Monday, July 10, 2006

Sudan’s Displaced: Challenges of Return and Reintegration

June 19, 2006 2:00 - 4:00 PM

Speakers: Nicky Smith, IRC Country Representative in Sudan
Anne Mesopir, IRC Director for South Sudan
Michael Ebye Amanya, IRC Director for West Sudan
Shaun O’Donnell, IRC Director for North and East Sudan

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) are important steps towards peace and stability in Sudan. However, neither the DPA nor the CPA will work in the long-term if Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees are not assisted. These people have left home for security and economic reasons, and most are unable to return home due to continued violence or lack of economic opportunities. Furthermore, IDP camps provide many services that IDPs cannot receive if they leave and return home. To withdraw funds and force IDPs to return home would put IDPs at risk, but allowing IDPs to stay in camps forever is not sustainable. The international community needs to enable Sudanese IDPs and refugees to return home, while also supporting these people in the transition period.
IDPs and Refugees face many problems, including lack of access, lack of services, and lack of security. Currently, the South is experiencing a six month rainy season. With only 15 miles of paved roads in the region, access to much of Southern Sudan is impossible due to heavy rains. People cannot return home, and even if they could, people would be trapped. Next, many people’s homes and villages have been empty for months or even years. Returning IDPs or refugees would have no economic support, no basic services, and possibly no possessions or shelter. These people would much rather stay in camps, where they have food, shelter, water, and medicine. Finally, much of Sudan is not secure. The DPA did not create a stable, secure Darfur. Some regions in the East are more unstable and violent than Darfur. Other regions, between the North and South, do not know where they fit into the CPA. These regions are also unstable and potentially violent. Many people do not want to return home, fearing violence.
In order to address these problems, the international community should:
a) Develop a coordinated, action-oriented approach treating people as individuals, not classifying them based on what “groups” they belong to.
b) Provide reliable, comprehensive, and timely information to IDPs and refugees. IDPs need to know the situation at home, so they can make informed decisions about when to leave the camps.
c) Improve conditions in the areas of return.
d) Involve humanitarian principles and standards to guide work. Do not forget about humanitarian aid while improving security or political stability in Sudan.
e) Continue to provide services for IDPs until the people are ready to return home on their own.

by Adam Perry

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