Return to violent conflict? Challenges of sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons to and within South Sudan

Release date: 2016-05

The case of South Sudan shows that peace on paper does not necessarily mean peace on the ground. Many displaced persons are sceptical of the peace process and the commitment of their leaders, in particular as nothing has changed since the beginning of the conflict.

Nevertheless, over ten thousand people have already returned, and aid agencies expect many thousands more who return because they feel alienated in South Sudan’s neighbouring countries or try to find livelihood opportunities to support their families outside the camps. But their return needs to be sustainable to prevent new conflict as a first wave of two million returnees between 2007 and 2013 had already failed.

So how can return be made sustainable and new conflict be prevented?

The author recommends:

\ Continuous programmes and locally adapted approaches

As the numbers of returnees in many regions of South Sudan increase, and livelihood opportunities need to be established to foster development and prevent new causes of displacement, aid agencies should address the full cycle of displacement to reintegration at a given location. Programmes therefore have to focus on issues beyond emergency aid and be long-term until returnees have indeed become self-sufficient.

\ Target group: The youth

Young people are very influential in stabilizing the peace process. To promote local economic development, jobs and higher education, for instance, should therefore be offered not only to returnees, but also to hosts to provide alternatives to engaging in violence. Besides vocational training, “spaces” for recreational activities should also be established.

\ Participation of the communities in designing diversified income activities

Trainings are particular successful when communities participate in designing the programmes.A diversification of income activities (e.g. rural and urban) also promotes the sustainability of return. Local dynamics have to be studied beforehand to prevent the failure of programmes and enhance sustainability.

\ Increase information-sharing and extend dialogue platforms

Dialogue platforms help to share information about the peace process and the situation at the return location. Radio broadcasts, in particular, have proven to be a good practice to share information and spread the word of peace. The media thus can be an important tool for fostering communication between groups and, consequently, the reintegration of returnees.