militia members. CRC persuaded communities through incentives such as reparation programmes where militia members would do community service, such as building roads. CRC also provided a range of livelihood options, some available to non-combatant community members. For example, CRC began joint civilian and ex-combatant co-operatives for 1334 ex-combatants. Inclusion of civilians in the cooperatives ensured that ex-combatants alone did not receive the bulk of assistance, since this would create an unfortunate incentive for others to join militias. Cooperatives begin with 30 members and small grants of $2000 as start up. Cooperatives often grew quickly, some with 200 members, as they extend inclusion of others. Ex-combatants may provide community service by rehabilitating local infrastructure of roads and markets. This increases their acceptance by local communities and enables further community development.

CRC found that civilian communities provided a socializing model of civilian values and provided a new social network for militia members that affirmed acceptable civilian behaviours. In addition, CRC supported the creation of voluntary social networks to attend to reintegrated militia members and the community. This includes community conflict resolution task forces that help to ease social tensions. The CRC set up an early warning system and provided mediation for local disputes. The local conflict resolution task forces were created to warn of impending conflicts over land, for example, as IDPs return to an area. The task forces supported mediation to take place between key stakeholders so that an agreement can be made without resort to violence.

CRC supported 119 communities in the reintegration process by hosting call-in radio clubs for two-way dialogue on weekly CRC radio programs. Listeners could text or call into the radio show with their concerns or ideas. Some villages used these radio clubs as a way of fostering participatory planning and development on projects such as bicycle repair, hairdressing, hydroelectric power and propagating seedlings for reforestation. There is also a synergy between these programs. The radio clubs foster trust with local communities, that then makes the other stages of reintegration work more smoothly.

PeaceDirect, the London-based funder of CRC, is carrying out on-going monitoring and evaluation of CRC’s DDR effort. Ex-combatants who went to communities with CRC’s intervention are compared both with ex-combatants who went through other, non-CRC DDR programs, and with ex-combatants who did not receive CRC or other DDR support. Researchers also interviewed CRC-assisted communities and non-CRC assisted communities to evaluate their view of the program. Researchers found that 81% of ex-combatants who did not receive assistance would consider re-recruiting to an armed group compared to 58% of those receiving non-CRC assistance and only 10% of those ex-combatants that CRC did assist. An evaluation of CRC’s work found that its identity as a local organization with a long history of working with local communities enables it to be credible and trustworthy for armed groups, many of whom have become wary of FARDC, UN and MONUSCO. “CRC’s long term commitment, visibility, local knowledge, first hand awareness of the impacts of conflict at a personal and community level, networks of contacts and strong staff commitment and work ethic have given CRC great credibility with armed groups, with communities and with partners.” [2] 

Peace Direct also compares the cost for CRC’s DDR program, a small fraction of the costs of large scale, government or contractor-run programs. For example, the cost for these task forces was $1500 to start up each Task Force with $500 per year for travel funds. Task Force members volunteered 44000 hours of time per year. In contrast, some DDR programmes easily cost $1500 per armed individual.

Excerpt from the book Local Ownership in Security: Case Studies of Peacebuilding Approaches edited by Lisa Schirch with Deborah Mancini-Griffoli and published by The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Footnote

[1] This case is drawn from Coming Home: A Case Study of Community Led Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration in D.R. Congo. London: Peace Direct, 2011.

[2] Peace Direct Evaluation Report cited in Coming Home, p. 11.

Case Study

Liberia: Qualified successes in recruitment eroded by lack of sustainability

Context

Following Charles Taylor’s exile in 2003, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) at Accra put an end to the large-scale, bloody 14-year civil conflict. The UN launched its largest peacekeeping operation at the time—UNMIL—responsible for providing general security as well as restructuring the civilian elements of the security sector as part of the SSR process mandated in the Accra Accords.

Given its historic ties to the Liberian state, the US took the lead in reforming the defence sector, thus sharing responsibilities with the UN for the SSR process. Given the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, along with USAID’s particular restrictions (it is prohibited from defence development), the Department of Defence and the Department of State were reluctant to intervene directly and decided to outsource its part of SSR to private military companies. The resulting Defence Sector Reform (DSR) is seen as a qualified success of SSR.

Entry points

The mission encompassed two aspects: a logistical, infrastructure-related objective, along with a more substantial project related to operational (rebuild the Armed Forces of Liberia, AFL) and institutional (create a new Ministry of Defence) levels of SSR, which formed the bulk of the DSR. [1] Its relatively limited goals of transforming the military sub-sector were in complement with UNMIL and other actors for the overarching reform of the Liberian security sector as a whole. The different phases of the mission involved the demobilisation of the old AFL, communicating and sensitizing on the new AFL, managing the recruitment and vetting processes and finally developing the Ministry of Defence.

The whole approach was based on a particular understanding of Liberia’s security, which located the main threats in internal dangers arising from failures of development, such as crime, insurrection, or poverty, rather than in interstate conventional military threats. Adopting the human security paradigm led to envisioning the creation of a limited army of around 2,000 soldiers as the core objective of the project. The character of this envisioned army, notably the integration of civic and literacy classes, its ethnic balance, and the inclusion of women also reflected this human security understanding.

Impact

The DSR resulted in the complete demobilisation of the old AFL, consisting of 13,500 members, at a cost of USD 15 Million. Part of the success of the demobilisation lied in treating the members of the army as soldiers rather than criminals, and in “retiring” them with some state recognition. This diminished grounds for grievance, while asserting the state’s presence and prerogatives.

The subsequent creation of the new AFL began with a country-wide communication campaign. The combination of sensitisation on the non-threatening and inclusive nature of the new army, aimed at the general population, and necessary given the recent history of abuse and terror in the country, with a message for recruitment purposes posed some problems and diminished the efficacy of both. The following step of recruitment involved considerable preparation to be able to reach beyond Monrovia itself. The final result was a minimally literate army which, although skewed towards the capital, still included members from all regional and ethnic backgrounds in considerable proportions.

Preventing the enlistment of individuals involved in war crimes and grave abuses of human rights in the new army was ensured via a careful vetting process. To be able to confront the lack of reliable information on individuals, typical in a post-conflict country, the process combined three complementary methods (background checks, records checks, and public vetting). It was conducted by a panel independent of the implementing partner, composed of two Liberians as well as a US Embassy official. All in all, the AFL went from being a security consumer and one of the causes of the civil war to being a security provider. It is now seen as a representative small army that accommodates women, and is capable of successfully integrating in peacekeeping missions (Mali 2013).

Lessons Identified

1. SSR should take into account the conditions that each country faces. Importing ready-made models is not an adequate approach; rather, the security sector should reflect the needs of the country. In Liberia, much was to be rebuilt “from scratch” following the 14-year civil war, and the greater freedom in devising and implementing DSR was appropriately used. Consideration of the specific threats facing the country and of its capacity to pay salaries – an essential planning constraint given the danger posed by unpaid, disgruntled soldiers - thus led to the development of a limited national army. 

2. A crucial aspect in building security forces lies in an adequate admissions process. Appropriately vetting the candidates to the AFL was essential to manage spoilers and check backgrounds thoroughly. Given the sensitivities involved in rebuilding an armed force in a post-conflict country, communication towards the population on the processes in place and inclusiveness in planning and engaging are important and need to be backed by great care on the selection process. Successfully vetting the applicants is essential, lest the entire DSR or SSR program is undermined. More generally, “training and equipping”, relatively straightforward provided the financing follows, is alone not sufficient for successful SSR, and other aspects such as local inclusion are essential.

3. The different objectives pursued in SSR at times contradict each other, and prioritising and sequencing among the different objectives are in such cases essential. For example, turning over the vetting records, valuable information on individuals in a country characterised by a lack of reliable archives or documents, can advance transitional justice. Yet it can also entail reprisal against witnesses, and hinder the completion of the new AFL. In the case of Liberia, security was prioritised as a precondition to development, and only later were the records handed over to the government for justice purposes and to highlight that the new AFL was untainted. Similarly, rates of literacy diverged across ethnic groups. The requirement of literacy was thus lowered for some of them in order to favour ethnic inclusiveness, while a literacy program was included into the training in order to mitigate the challenge.

4. The original successes of training and recruitment were not sustainable over the long-term, especially with the departure of the outsourced privates military company. See Steffen, and Welken, for further insight.

Selected Resources

[1] Pacific Architects & Engineers (PA&E) was the private military company responsible for former objective, and DynCorp for the latter.

Case Study

Human Rights Accountability in the Colombian Military Armed Forces

Context

In 2008, as a result of public and international pressure over overwhelming evidence of systematic human rights abuse committed by the Colombian armed forces, particularly extrajudicial executions, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced the establishment of 15 internal measures aimed at improving the human rights performance of the Armed Forces. The measures were part of the government’s comprehensive policy on human rights and international humanitarian law created in 2008. They were designed to build on Directive 300-38 from 2007, which emphasizes captures over kills as a primary criterion for evaluating military success; and a human rights certification program based on polygraph assessment and verification of operational history for all candidates for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and above.

Additionally, Directive 25 (2008) of the MoD created a system for receiving complaints of violation of human rights on the national level, as well as a system for addressing them and ensuring that the complaints are recognized by the pertinent civilian judicial authorities and notified to the Inspector General so that proper administrative and disciplinary measures can be taken.

Entry points

Understanding their limited capacity to institutionalise the 15 measures the Colombian MoD sought partnerships with academic institutions, civil society and the international community in an unprecedented manner. For example, they worked with the Pontifica Universidad Javeriana to develop and implement a Single Teaching Model (MUP) on human rights and international humanitarian law, and created instructor guidelines in the process.  Moreover, the MoD sought support from the ICRC and the UN in country for training and accompaniment (referring to technical support in the form of recommendations and not meaning monitoring or evaluation) to help bring credibility to the implementation of the 15 measures.

For example, in 2009, the ICRC began assisting the armed forces carry out workshops on lessons learned from past human rights violations. Case studies provided the Divisions with models for how to respect human rights and international humanitarian law when carrying out their duties.

In 2012, a team of SSR and human rights experts (including the author) was formed by UN OHCHR at the request of the MoD to accompany the military forces in the implementation of seven of the 15 measures. These included accompanying the MoD in the revision of their human rights training, system of human rights certification system for all officers and establishment of a human rights complaint reception system at the tactical level amongst others. In the absence of an international accreditation system for human rights and IHL military formation, training and education programmes, this accompaniment by OHCHR Office in Colombia (funded by in-country donors) was a good example of an SSR monitoring mechanism being locally driven and internationally supported.

Impact

One very interesting relationship that is worth highlighting for its innovation is the MoD’s working relationship with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This has resulted in a comprehensive policy focuses on Sexual Reproductive Rights, Equality and Gender-based Violence, Sexual Health and Reproduction, with an Emphasis on HIV. The programme includes incorporating obligatory and specialised education and formation training to military and police forces, from recruit to officer level, making Colombia the first Latin American country to do so.

In regards to sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV), through this programme the Ministry generates internal awareness of its no tolerance policy as well as of the applicable internal regulations, domestic legislation and the international legal norms such as International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The training on awareness and prevention of GBV becomes progressively sophisticated up through the ranks with command responsibility a central theme, including at the lower levels of command. Moreover, with the assistance of UNFPA, an internal (but public) protocol was created to orientate on managing the prevention of GBV in armed conflict. See 

In 2011, the Ministry, in partnership with UNFPA published their training manual on the prevention of sexual violence and protection of women and international humanitarian law. The accessibility of this training document demonstrated good practice for democratic governance in a society that counts on a strong gender movement and on a very critical civil society supporting women’s and victims’ rights.

Since 2008, the Colombian Military have reported a sharp decrease in external complaints against their personnel in operations. The reduction in the number of complaints made against the armed forces is one of the Ministry’s key indicators that the comprehensive policy is having a positive impact.  The Ministry has also reported building a number of partnerships with various NGOs and representatives from minority communities such as indigenous groups to participate in their training programs. This outreach for external partnerships is a positive step towards strengthening a culture of democratic governance.

Lessons Identified

In spite of progress being documented by the MoD via their statistics on human rights complaints, it is important to highlight that in the case of the military forces, it is the same institution that monitors and processes the complaints made against them. The Colombian military has offices and accessible communication lines open to the public throughout the country established as a result of Directive 25 (2008). This includes the establishment of a human rights complaints office in each military unit and a national toll free number for human rights complaints.

However, the manner in which the military processes complaints made against them is not yet a fully transparent process. This implies that the number of complaints registered and made public by the Colombian military may not reflect reality, including in cases of allegations of GBV. This in turn may impact how the military are converting lessons identified stemming from allegations of human rights and IHL violations against them into didactical human rights and IHL training material.

As a result, the UN has been advocating that the MoD ensure their complaints system has connectivity with civilian agencies on these issues and to make public the claims reported to each division commander or regional police chief through periodic television appearances.

The openness showed by the Colombian MoD should be recognised as a positive model, especially considering that armed confrontations between armed actors continue and mistrust between the military forces and civil society has deep roots. Since then, the MoD has learned to better cooperate with different actors on accountability and use the resulting partnership to become more effective operationally.  

Selected Resources

  1. Política en derechos sexuales y reproductivos, equidad y violencia basada en género, salud sexual y reproductiva, con énfasis en VIH
  2. Prevención de la violencia sexual protección de la mujer y derecho internacional humanitario
  3. Protocolo para la fuerza pública en el manejo de la violencia sexual con énfasis en la violencia sexual con ocasión del conflicto armado
Case Study