PAW at the 2022 UN DDR Symposium – Providing research-based evidence for rebel-to-party transformation

The Politics After War Network provides research-based evidence to the United Nations to support formerly armed groups in transforming into peaceful political parties and entities after civil war.

PAW-member Devon Curtis sharing 7 recommendations supporting the political inclusion of formerly armed groups into politics

On June 21, 2022 and as part of the Research Policy dialogue From Armed to Non-Armed Politics, the Politics After War Network (PAW) presented key recommendations from the research conducted by PAW-researchers at the High-Level Event on Political Transformation of Armed Groups – The Research Policy Dialogue. 

In a second event, PAW presented their research findings and engaged in Q&A with DDR Chiefs and UN practitioners at the DDR Symposium: Research Perspectives on the Political Dynamics of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, a jointly organised event by PAW, the DDR Section and Folke Bernadotte Academy held at the International Peace Institute (IPI). This event was part of the DDR Chief’s Annual Meeting.  


As wars come to an end, leaders and members of armed groups often seek continued political engagement in political society. Many peace settlements also include specific provisions for armed groups to transform into political parties. In fact, 40% of armed groups that signed peace agreements between 1975-2018 subsequently became political parties or continued to operate as political parties (Söderberg Kovacs and Martínez Lorenzo 2022). After 1990, a majority of armed groups (55%) seized on the chance to compete in the first post-war election and a majority of these (63%) continued to compete in all subsequent elections (Tuncel, Manning and Smith 2022). Given that most armed groups mobilise around seeking some form of radical state transformation (Curtis and Sindre 2019), the desire to retain political imprint after war remains central to their motivation. 

Yet, despite the prominence of rebel group political inclusion in transitions from war to peace and in post-war politics more generally, this has only recently been included in the UN’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4) and the A4P + priorities. A4P+ priorities launched in March 2021 express a broad, shared commitment to advancing political solutions to armed conflict. In line with this, the revised Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards (IDDRS), and its new module 2.20 on the ‘Politics of DDR’ recognizes DDR processes as inherently political. 

PAW support for the implementation of IDDRS’ module 2.20

Since 2020, the Politics After War Network has worked with the United Nations Department of Peace Operations, Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions: DDR Section (UNDPO/OROLSI/DDR), supported by the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA) to provide research perspectives and scientific evidence on the intersection of DDR and politics with the particular emphasis on the transition from armed to non-armed politics and specifically from armed groups to political parties.  

The research upon which the reports and recommendations are derived from an extensive body of peer-reviewed, scientific publications by the PAW-researchers.

PAW presents 7 recommendations derived from extensive research over many years to inform policy and practice:

  • Be sensitive to the unique features of armed groups and political contexts 
  • Support the political integration of armed groups staring in the peace negotiation phase 
  • Reconsider the designation of armed groups as terrorist organizations 
  • Invest in the first post-war election 
  • Engage in long-term support for intra-party organizational change 
  • Provide tailored support for the political integration of combatants 
  • Acknowledge conflicting objectives and identify red lines for political integration 

These are further specified in the brief “The Political Dynamics of DDR: Key Research Findings” .

PAW-Researchers contributing to the dialogue

Dr Gyda Sindre (co-chair) (University of York) 

Dr Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs (co-chair) (Folke Bernadotte Academy and Uppsala University) 

Dr Johanna Malm (Folke Bernadotte Academy) 

Professor Carrie Manning (Georgia State University) 

Ozlem Tuncel (Georgia State University) 

Professor John Ishiyama (University of North Texas) 

Dr Lovise Aalen (Christian Michelsen’s Institute) 

Dr Matthew Whiting (University of Bath) 

Dr Sophie Whiting (University of York) 

Dr Véronique Dudouet (Berghof Foundation) 

Jacqui Cho (swisspeace and University of Basel) 

Dr Hilary Matfess (University of Denver) 

Dr Devon Curtis (University of Cambridge) 

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