Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Politics of Humanitarianism

PCSJS Portfolio's picture

“Politics of Humanitarianism,” a Political Science course looking at humanitarian aid from a theoretical, historical, and political perspective helped to challenge my assumptions about what the implications of providing humanitarian aid really are.  Do organizations like the International Red Cross help to normalize war by making it less horrible?  And what is their responsibility after conflict has subsided?  In the course of exploring just war theory and specific cases studies such as Somalia, Northern Iraq, Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sudan, and Haiti my answer continually shifted.  Moreover, I had to repeatedly take a step back and question how and to what extent my own career goals in global health were really in line with my overall desire to work for health justice. It became clear to me that even groups with wonderful intentions often fall into the trap of being motivated by donors rather than what people around the world really need.  In addition, the entire rise of global NGOs and humanitarian groups reeks of neocolonialism in certain ways, and I found myself struggling with wanting to “help” people, while still realizing that my very privileged position as an American can lead to serious power imbalances.  For my final paper I wrote about humanitarian aid in Aceh, Sumatra following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and how many victims of the recent guerilla conflict in Aceh ended up being hurt by the influx of money that was very specifically targeted towards Tsunami survivors.

            On December 26, 2004 an earthquake struck off the west cost of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggering the deadliest tsunami in history.  In Aceh province alone, 225,000 people were killed, and around a million were displaced.  Despite these tragic numbers, the tsunami was far from the only crisis occurring in Aceh at the time.  For thirty years, an insurgency had been waged in Aceh by the separatist guerilla group Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM, or the Free Aceh Movement), who were fighting for Aceh’s independence from the rest of Indonesia.  Throughout the length of the conflict thousands of people died, and despite several peace accords being signed, the violence had always quickly resumed.  Although many studies have suggested that natural disasters can exacerbate pre-existing political conflict[i], this was not the case in Aceh.  In January, 2005 GAM began negotiations with the Indonesian government in Helsinki, and in July, 2005, seven months after the tsunami hit, they signed a peace accord, referred to as the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), in Helsinki.  So far, it seems as though both sides have been keeping up with their end of the agreement.

The tsunami seemed to have been a catalyst for peace in Aceh, but the natural disaster itself wasn’t the only driving force – the huge influx of outside humanitarian organizations and workers also played a role in achieving a peace deal, as did the changing role of the military as they went from enforcing martial law to administering humanitarian aid.  While the humanitarian effort did not single-handedly cause peace in Aceh, it was a major player in what has been called “disaster diplomacy” and helped to activate the peace process.  Nonetheless, the apolitical humanitarian response following the tsunami led to unequal distribution of aid for tsunami victims and conflict victims, which has triggered new economic grievances within the province.[ii]  Therefore, in examining the effects of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in Aceh, it is important to look at the two stories coming from the humanitarian response in Aceh: how the humanitarian aid process helped catalyze a political settlement, but also how it produced tensions and resentments of its own, particularly because organizations often drew an arbitrary-seeming line between victims of the tsunami and victims of pre-tsunami governmental acts. 

            Aceh has a long history of rebellion and resistance, and was in fact the last Indonesian people to succumb to Dutch colonialism, and only after the brutal thirty-year Aceh War in the 1800s.  When Indonesia was granted independence from the Netherlands in 1945, many Acehnese leaders expressed concern about Javanese hegemony in the new Jakarta-based government as well as the fact that there was no focus on Islamic law in the independent state, and staged a rebellion from 1953-1962.[iii]  Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president was finally able to appease the province with the offer of a “special autonomy status” for the region, which allowed them the freedom to administer their own religious, cultural, and educational policy, but this status was overturned when Suharto came to power in 1965.  GAM first emerged in 1979, in the wake of the discovery of large oil reserves in Lhokseumawe and Lhoksukon North, Aceh and the building of a Mobil LNG complex.[iv]  The separatists group’s main concern was the unfair distribution of Aceh’s natural resource wealth, but there was also a focus on the increased Javanese population in Aceh, and the lack of control over Islamic law.  In fact, GAM’s initial “Declaration of Independence of Aceh, Sumatra,” focuses on the “illegal transfer of sovereignty over our fatherland by the old, Dutch colonialists to the new, Javanese colonialists.”[v]  This original incarnation of GAM was quickly neutralized by the New Order government, who not only had considerably more strength in both manpower and money, but were also receiving military training support from the U.S. due to their anti-communist policies.[vi]

            Nonetheless, GAM was able to re-establish itself after receiving financial support from abroad.  In 1986, Moammar Gaddhafi, as part of his campaign to promote insurgencies worldwide, gave significant monetary support to GAM, and also gave ideological and military training in Libya to 2,000 GAM recruits.[vii]  GAM was both better organized and trained than the previous insurgency, but the central government responded swiftly and declared Aceh an “area of special military operations” in 1989.  Special counter-insurgency troops were sent in, and the entire province was placed on lock down.  Amnesty International has described this military response – which included the burning of villages suspected of harboring GAM militants, the kidnapping and torture of GAM operatives, and the “‘disappearance’, extrajudicial killing, arbitrary arrest and torture of two thousand Acehnese” – as “shock therapy.”[viii]  This conflict between the Indonesian government and GAM resulted in gross human rights violations, extreme poverty, with 90 percent of households living below the poverty line (UN), political repression, and huge levels of internally displaced persons.  According to Oxfam, levels of displacement reached 180,000 at the height of the ““area of special military operations” era.[ix] 

During this time many Indonesian NGOs, international NGOs (such as Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, International Catholic Migration Commission, and Oxfam) UN agencies, and the Red Cross movement, provided a range of assistance programs for the Acehnese.  GAM tried to use human rights rhetoric during this period to strengthen their argument for independence, which made the central government “afraid that international NGOs would be ‘tricked’ into supporting GAM’s ‘internationalizing’ strategy by local NGOs fronting for GAM.[x]” International NGOs therefore had to toe the careful line of not introducing human rights rhetoric into their work because “any mention of the term ‘human rights’ by local or international NGOs was seen as an affront to the state” and could get them kicked out.[xi]”  NGOs were usually also especially careful to remain apolitical and appear neutral to ensure the security of their staff, because NGOs seen as having an agenda were targeted by the Indonesian security forces and faced “intimidation, detention and forced ‘disappearance,’[xii]” including the infamous incident of Oxfam staffers being tortured in 2000.[xiii]

GAM lost some of its momentum during the period it was declared an “area of special military operations,” which ended in 1998, following the fall of Suharto, but they were buoyed by the independence of Timor Leste as well as the decentralization laws passed in 2001, which they viewed as an opening for their separatist agenda.  Peace negotiations were attempted by the Henry Dunant Center,[1] a Geneva-based group established by humanitarian activists, which “has a mandate of resolving conflict through a mediation style that is based upon humanitarian concerns,” but the talks failed in 2003. [xiv] The central government, then run by President Megawati, once again responded with military force, and in 2003, Aceh was placed under martial law.   All international NGOs were kicked out of Aceh, and most local NGOs and activists either went underground or fled the province.[xv] During this time, 50,000 TNI[2] (Indonesian military) troops were deployed, and the security crackdown resulted in several thousand civilian deaths, and .[xvi]  According to the International Crisis group, the TNI operated under “a virtual legal vacuum” and “some of the worst fighting ever seen in Aceh” occurred in the ensuing eighteen months.[xvii] It is difficult to know the full extent of human rights atrocities, however, because during the period of martial law, Aceh was also closed to independent human rights groups, journalists and even all foreign citizens.

When the tsunami hit Aceh province in December, 2004, many Acehnese residents had been living in a state of terror, because the TNI had the right to set up checkpoints, arrest anyone they suspected of being a separatist, and completely isolate any area, including privately-owned farms.[xviii]  No outside humanitarian assistance organizations were allowed into Aceh province at the time, but the TNI tried to make the “management of refugee camps and the distribution of relief goods to internally displaced people quite a high-profile component of its military campaign,” with embedded “journalists” reporting on their humanitarian work.[xix]  For actual residents of Aceh, however, this so-called humanitarian work was not visible, and in fact the brutal TNI tactics may have actually worked to strengthen GAM.  As Waizenegger and Hyndman explain, “Within what the TNI considered a context of guerilla warfare, counterinsurgency strategies were perceived as the only chance to counter GAM. Yet this practice fuelled the hatred and nationalism among a large part of Aceh’s population against Indonesian rule and the army.”[xx]  The Indonesian government and GAM were already in talks about a peace treaty, but at the time it seemed unlikely that a deal would be reached.

The situation immediately following the tsunami, which killed 4% of Aceh’s population, marked a rapid departure from the armed struggle preceding the natural disaster.[xxi]  Most significant was the fact that after then newly elected Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had already seemed eager to achieve peace in Aceh, declared the catastrophe a “national disaster,” he requested the TNI’s restraint in the region, while GAM agreed to a unilateral ceasefire in order to help facilitate relief operations.  In January, 2005, five days after the tsunami, GAM began negotiations with the Indonesian government in Helsinki. [xxii] This seems to be an example of what Kelman and Gaillard describe as “disaster diplomacy,” which they define as when disaster-related activities, including humanitarian response and recovery, induce cooperation between enemy parties, on either national or international scales.[xxiii]  Kelman and Gaillard argue that “disaster-related activities frequently catalyze diplomatic progress, but rarely create it.”  In many ways, this is true of the situation in Aceh; even though previous peace talks had failed, GAM and the Indonesian government had been in secret negotiations mediated by former Finnish president, Martti Ahtisaari.”  In many ways, this fits into Milton Friedman’s crisis hypothesis, which argues that “‘Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.[xxiv]”  Therefore, the climate in Aceh was already ripe for peace, but the humanitarian aid influx following the tsunami helped to insure the process, and prevented it from failing like past peace negotiations. 

One of the most profound incubators of peace was the sudden presence of foreign humanitarian organizations following the tsunami.  During martial law, no foreigners, including humanitarian aid workers, were allowed to enter the province, but after the disaster, the Indonesian government was desperate for international money to help rebuild the province, and they immediately opened the door for relief aid.  This was significant for two reasons; first of all, many international donors and organizations expressed that they expected GAM to follow through with peace negotiations in order for reconstruction to occur without interference, which led to growing pressures for both GAM and the Indonesian government to reach a peace agreement.  As the World Watch Institute explains, “While not making aid directly conditional on conflict resolution, several donors, including Germany and Japan, made it clear to both sides that they expected progress.”[xxv]  While both GAM and the TNI had been very territorial prior to the tsunami, this was no longer possible following the disaster, as they had to make room for the many humanitarian organizations flooding into the province. Le Billon explains that this is a common phenomenon when natural disasters strike war-torn areas, writing that “institutionally, disasters can result in international interventions challenging domestic territorial sovereignty through the creation of ‘humanitarian’ space.[xxvi]”      

The second reason that international aid was crucial is that the presence of foreign eyes and ears helped to curb human rights abuses on the part of both TNI and GAM, as they realized that the international community was rapidly becoming aware of the Acehnese plight.[xxvii] Waizenegger and Hyndman argue that “the tsunami, and the relief and reconstruction operations that followed, opened up Aceh to the world, ending the province’s government­imposed isolation and invisibility. In Aceh, the tsunami created new political space for change.[xxviii]” The humanitarian response to the tsunami was in fact enormous, especially in light of the situation prior. According to a report from the Asian Development Bank, the humanitarian team included 124 international NGOs, 430 Indonesian NGOs, 11 foreign militaries, donor and UN agencies, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the ICRC and the Indonesian Red Cross, Palang Merah Indonesia.[xxix]  Such a large response to a natural disaster was unprecedented: in a report about the humanitarian response in Aceh following the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition writes that it “was the largest international response to a natural disaster; the largest public response” which helped to make the response a success and ensured that “there were no major outbreaks of disease, and clean water, food, health care, and shelter were provided promptly.[xxx]”  Going from isolated martial law to a hub of interational acitivity was shocking, and, as Zeccola writes, “the contrast with the recent past was striking: there was a sudden jump from approximately 10 expatriates working in Aceh at the height of the conflict in 2001 to literally thousands in early 2005.[xxxi]” 

As one news article explained in the days following the tsunami, “The tsunami that swept away half of Banda Aceh has also swept away the Government's fence that stopped the world from looking in, along with the iron-fisted rules that have long kept the population in fear.”[xxxii]  In fact, the presence of foreign media itself was crucial, because many major news organizations, including BBC, CNN, and MSNBC, began profiling the conflict as part of their coverage of the humanitarian response in Aceh.  Many stressed that the sudden opening to foreign citizens, which was necessary for the fast delivery of aid, also provided an opening for the press to cover the guerilla war. A BBC article on January 24th, 2005 explained that,

Foreigners - including aid workers and journalists - have not been allowed into the region for some time, and accurate reports of the situation have therefore been hard to obtain.  Since the 26 December tsunami, however, all that has changed. International groups have been pouring into Aceh to provide aid to the devastated coastal regions.

Even though the peace talks, which began five days after the tsunami, had been secretly pre-arranged, the huge international call for a ceasefire and the heightened visibility of the province, helped to ensure their success.  In fact, what had begun as secret negotiations, became highly visible, and several international organizations and figures expressed their support of a new EU/ASEAN collaboration to oversee the peace agreement, including Bill Clinton, who made three visits to Aceh in 2005 as a special envoy for the United Nations.[xxxiii] 

The humanitarian response following the tsunami also led to new roles for the TNI, which helped to change the negative perception of them within Aceh.  The tens of thousands of TNI troops who were already in Aceh were deployed by the Indonesian government to help organize aid efforts and suddenly became humanitarian workers.   Rather than trying to flush out GAM rebels from their jungle strongholds, TNI soldiers started using the same knives and weapons to help clear roads of debris so aid could be delivered, collect rotting corpses and bury them in mass graves in line with Islamic law, build temporary shelters, and deliver food and supplies to survivors.  This hugely changed popular perception of the TNI, and as one woman said in a news article in the days following the tsunami, “I used to not like the TNI. But since the tsunami, my point of view has changed a little. I think they can help.[xxxiv]”  Although there were still accusations of the TNI capitalizing on the disaster to make a profit, such as stealing from the dead, or providing protection to drug traffickers, they were outweighed by positive stories.[xxxv]

            Another important aspect of the tsunami was the fact that there were jobs immediately available for GAM militants, who were often low-skilled and had been living in the jungle for years prior to the tsunami.  Many former GAM members were hired by humanitarian organizations helping to reconstruct Aceh, and the final MoU actually included a clause promising reconstruction work to high-ranking political GAM members, saying “‘GAM will nominate representatives to participate fully at all levels in the commission established to conduct the post­tsunami reconstruction.”  Although some have criticized this as “buying peace,” or as offering “sweet deals” to rebels who might have committed human rights abuses and don’t deserve them, the availability of humanitarian and reconstruction jobs for former GAM members likely helped to hasten the peace process.[xxxvi]

Despite the catalytic effect of the international humanitarian response in helping to achieve a political settlement in Aceh, the aid process itself fostered disagreements.  Some negative perceptions of international aid workers were related to the humanitarian industry that developed following the tsunami.  Many Acehnese also felt that international humanitarian workers were very disconnected from the local population, and did not understand local culture and situations.  Many aid workers spent weekends and days off going to the nearby resort Weh Island, and diving resorts and hotels began offering deals to humanitarian workers.  Similarly, a Pizza Hut, McDonalds, KFC, and Starbucks opened in the months following the tsunami, catering to the thousands of humanitarian workers, and stores started selling beer to non-Muslims, all of which was seen by many IDPs and other Acehnese residents as being hugely disrespectful.[xxxvii] 

            There were also a number of controversies surrounding the allocation of aid following the tsunami.  This common dilemma in humanitarian response stemmed from the major disconnect between “classic” humanitarian organization and organizations that partook in a newer political humanitarianism, which often fell along a line split between international NGOs and local NGOs.[xxxviii]  Weiss defines classicists as believing that humanitarian action is “warranted as long as it is charitable and self-contained, defined only by the needs of victims and divorced from political objectives and conditionalities.[xxxix]”  Political humanitarianism on the other hand, “‘refers to conscious decisions to employ humanitarian action as an integral part of an international public policy to mitigate life-threatening suffering and protect fundamental human rights in active wars.[xl]”  In the response to the tsunami in Aceh, international NGOs tended to emphasize completely apolitical action, whereas many Aceh-based and Indonesian NGOs, who had been continuously involved in humanitarian efforts under martial law when foreigners were kicked out, were often intensely political.  Burke and Afnan explain that “most international NGOs were unwilling or unable to provide assistance to conflict victims, in most cases for up to two years in the post-tsunami period, whereas local NGOs called for a comprehensive approach to assist victims of both the natural and political disasters equally.[xli]” This dilemma is related to a pervasive issue in many international aid contexts, resulting from the dynamic of emergency aid which in its earliest incarnations tended to focus on a model “of giving a bed for a night” rather than addressing the underlying causes of a crisis.  For instance, in addressing the famine in Somalia, many scholars and aid workers have argued that while emergency aid is vital, it has to be combined with addressing underlying causes of famine.  Kofi Annan has explained that “just shipping in food is not enough, poverty and other causes of famine must also be addressed.[xlii]

While many international NGOs cited donor intent and the guiding principle of neutrality as guiding their focus on only tsunami victims, it was also clear that neutrality was essential for maintaining access to the country, just as it had been when international organizations provided aid prior to martial law.  Most organizations were very deontological in their work – they continually respected the sovereignty of Indonesia and sought government permission for all tsunami-related projects.  Some went so far as to take out a map and drawing a line between tsunami-affected areas and the rest of the province, explaining that no money should go below the line. Zeccola explains that “When the tsunami struck, the Indonesian military did not want foreigners to meddle in the conflict. It was clear that foreign assistance was welcome in response to the tsunami, but it was most unwelcome in response to the conflict.[xliii]”  In fact, organizations that had previously been vocal about the conflict, such as Amnesty International, were denied entry to Aceh.[xliv]  For local NGOs, however, the idea of providing a “band-aid” type fix for the tsunami victims, with no thought given to conflict victims or the potential for ongoing violence, was very problematic.  These organizations had been working continuously during the period of martial law after international organizations were forced to leave, and despite having their own sympathies and antipathies regarding GAM and the TNI, had still been providing relief aid to all victims of the conflict prior to the tsunami.  In many ways, this is similar to an ongoing controversy within the humanitarian community about how to best address humanitarian assistance.  As Cohen explains, “providing food, medicine, and shelter to internally displaced persons, while ignoring violent abuse, has led to the tragic description of the victims as the ‘well-fed dead.[xlv]’”  Some organizations, such as Oxfam, had internal struggles about this, but still ended up not being able to provide help to conflict victims.  While “the bifurcation of tsunami and conflict issues raised a dilemma regarding the principle of impartiality (equality, nondiscrimination and proportionality)” in the end, the risk of getting kicked out of the province and losing millions of dollars in tsunami-allocated money was considered too high.[xlvi]  While these international organizations might have helped to hasten the peace process by their presence alone, their work did not actively recognize the plight of those affected by the ongoing conflict.

The unequal distribution of aid was not only a point of contention between international and local NGOs, but was also very disconcerting for many Acehnese.  Zeccola explains that “For many Acehnese, however devastating the tsunami, it was simply another layer of an existing crisis.[xlvii]”  This has sought to create new political conflict in Indonesia, due to the inequality of the two “aid-scapes” in Aceh.[xlviii]  According to a World Bank report, “in many ways conflict­affected areas have experienced more extensive damage than the tsunami­affected areas and conflict has displaced more families from their villages than the tsunami.[xlix]”  Local residents were aware of this, and were thus very upset about the fact that aid was so unevenly distributed between the tsunami-affected coastal areas and the war-torn hinterlands.   This dissatisfaction was especially acute for long-time internally displaced victims of the ongoing conflict who saw new tsunami-related refugees getting access to huge amounts of aid.  Waizenegger and Hyndman explain that “In areas where conflict and tsunami internally displaced person (IDP) camps neighboured each other, it was strictly forbidden to let any assistance cross the line between “humanitarian” tsunami IDPs and “political” conflict IDPs.[l]”  Concern about this was repeated by members of the BRR, with head Kuntoro Mangkusubrot at one point asking “How can we only carry out reconstruction process in coastal areas, while 5 kilometres away there is an area destroyed by conflict?[li]” 

The only major exception to the international and local NGO split was Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) who famously and controversially declared less than a week after the tsunami that they were going to stop accepting tsunami funds.  They claimed that the tsunami was overfunded, and that there were other crises in the area receiving much less attention.  In this way, MSF took on a very consequentialist approach, and clearly considered a moral and ethical outcome to be more important than respecting Indonesia’s sovereignty and remaining neutral.  In the months following the natural disaster, MSF had 400 staff members in Indonesia, and in addition to providing humanitarian relief to conflict victims, MSF was the first international organization to take on conflict-related advocacy after the tsunami, which they frequently did with reference to their slogan, soignez et temoigne (care for and testify).[lii]  MSF Holland and MSF Belgium also put together a travelling photographic exhibition titled “Mental trauma and conflict in Aceh” which sought to raise awareness of the conflict, and travelled throughout Aceh before being permanently placed at the Aceh Museum in Banda Aceh.[liii] Nonetheless, MSF encountered many difficulties when dealing with the Indonesian government, and frequently had to try to reframe their activities as being unrelated to the sensitive issues of human rights and advocacy.[liv]  Hivos, a Dutch organizations that was one of the only other international organizations to work with conflict victims immediately following the tsunami faced similar clashes with the central government.[lv]

The reason that most international organizations and foreign governments engaging in humanitarian assistance following the tsunami made no effort to assist conflict victims can be understood differently when looking at the situation through the lens of different international relations theories.  Realism, which believes that “international affairs is a struggle for power among self-interested states,[lvi]” points to a more sinister reason: that many governments funding projects directly (and organizations receiving money from those governments) were more interested in maintaining a healthy relationship with the Indonesian government, than in delivering the most effective aid.  For the U.S., for instance, Indonesia has huge strategic importance, as the largest Muslim country, and the third largest democracy in the world, as well as importance relating to Indonesia’s petroleum, natural gas, nickel,coal, gold, silver, and other natural resources.[lvii]  An understanding from the perspective of liberalism, however, might point to these organizations and governments feeling that “the rule of law and transparency of democratic processes make it easier to sustain international cooperation.”  A liberal understanding would argue that the reason for cooperating with the Indonesian government’s requests was a strategy not based on self interest, but rather that respecting rule of law was the most effective way to make a difference in the region.

            Despite the ongoing disagreements as to how funds should be allocated, on August 15, 2005, GAM political leadership and President SBY and Vice President Jusuf Kalla signed the Memorandum of Understanding in Helsinki, after eight months of ongoing negotiations.  The deal substantially increased Aceh’s share of oil and natural gas revenues, and GAM was allowed to achieve representation in provincial elections.[lviii]  While the humanitarian response following the tsunami did not single-handedly cause peace, it did help to foster political collaboration between GAM and the Indonesian government, and has also helped to encourage the continuation of peace.  As Waizenegger and Hyndman explain, “The tsunami catalysed a pre­arranged peace initiative and internationalized the peace­building process by exposing and publicizing the conflict to a concerned audience, [lix]” in addition to allowing for the integration of former GAM members in the humanitarian process and shifting the role of the TNI.   Nonetheless, the social grievances of people who had been affected by conflict caused by the mismatch in attention and fund allocation have the potential to create new violent conflict in Aceh province.  Therefore, while post-tsunami humanitarian assistance was crucial for activating the peace process, the international community’s overall focus on the tsunami-affected areas rather than conflict-affected areas presents a threat to long-term stability in the region.

            Today, almost exactly eight years after the tsunami, Aceh province looks very different than it did in December, 2004.  On December 11, 2006 Aceh held its first democratic elections, and GAM’s candidate, Irwandi Yusuf, who had been in prison prior to the tsunami, but later liaised with international organizations throughout the relief effort, won the governor’s seat.[lx]  In a somewhat surprising move for a former rebel, Yusuf kept most of the former government, who were TNI supporters, in place, explaining in a New York Times interview “I tell them, ‘I believe, I trust you all.[lxi]’” In April, 2008 Partai Aceh, the new political reincarnation of GAM, swept the Aceh legislature.[lxii]  Aceh is not entirely rebuilt from the tsunami, with the UN estimating that 170 families, or 800 people, are still living in sub-standard “temporary” housing in the capital of Banda Aceh alone.[lxiii]  Nonetheless, most infrastructure has been rebuilt, and one of the largest development projects, a USAid-funded $280 million highway running 150 kilometers down Aceh’s western coast, was completed in October, 2011.[lxiv] However, in the months and years since the humanitarian response in Aceh provided a vehicle for the peace negotiations, new strains have materialized within Aceh, related to the allocation of aid between tsunami victims and conflict victims.  Because the “the attention, expertise and resources allocated for tsunami victims far exceeded those for survivors of the conflict,” former conflict victims continue today to be at a disadvantage in terms of access to health care, access to education, and job skills and opportunities than tsunami victims.[lxv]  It is difficult to guess in hindsight if the catalytic effect of the humanitarian effort would even have been possible without the policies that led to a skewed allocation of aid between tsunami victims and conflict victims.  In many ways, the humanitarian response in Aceh following the Indian Ocean Tsunami was a sad irony, wherein the very thing that produced so much good, also produced bad.

[1] In 2002, the Henry Dunant Center changed its name to the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue.

[2] Acronym for Tentara Nasional Indonesia, the National Army of Indonesia.

[i] Le Billon, Philippe. "Peace in the wake of disaster? Secessionist conflicts and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 32, no. 3 (2007): 412-427.

 [ii] Zeccola, Paul. "Dividing disasters in Aceh, Indonesia: separatist conflict and tsunami, human rights and humanitarianism." Disasters 35, no. 2 (2010): 308-328.

 [iii] Collier, Paul, and Nicholas Sambanis. "Resources and Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia." In Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2005. 35-59.

 [iv] "Profile: Aceh's GAM separatists." BBC News. (accessed December 10, 2011).

 [v] Collier, Paul, and Nicholas Sambanis. "Resources and Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia." In Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2005. 39.

 [vi] Schulze, Kirsten E. The Free Aceh Movement (GAM): Anatomy of a Separatist Organization. Washington, D.C.: East-West Center, 2004.

 [vii] Collier, Paul, and Nicholas Sambanis. "Resources and Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia." In Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2005. 39.

 [viii] "Human Rights Atrocities in Aceh, Indonesia." Amnesty International. (accessed December 9, 2011).

 [ix] "Oxfam Briefing Note: The Tsunami Two Years On." Oxfam International. (accessed December 8, 2011). 

[x] Lindorf Nielsen, Mette . "Questioning Aceh’s Inevitability: A Story of Failed National Integration?." Global Politics Network. (accessed December 11, 2011).

[xi] Zeccola, Paul. "Dividing disasters in Aceh, Indonesia: separatist conflict and tsunami, human rights and humanitarianism." Disasters 35, no. 2 (2010): 308-328.

[xii] "Aceh Under Martial Law: Inside the Secret War | Human Rights Watch." Human Rights Watch. (accessed December 11, 2011).

[xiii] Zeccola, Paul. "Dividing disasters in Aceh, Indonesia: separatist conflict and tsunami, human rights and humanitarianism." Disasters 35, no. 2 (2010): 308-328.

[xiv] Kay, Kira. "The "New Humanitarianism": The Henry Dunant Center and the Aceh Peace Negotiations." Princeton University WWS Case Study 02/03. (accessed December 9, 2011). 

[xv] Zeccola, Paul. "Dividing disasters in Aceh, Indonesia: separatist conflict and tsunami, human rights and humanitarianism." Disasters 35, no. 2 (2010): 308-328.

[xvi] Miller, Michelle Ann. Rebellion and Reform in Indonesia: Jakarta's Security and Autonomy Policies in Aceh. London: Routledge, 2009.

[xvii] Collier, Paul, and Nicholas Sambanis. "Resources and Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia." In Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2005. 35-59.

[xviii] Hedman, Eva. "Aceh Under Martial Law: Conflict, Violence and Displacement" Refugee Studies Centre (RSC), Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford. (accessed December 10, 2011).

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Waizenegger, Arno , and Jennifer Hyndman. "Disasters." Two solitudes: post-tsunami and post-conflict Aceh 34, no. 3 (2010): 787-808.

[xxi]  Ibid.

[xxii]  Ibid.

[xxiii] Kelman, Ilan, and Jean-Christophe Gaillard. "Disaster Diplomacy in Aceh." Humanitarian Exchange Magazine. (accessed December 10, 2011).

[xxiv] Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.

[xxv] "Aceh: Peacemaking after the Tsunami." Worldwatch Institute . (accessed December 11, 2011).

[xxvi] Le Billon, Philippe. "Peace in the wake of disaster? Secessionist conflicts and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 32, no. 3 (2007): 412-427.

[xxvii] Waizenegger, Arno , and Jennifer Hyndman. "Disasters." Two solitudes: post-tsunami and post-conflict Aceh 34, no. 3 (2010): 787-808.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] A Joint Report of The BRR and International Partners. "Aceh and Nias One Year After the Tsunami: The Recovery Effort and Way Forward." Asian Development Bank. (accessed December 10, 2011).

[xxx] Flint, Michael, and Hugh Goyder. "Funding the Tsunami Response." Tsunami Evaluation Coalition. (accessed December 9, 2011).

[xxxi] Zeccola, Paul. "Dividing disasters in Aceh, Indonesia: separatist conflict and tsunami, human rights and humanitarianism." Disasters 35, no. 2 (2010): 308-328.

[xxxii] Moore, Matthew. "Aceh swept by a political wave - Asia tsunami." The Age. (accessed December 11, 2011).

[xxxiii] Ibid.

[xxxiv] Thang, Phan Chien. "Some Good from the Tsunami in Aceh." Southeast Asian Press Alliance. (accessed December 11, 2011).

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Waizenegger, Arno , and Jennifer Hyndman. "Disasters." Two solitudes: post-tsunami and post-conflict Aceh 34, no. 3 (2010): 787-808.

[xxxvii] Ibid.

[xxxviii] Zeccola, Paul. "Dividing disasters in Aceh, Indonesia: separatist conflict and tsunami, human rights and humanitarianism." Disasters 35, no. 2 (2010): 308-328.

[xxxix] Weiss, Thomas. "Principles, Politics, and Humanitarian Action." Ethics and International Affairs 13, no. 1 (1999): 1–22.

[xl]  Ibid.

[xli] Burke, Adam. Aceh, Reconstruction in a Conflict Environment: Views from Civil Society, Donors, and NGOs. Jakarta, Indonesia: Decentralization Support Facility, 2005.

[xlii] Harsch, Ernest. "Famine spreads across Africa: With 38 million facing starvation, “business as usual will not do”." United Nations. (accessed December 12, 2011).

[xliii] Zeccola, Paul. "Dividing disasters in Aceh, Indonesia: separatist conflict and tsunami, human rights and humanitarianism." Disasters 35, no. 2 (2010): 316.

[xliv] Ibid.

[xlv] Cohen, Roberta. "Strengthening protection of IDPs: the UN’s role." Georgetown Journal of International Affairs Winter/Spring (2006): 101–109.

[xlvi] Zeccola, Paul. "Dividing disasters in Aceh, Indonesia: separatist conflict and tsunami, human rights and humanitarianism." Disasters 35, no. 2 (2010): 308-328.

[xlvii] Cohen, Roberta. "Strengthening protection of IDPs: the UN’s role." Georgetown Journal of International Affairs Winter/Spring (2006): 101–109.

[xlviii] Waizenegger, Arno, and Jennifer Hyndman. "Disasters." Two solitudes: post-tsunami and post-conflict Aceh 34, no. 3 (2010): 797.

[xlix] "Village Survey in Aceh: An Assessment of Infrastructure and Social Conditions by Kecamatan Development Program, World Bank." Conflict and Development Program, an initiative of the Social Development Unit of the World Bank in Jakarta. (accessed December 10, 2011).

[l] Waizenegger, Arno, and Jennifer Hyndman. "Disasters." Two solitudes: post-tsunami and post-conflict Aceh 34, no. 3 (2010): 797.

[li] Ibid.

[lii] Bolesch, Sebastian. "One year after the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster." Médecins Sans Frontières. (accessed December 11, 2011).

[liii] Ibid.

 [liv] Zeccola, Paul. "Dividing disasters in Aceh, Indonesia: separatist conflict and tsunami, human rights and humanitarianism." Disasters 35, no. 2 (2010): 308-328.

 [lv] Ibid.

 [lvi] Snyder, Jack. "One World, Rival Theories." Foreign Policy 145,  Nov. - Dec (2004): 52-62.

[lvii] "Indonesia." CIA World Factbook. (accessed December 9, 2011).

 [lviii] Bigalke, Terance. "Aceh After the Tsunami: As the Province Rebuilds, the Challenges of Physical and Spiritual Recovery." East-West Center. (accessed December 9, 2011).

 [lix] Waizenegger, Arno, and Jennifer Hyndman. "Disasters." Two solitudes: post-tsunami and post-conflict Aceh 34, no. 3 (2010): 800.

 [lx] Mydans, Seth. "A Rebel-Turned-Governor Takes the Wheel in Indonesia." The New York Times. (accessed December 12, 2011).

 [lxi] Waizenegger, Arno, and Jennifer Hyndman. "Disasters." Two solitudes: post-tsunami and post-conflict Aceh 34, no. 3 (2010): 800.

[lxii] Gelling, Peter. "Bumpy Journey to Rebuild Aceh After Tsunami." The New York Times. (accessed December 12, 2011).

lxiii] Irin. "Seven Years On, No Respite For Tsunami Victims" The Asia Mag. (accessed December 12, 2011).

 [lxiv] Woronowycz, Roman . "U.S. and Indonesia Open $280 Million Banda Aceh Highway." USAID. (accessed December 8, 2011).

 [lxv] Waizenegger, Arno, and Jennifer Hyndman. "Disasters." Two solitudes: post-tsunami and post-conflict Aceh 34, no. 3 (2010): 801.



Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
11 + 5 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.