Since the outbreak of conflict in 2013, South Sudan has remained in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. The conflict is estimated to have led to nearly 400,000 excess deaths since 2013. More than 4.1 million people have fled their homes in search of safety, two million of them internally. Women and children account for over 61% of this population. Following five years of conflict, the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan – signed by the government, a majority of opposition groups and civil society on September 12, 2018 – has provided a new opportunity for South Sudanese communities to build durable peace and ensure development gains in the country.
Despite the hope instilled by the signing of the Peace Agreement, the cumulative effects of years of conflict, violence, protracted and repeated displacement, layered on top of pre-existing development challenges, continue to impact South Sudanese throughout the country and abroad.
This has translated into sustained poverty, periods of famine, persistent protection concerns, and a lack of livelihoods and access to basic services, with women and girls being disproportionately affected. In addition to psychological distress, people have lost key assets. Access to education has been interrupted, social networks deteriorated, housing and shelter damaged. Coping strategies at all levels have weakened. Localized violence and conflict continue in pockets of the country, putting the national level peace agreement and prospects for returns and recovery at risk. While humanitarian assistance should be credited for saving countless South Sudanese lives, it cannot provide long-lasting solutions to the myriad challenges facing the country.
In this context, the drivers of crisis and barriers to recovery at a local and national level need to be addressed in order to build resilience and support a transition from crisis to development. However, transitioning out of the immediate, emergency phase of this crisis has revealed deeper and more complex impacts on the stability of affected areas.
Years of conflict have weakened or eradicated the social, physical, political, cultural, economic and security structures required for societies and communities to function, impeding opportunities for sustainable recovery and increasing the likelihood of repeated crisis and insecurity. The size of the potential return population, and their subsequent reintegration, will pose a challenge to both returnees and communities of return. Limited socio-economic capital, such as community infrastructure and livelihood opportunities will be further stretched. Conflict and displacement have had different effects on women and men, youth and adults, creating acute individual protection and livelihood needs as well as impeding their ability to take part in rebuilding their communities and nation in a sustainable and inclusive manner.
Tackling these challenges means not only making a positive and lasting impact on the lives of South Sudanese affected by the crisis but also fulfilling the promises of the Peace Agreement, creating a base of support for its continued implementation and addressing potential drivers for future crises and humanitarian needs.
In light of this, IOM has developed a strategy for Return, Recovery and Resilience to guide its programming beyond humanitarian assistance to support South Sudanese in facilitating transformative change that addresses the drivers of vulnerability and risk. The objective of IOM’s Return, Recovery and Resilience strategy is to support conducive environments for sustainable returns and recovery through building resilience, peace and stability from the ground up.
IOM recognizes the need to integrate elements of this plan in its ongoing humanitarian assistance, as well as develop dedicated initiatives to address transition and recovery challenges. Given its expertise as the global migration agency, IOM brings a distinct approach and added value in responding to the interconnectedness of conflict and mobility and in addressing the primary impacts of forced migration on affected populations.