While the humanitarian community estimates that over one million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have permanently returned to their places of origin in Sudan since 2003, little is known about the conditions in which these returnees are living. This makes it difficult to understand why IDPs return to some areas and not others or, put another way, what makes some locations more conducive to voluntary return than others. Such information is critical to helping support the prospects for durable solutions among the estimated 3.7 million remaining IDPs in the country, to say nothing of ensuring the sustainability of return and reintegration of those who have already gone back to their places of origin. This is particularly important now given the most recent upheavals displaced and returning communities are facing.

To address this gap, IOM DTM and Social Inquiry sought to design the first ever (beta version) Return Index for Sudan. This methodology was developed initially for the post-conflict Iraq context, and has expanded to the Lake Chad Basin, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria, among others. For background, the Return Index is a tool that provides a means of measuring the severity of living conditions in locations of returns. It combines first, a collection of contextinformed minimum or critical living conditions that are necessary to make a location adequate enough to sustain returning populations; and second, quantitative analysis to generate and apply an index score to each location based on the state of these indicators. Importantly, from this data the Index evaluates how the differences in physical and social conditions between locations correlates with return rates. It can be used to infer what conditions are most critical for facilitating returns, how to address obstacles, where to geographically target interventions and advocacy, how to strategize for resources and operations, and to explore changes in conditions over time.

The applicability of the Index rests in its capacity to combine data on these indicators for single locations into a common numerical score that can be used to identify those locations or geographical clusters that concentrate higher instability that either hinders returns or subjects people to protracted poor conditions on return. This current iteration of the Sudan Return Index is a beta version. It is the first attempt to design and implement it in-country and test its applicability to the Sudanese context, utilizing data from 1,001 locations across 11 states. From the initial analysis conducted, eight hotspots of instability are identified, mostly clustered in Darfur and Kordofan areas.

The following sections of this report present how this beta index was constructed, preliminary findings and index functionality, and next steps for improving the tool to a final version for application and use by international, national, and local stakeholders in addressing humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding needs that crosscut supporting communities as they seek to resolve displacement.

Source: International Organization for Migration