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Down to Earth No. 64, March 2005

Community-centred reconstruction needed

For many tsunami survivors whose homes and livelihoods were totally swept away in the early hours of December 26th, rebuilding their lives means starting from scratch. What lies ahead for these shattered communities and who will decide what happens next?

Acehnese civil society organisations are highlighting the overriding need for participation by the affected communities in the reconstruction and recovery processes and for transparency and accountability in the use of funds. They want protection of human rights - including rights to land and natural resources; the rights of tsunami victims to return home to rebuild their lives; the lifting of Aceh's civil emergency status and involvement of civil society in negotiations to end the years of conflict in Aceh.

At the January meeting of Indonesia's creditor grouping, the CGI, planning minister Indrawati said the major focus areas of the reconstruction strategy included restoring people's lives and livelihoods, restoring the economy and infrastructure, and restoring local government. "We need to provide new infrastructure, new houses, education, medical services, and new jobs - urgently" she said. (Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs Press Release Jan/05).

This echoed the recommendations in Bappenas' preliminary damage assessment (PDLA - see previous article), which said the priorities for reconstruction must lie in ways to rebuild livelihoods and the social fabric of the devastated communities, including housing and shelter, generating enterprise, commerce and income creation; rebuilding rural livelihoods - agriculture and fisheries - providing public services, and assisting the newly vulnerable - single mothers and orphans.

Accordingly, a government blueprint for reconstruction is under preparation, along with a World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) assessment of financing needs, due in March.

On 1 March 2005, Aceh governor Azwar Abubakar formally opened the public consultation process on the so-called reconstruction blueprint. The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the results of nine days of consultations by ten thematic groups would be forwarded to the central authorities in Jakarta, with a finalised blueprint expected by mid-March. UNDP and the World Bank are financing this process and providing expertise (OCHA Situation Report 31, 1/Mar/05).


However, the view from the ground is that so far, the government's emergency response and reconstruction planning has been top-down and dominated by security interests, rather than making space for community-led initiatives.

Civil society organisations involved in discussions about reconstruction have raised a number of concerns over the immediate and longer term future for the tsunami victims. Some of these are highlighted below.

Aceh CSOs join together to participate in reconstruction plans

Around Acehnese 100 civil society organisations gathered for the first time since the earthquake and tsunami disasters to come up with plans for reconstruction in Aceh, from the point of view of the Acehnese themselves. The Duek Pakat, or meeting, was held in Medan, after the original plan to hold it in Takengon, Central Aceh, was cancelled by the police for 'security' reasons.

The meeting was organised to meet the February 14th deadline for registration in the provincial government's working groups which will prepare a blue-print for the redevelopment of Aceh.

The timeframe is extremely tight: Bappenas will submit the Aceh and North Sumatra People's Rehabilitation and Reconstruction plan to the President in the third week of March, less than three weeks from the registration deadline.

"There has not yet been any public consultation which has involved the Acehnese themselves in discussions on reconstruction and rehabilitation in the province," said a press release, following the meeting.

The meeting ended with an agreement to form the Komite Bersama Aceh Baru - the New Aceh Joint Committee.

The committee has the mandate to ensure that the people's voice is heard at provincial, national and international levels. Different parts of Acehnese society have complained that they haven't been told about plans and activities of national and international agencies involved in rehabilitation work. Meanwhile, international and national agencies often find it difficult to identify partners in the field to channel aid and work on programmes that are appropriate, useful and which directly address people's needs.

The meeting, which was supported by 13 international and national donors, agreed that the most urgent priority was to secure the withdrawal of Aceh's civil emergency status, so that Acehnese would be free to participate in planning for rehabilitation and reconstruction work in future.

The Duek Pakat also pressed for:

  • Acehnese, including women and indigenous peoples, to be fully involved in reconstruction planning;
  • legal guarantees for the survivors' rights, including in land disputes;
  • development in Aceh not to be financed by domestic or foreign debt;
  • Acehnese to be involved in rebuilding their own houses;
  • participation for Acehnese in monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of aid;
  • women to have full decision-making participation in each rehabilitation and reconstruction planning process;
  • inclusion of civil society components so that peace negotiations are conducted by three parties - the military, GAM and civil society.

The New Aceh Joint Committee consists of 11 elements including women, religious leaders, youth organisations, NGOs, peoples organisations, professionals, farmers, and fisherfolk.

(Press Release forwarded by Yayasan Tifa, 14/Feb/05)