This memo addresses the future of the nearly 200,000 residents of the Protection of Civilians Sites (POCS) in South Sudan in the context of the implementation of the current peace agreement which envisages the closure of the POCS and the return of the residents to their former homes. The authors draw attention to the changing nature of public authority in the POCS during the five years since their establishment, and the significant role these local structures can play as interlocutors between the residents and the United Nations, the international community and (henceforth) the Government.
The memo is based on research by Peter Bath in Malakal, Jedeit in Bentiu, Gatwech Wal in Juba, and Wol in Wau with support from Rachel Ibreck, Alice Robinson and Naomi Pendle. The research has been conducted as part of the DFID-funded Conflict Research Programme at LSE. The memo recommends that that: (a) POCS should not be quickly closed and returns should not be coerced; (b) the diverse public authorities in the POCS should be engaged in debates and decisions about protection and returns; (c) those planning for returns should take into account the need to support diverse public authorities to work together; (d) the UN and humanitarians should anticipate future violence against civilians and therefore develop ongoing protection of civilians plans; and (e) all planning should be realistic about the complexities of governing in the POCS.