UN to co-sponsor conference of African disarmament experts in Sierra Leone

UN to co-sponsor conference of African disarmament experts in Sierra Leone

With about a dozen African countries in various stages of disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating (DDR) former fighters, the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone will host a conference later this month aimed at building a network of African DDR practitioners and improving existing programmes.

Many disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes have lacked in-depth analyses of the specific political, social and economic contexts of the preceding conflicts, or have been conceived without long-term strategies for stabilizing development and peace, Ruth Bamela Engo of the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) said at a briefing on the conference at UN Headquarters in New York.

From 21 to 23 June, conference participants from African countries and UN agencies meeting in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, will examine "the extent to which current practices of DDR programmes genuinely lead to stability and development, analyzing cross-cutting DDR themes and identifying the necessary preconditions for success," she said.

Reflecting African perspectives, they will also recommend solutions to DDR challenges in various post-conflict countries, she said.

The conference, funded by Sweden, Germany and Finland, is designed to complement the Stockholm Initiative on DDR (SIDDR), which focuses on the funding, political and peacebuilding aspects of DDR, and the UN Inter-Agency Working Group on DDR, which seeks to improve the way the UN System designs, implements and monitors DDR programmes, Ms. Engo said.

Pre-conference national workshops and consultations were held in eight countries with present or past conflicts ? Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, she said. Representatives of other countries, such as Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda, will analyze their experiences at the conference.

It will be co-chaired by the Special Adviser on Africa to the UN Secretary-General, Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari, and Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister Momodu Koroma, she said.

Ms. Engo said the conference idea grew out of a ministerial roundtable OSAA organized in June of last year entitled, "Do Current Practices of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Lead to Stability and Development in Africa?"