Therefore, writes; I could not possibly understand
Therefore, this implies that a clear analysis of specific situations (and hence also good access to information) is necessary for relief and development agencies in order that they may start tackling aid manipulation. Yet this is very difficult to manage operationally. Curran argues that assessment and action must be simultaneous, therefore the immediate decisions need to lie with field staff rather than the agency head quarters.
(2005) Consequently this needs to be guided with sound policy and good quality training, however amidst the more recent trend for agencies to work with local partners this brings up complicated issues of trust between partners. In order that an agency might diminish its negative impacts and increase the positive they need to become more intellectually resourced. Curran suggests a strategy towards this be imbedding an academic or researcher, with management abilities, into an organization or effort. He writes;
I could not possibly understand the difficulties or gain the insights from being here as a consultant or a case writer. We are beginning to be visited by academic assessment teams-arriving with notepads and asking about our impact indicators. When I drive away from my last meeting, I don’t go to a coffee shop and think about what I heard, trying to understand it; I have to get back to deal with submitting a proposal and meet with the local Colonel who is trying to thrust a military “protection team” on us for a fee.
It takes incredible time and effort to hire our staff and set up a warehouse procurement system. It’s difficult to balance between reflection and action. But it is helping me to better understand and put our actions into a broader context. And, upon my return, I will have amassed great data and gained good insights to bring to you in hopes of better devising our research and classes. (2005) Yet as Adams and Bradbury highlight this does not tackle the problem of high-turnover of expatriate staff in relief agencies which causes intellectual resources be lost due to a bad institutional memory.
(1995) Also, this does not tackle the problem that agencies often face and the cause of many of the unintentional negative impacts on violent conflict, that of lack of cultural knowledge and sensibility in the analysis. Therefore, maybe the better way for agencies to increase their intellectual resources is through following their own rhetoric and building upon the intellectual capacities already existing in Aceh. Bruce Harker, an expert on Aceh, writing for the US Indonesian Society, suggests that the faculties and students of Aceh’s leading universities could be productively employed in assessing the tsunami’s effects.
(2005) This would help to fill the knowledge gap which often impedes good redevelopment planning while also providing employment and encouraging the local economy. 3. 1. 2 Economic distortion: In recent years the potential for relief aid to distort both local and national economies has been increasingly recognised. The input of outside resources into an area and relatively high wages for local staff may undermine a peace-time and pre-disaster economy. This means that independent peace-time economies may seem out of reach. (Anderson, 1996) In the context of Aceh this poses difficult realities.
Again, as is the case with aid manipulation, it is difficult to monitor the situation. Harker stresses that in Aceh while there was a massive amount of destruction along the west coast and in Banda Aceh, most of the province was undamaged by the tsunami. (2005) Yet there are already reports of food aid undermining local vendors in Banda Aceh. (Donnan and Hidayat, 2005) The increased awareness of this phenomenon has led the Indonesian government to watch the situation closely. However, many agencies still seem to be intent on bringing food that may be sourced from the region in from abroad.
For example, Vltchek claims that in Aceh “almost all relief agencies working in the field agree approximately 70% of the aid came from abroad”. (2005) Even allowing for significant exaggeration this is an alarming claim and has occurred regardless of the fact that Aceh has survived the tsunami with much of its fishing capacity and most of its agricultural capacity in tact. (Delforge and Lubis, 2005) This implies that agencies, despite the often required immediacy of response, need to have strict policy guidelines on the purchasing of food and speedy access to accurate information about what is and isn’t available in a region.
These policies restricting imports need then to become institutionally learnt through staff training and regular self-assessment. This then leads one back to Adams’ and Bradbury’s problem mentioned above, that of lack of institutional learning brought about by the high turn over of expatriate staff within agencies. (1995) This problem is possibly overcome by focusing upon capacity building to increase the skill base amongst local NGOs which may then become partner NGOs in the future if appropriate.
Adams and Bradbury state that in emergency situations, contrary to popular agency rhetoric, there is a tendency for agencies to bring in large numbers of staff from abroad, as was seen in Aceh. (Curran, 2005) This is problematic in light of issues surrounding economic distortion, cultural misunderstanding and top-down ‘enforced’ policies. Therefore, this supports Adams’ and Bradbury’s case in favour of capacity building among local staff in order to diminish the need for ‘distance management’. (1995, p.
62) This also implies that field workers in the immediacy of a complex situation need to be trusted make decisions quickly on the ground. The question of agencies investing in capacity building in the situation of the Aceh conflict is further complicated by the governments threats to expel all foreign aid workers as of 26 March 20056. (Montlake, 2005) This means that foreign agencies are unable to securely introduce long-term capacity building programmes. Harker believes that the local Aceh-based NGO sector is currently weak and that there may only be as few as five development-oriented NGOs with any real experience.
(2005) This means that even though in an ideal world outside agencies might try to capacity build within this sector, this may not be possible. Therefore, international agencies need to remain flexible and look for other solutions. The solution in Aceh’s case may be that there are many Acehnese living outside of Aceh, driven there by the conflict. These Acehnese community organisations are already working to help effected communities. Harker suggests that it may be possible for these organisations to work with some experienced Java based development agencies in order to overcome Acehnese suspicion of other Indonesians.
(2005) This would mean that with international support both organisations may build capacity and make use of funds available. 4 Implicit messages Generally the intended message of aid is one of compassion and solidarity however it may also create inadvertent messages that may reinforce violent conflict. This section will discuss two of Anderson’s categories in more depth and unpack the implications for agencies working in Aceh7. (1996) 4. 1 Undermining normal, peace-time values: Agencies tend to have different rates of pay for expatriate and local staff, in order not to distort local wages, and the local economy in general.
However, this coupled with wide differences in living standards and security, reinforces the implicit message that the well-being of local staff is of less value than international staff. Together with disparity of aid distribution between different groups within and between communities the implication may be that it is acceptable to use and misuse aid for one’s own purposes. Anderson argues that this may lead to accountability rapidly disappearing due to weak and unenforceable sanctions and this in turn allows corruption to filter in. (1996)
This question of staff behaviours, accountability and corruption are of particular importance in Aceh. Indonesia is ranked as one of the most corruption prone countries by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International (2005). Despite government led initiatives for transparency and accountability, namely using independent auditors and asking donors to monitor cash, there has been evidence of low-level corruption. The government has been asked to investigate claims that military officers have been allocating spaces on refugee flights out of Aceh with regards to who can pay the highest bribe.
This occurred at a similar time to reports of local authorities doctoring statistics on people left homeless by the tsunami in order to receive more money. (ABC News Online, 2005) These reports, along with the reports of the army selling and withholding aid as previously mentioned, indicate aid misuse; allowing individuals to profit and gain power from the situation. (Roosa, 2005) The military involvement in the aid distribution is possibly damaging as it limits the perception of impartiality of the aid agencies and does not encourage normal peace-time values.
In order to combat these problems agencies need strong cultural understanding in order to appreciate what peace-time values might be. In the case of an area such as Aceh, much of the population may never have known peace, hence this term needs to be applied loosely. Therefore, this heightens the importance of cultural understanding as agency staff must be encouraged to not impose what they believe to be ‘normal’, peace-time values. This naturally indicates that to be working through partners on the ground and capacity building among them would mean that cultural misunderstanding between staff and civilians would be reduced.
However, in the case of Aceh, and many other sites, this opens the question of corruption when working with Acehnese partners, seeing as it is a problem throughout Indonesia. This implies that agencies need to have strong accountability policies, and may need to retain small number of expatriate staff on the ground. Both these policy decisions need to be worked through with any partner organisations rather than simply imposed in order that the relationship remains healthy. Corruption must also be tacked with accountability, both to the outside world and to the communities served.
Harker argues that ‘transparency is at the heart of any solution’ to corruption. He suggests that the large, resource-rich, international agencies should work with Acehnese civic leaders, especially those at the universities, to set up and manage development trust funds. These trust finds would be managed in a similar way to any other, with an independent institutional trustee, independent audits, formal guidelines for fund usage, and a representative Acehnese board to oversee the fund’s spending. This would mean that accountability could be assured to donors and to the Acehnese themselves.
(2005) If the relief and development agencies approached some of the investments needed in Aceh in this manner, and coupled this with detailed cultural analysis – in order that the institutions pick be explicitly uninvolved in the conflict – this may be a powerful way to put the redevelopment of Aceh back into the hands of the Acehnese. 4. 2 Reinforcing animosity between groups: The implications regarding cultural sensitivity, accountability and transparency also resonate through the discussion surrounding the potential for aid to reinforce (or possibly diminish) animosity between groups.
If an agency decides to work solely based on need, for example, disproportionate amount of aid is likely to go to one group rather than another. (Anderson, 1996) In the case of Aceh, to communities aligned with GAM as many of them were in the path of the tsunami. This may easily lead to animosity on the part of the government and military – as agencies are seen to be mainly helping ‘the other side’ in the conflict – and on behalf of the communities of Aceh as pro-government villages are not targeted.
This situation, if it be allowed to occur, may easily be manipulated by the government in order to stir up hatred against the pro-GAM communities. However, aid may also have positive peace-building impacts. In Aceh, in a post-natural disaster commonalties may be found through shared experience and shared loss, yet as the eyewitness account exemplifies below, these reductions in animosities may quickly be wiped out through thoughtless policy leaving civilians feeling more embittered than before. Following the tsunami, our staff tells us that the Indonesian soldiers based here built almost a new relationship with the people of Aceh.
Where they were previously controlling and distant from the society, they began to intermingle and connect during the recovery. The soldiers lost many of their own and felt a kinship with the Acehnese. They participated in the body recovery for six weeks. One of our staff said, “You used to see fear in their eyes. Now you see understanding. ” Now, we don’t see as many soldiers around the city itself. But last Saturday I travelled out of the city and down the west coast towards the village of Laeyun-one of our resettlement villages.
The military has been tasked with rebuilding the road, and the area is swarming with engineering brigades and Special Forces. They are making great progress on opening the road and building temporary bridges. We were stopped at the final bridge before the village and told we could not continue. They were somewhat agitated and I noticed that our national staff did not want to engage with them. One of the soldiers yelled at our project manager and I could tell he was uncomfortable-so we retreated. As we talked about it on the way back, he said, “I think these ones are new-they weren’t here during the tsunami or the recovery.
” I checked with the U. N. and found that most of the battalions are being rotated out and new ones are arriving. (Curran, 2005) The tsunami has been noted as a great opportunity for the military to improve its image, as it has played an essential role in following relief efforts. It is in the process of rebuilding some important infrastructure and aid efforts may continue to support this. (Harker, 1005) However, the aid agencies soon need to encourage a push towards a peace-time economy, and this may only be achieved through limited military input.
Acehnese contractors and labourers need be employed to rebuild the province otherwise further animosity may be encouraged. 5. 0 Conclusion Relief and development agencies may have both positive and negative impacts in Aceh post-tsunami. Detailed analysis and good access to reliable information are key within the violent conflict context of Aceh. In light of the possible impacts of their aid entering a region, agencies need to become intellectually resourced and in order to effectively achieve their aims they need to build capacity and relationships with local NGOs.
This must be done in a manner that combats corruption, and aids accountability and transparency for all effected. This essay has emphasised the issues of analysis, cultural awareness and intellectual resources, yet these are useless if they are not reflected with action on the ground. The two very difficult to balance, particularly in a crisis situation like the one after the tsunami, and will remain to be one of the biggest current challenges facing relief and development agencies.
References ABC News Online (2005) Indonesia probes alleged misuse of tsunami funds. ABC News, 28 January. Internet. Accessed February 2005.Available at http://www. abc. net. au/news/newsitems/200501/s1291525. htm Adams M. and M. Bradbury (1995) Conflict and Development, Oxford: Oxfam Amnesty International (2004) ‘A brief human rights history of Aceh’. Internet. Accessed February 2005. Available at http://www. amnesty. org. nz/web/pages/home. nsf/0/69f71454eba2a3b8cc256d3a000b8149? OpenDocument Anderson, M. (1996) Do No Harm: Supporting Local Capacities of Peace through Aid, Cambridge: Local Capacities for Peace Project Anderson, M. (1999) Do No Harm, London: Lynne Rienner Publishers BBC News Website (2005) Overview: Aceh after the tsunami. BBC News, 18 February.
Internet. Accessed February 2005. Available at http://news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4274747. stm Curran, Danial (2005) ‘Harvard Bussiness School Dispatches from Banda Aceh’. Internet. Accessed February 2005. Available at http://www. library. hbs. edu/tsunami/dispatch1bandaaceh. html Delforge, I. and I. Lubis (2005) ‘Food Aid and Local Production: Who will feed Aceh’ Internet. Accessed February 2005. Available at http://www. focusweb. org/Alternatives/html/modules. php? op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=238 Donnan, S. and T. Hidayat (2005) Banda Aceh flickers back to life as aid competes with market economy.
Financial Times, 4 January. Internet. Accessed February 2005. Available at http://proquest. umi. com/pqdlink? index=0&did=773722121&SrchMode=1&sid=5&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1109862429&clientId=9546 Global IDP Database (2003a) ‘All residents in Aceh required to obtain new ‘red & white’ identity cards’. Internet. Accessed February 2005. Available at http://www. db. idpproject. org/Sites/IdpProjectDb/idpSurvey. nsf/wViewCountries/4B734DE6651B9C09C1256DD5003902B2 Global IDP Database (2003b) ‘Humanitarian actors denied access in Aceh since imposition of martial law’. Internet. Accessed February 2005.
Available at http://www. db. idpproject. org/Sites/IdpProjectDb/idpSurvey. nsf/wViewCountries/9EA116123CA85B9BC1256DD30031E9BF Harker, Bruce (2005) ‘USINDO Open Forum “Aceh: Rebuilding the Economy”‘. Internet. Accessed March 2005. Available at http://www. usindo. org/Briefs/2005/Aceh%20Tsunami%20-%20Bruce%20Harker%201-25-05. htm Horton, J. (2005) Aid effort can bring new start. Evening News, 4 February. Internet. Accessed February 2005. Available at http://news. scotsman. com/archive. cfm? id=133782005 KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives (2005) ‘After the tsunami: Peace, human rights and effective aid needed in Aceh, Indonesia’.
Internet. Acessed February 2005. Available at http://www. kairoscanada. org/e/urgent/uaAceh050120. asp Mather, I. (2005) Politics and war hinder tsunami aid. Scotland on Sunday, 16 January. Internet. Accessed February 2005. Available at http://news. scotsman. com/archive. cfm? id=55882005 Montlake, S. (2005) Aid workers in Aceh braced for expulsion as Indonesia gets tough. Scotland on Sunday, 6 March. Internet. Accessed March 2005. Available at http://news. scotsman. com/topics. cfm? tid=1230&id=246592005 Nelson, C. (2005) Recycling wood into income. Mercy Corps Website, 7 February. Internet.
Accessed February 2005. Available at http://www. mercycorps-scotland. org/newsstories/Pallets. htm Prendergast, J. (1996) Frontline Diplomacy: Humanitarian Aid and Conflict in Africa, London: Lynne Rienner Publishers Roosa, J. (2005) ‘Aceh’s Dual Disaters: The Tsunami and Military Rule’, Internet. Accessed February 2005. Available at http://www. indonesiaalert. org/article. php? id=89 Transparency International (2005) ‘TI Surveys and Indices’. Internet. Accessed February 2005. Available at http://www. transparency. org/ Vltchek, A. (2005) ‘Aceh Abandoned: The Second Tsunami’. Internet.
Accessed February 2005. Available at http://www. oaklandinstitute. org/? q=node/view/145 1 See references for examples. 2 During 2003 the martial law administration required Acehnese to obtain special red and white ID cards. This involved a long (and often expensive) process requiring regular trips to an administrative centre, which tend to be located in official GAM-free areas. This means, along with the problems of many people loosing important documents in the tsunami, that the cards were originally handed out on a discriminatory basis by geographic location and ability to afford transport and bribes.
(Global IDP Database, 2003a) 3 The author notes that under Anderson’s structure of analysis, Civilian Needs and Intensified Competition for Power are both used as ways transfers of resources may worsen conflict. (1996) Due to the scope of this essay it has not been possible to include them. 4 Please see the Global IDP Database for further information concerning the martial law administration’s classification of Aceh regarding the perceived levels of GAM activity and support. (2003b) 5 Please see Mather for an example of problems of accurately pinpointing aid manipulation in Sri Lanka.
The newspaper article indicates that there are already differing reports regarding how tsunami aid is reaching civilians aligned with the two sides of the conflict between the government and the Tamil Tigers. (2005) 6 Correct at time of writing. 7 Anderson’s breakdown of implicit messages that may reinforce violent conflict includes Acceptance of War, Giving Legitimacy to Warlords and Reinforcing Animosity Between Groups. They have not been included for reasons of scope of this piece of work.