From raising chickens and growing tomatoes to washing cars and renting out party equipment, combatants emerging from the civil war in the Ivory Coast are finding jobs in hundreds of new enterprises and projects under a pilot United Nations initiative that aims to reintegrate ex-fighters into their former communities.
The $4 million disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) program, which is being jointly run by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire and the UN Development Program, has helped between 3,000 and 4,000 ex-combatants since it began in August last year.
The initiative has been so successful that it should be introduced across all UN peacekeeping efforts, said the director of its West African operations. “We are recommending that $1 million be given to each peacekeeping operation… the extra money could come from the UN Peacebuilding Fund,” Y. J. Choi told the UN News agency.
Some of the former combatants in Côte d’Ivoire have never held jobs before, Mr. Choi said, but thanks to these so-called “microprojects” they now have the opportunity to operate a small business and try to expand it.
Chicken farms, a car wash, vegetable market gardens and an event rental business (tents, chairs and sound systems are hired out for public events and parties) are just some of the enterprises that have emerged under the program.
Unlike traditional reintegration schemes, which give participants a small sum of money and a package of basic tools and equipment so they can resume life in their former communities, the pilot initiative focuses on giving jobs and helping ex-fighters to fund small businesses and short-term projects, deterring them from taking up arms again.
The projects are not funded indefinitely in the hope that they will eventually become self-sustaining, Mr. Choi explains, saying “you can’t be permanently dependent… This is a supplementary program. Our target is to help people build their own livelihoods that will keep going.”
He notes that the initiative has been helped by the increasing security in Côte d’Ivoire over the past 18 months, which has allowed businesses to flourish and given ex-fighters a greater incentive to participate.
UNOCI and UNDP are currently analyzing the microprojects that have been supported so far to evaluate their success and determine whether they need further support. (UN News)
Photo credit: UN/Ky Chung