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One Year After the Tsunami: Policy and Public Perceptions

One Year After the Tsunami: Policy and Public Perceptions

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Published by The Wilson Center
This report, featuring essays from both Indonesian and American experts, assesses post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in Indonesia, with a particular focus on how reconstruction has affected the country's internally displaced persons (IDPs). The report also examines Indonesian public opinion toward both Indonesia and the United States after the tsunami.
This report, featuring essays from both Indonesian and American experts, assesses post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in Indonesia, with a particular focus on how reconstruction has affected the country's internally displaced persons (IDPs). The report also examines Indonesian public opinion toward both Indonesia and the United States after the tsunami.

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Published by: The Wilson Center on Jul 10, 2014
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This Special Report assesses post-disaster reconstruction efforts in Indonesia—and Indonesian views of them—one year after the great Asian tsunami.
provides an overview of Indonesia’s post-tsunami environment—one of highexpectations and growing optimism about the rebuilding process, yet one also markedby Aceh’s fragile politics and Indonesia’s legacy of corruption.
Muhammad Qodari
sur-veys Indonesian media and public opinion in his study of how U.S. post-tsunami aid hasboosted the American image in Indonesia.
Roberta Cohen
examines treatment of thetsunami’s displaced, employing as a normative tool the Guiding Principles on InternallyDisplaced Persons (IDPs). Finally,
Courtland Robinson
analyzes the steps taken to facil-itate IDPs’ permanent return, as well as the many remaining challenges.
One Year After the Tsunami: Policy and Public Perceptions
BAMBANG HARYMURTIThe High Stakes of Aceh’s Post-Tsunami Reconstruction
MUHAMMAD QODARIThe Tsunami,Humanitarian Aid,and the Image of the UnitedStates in the Muslim World
ROBERTA COHENMeasuring Indonesia’s Response to the Tsunami
COURTLAND ROBINSON Tsunami Displacement andReturn in Aceh Province
ore than a year after the great Asiantsunami of December 26,2004,thenumbers still astonish:approximately200,000 dead;hundreds of thousands of guttedhomes;and more than one million people dis-placed.What befell the Indian Ocean region onthat fateful day was truly a natural disaster of extraordinary magnitude.The tsunami affected 12 different nations,fromTanzania to Malaysia.Yet no nation was ravagedmore than Indonesia.According to Indonesian gov-ernment figures,the disaster’s toll in Aceh Provinceand Nias (an island comprising part of NorthSumatra Province) included 167,000 human deaths;500,000 people displaced;3,000 kilometers of use-less roads;and more than 2,000 damaged schoolbuildings.
Other sources’figures are more conser-vative,with estimates of around 130,000 deaths inIndonesia.
Regardless of the exact numbers of casualties,the tsunami’s destructive force was cata-strophic.One post-tsunami report estimated AcehProvince’s total damage and losses at $4.5 billion,“almost equal to its entire GDP.”
The dramatic international response,whichbegan with unprecedented levels of relief aid anddonations during the rescue phase,has remainedintense as post-disaster efforts have shifted to recon-struction.Ninety-two countries have contributedover the last year,and more than $13 billion has beenraised altogether.Seven nations,as well as the AsianDevelopment Bank,European Commission,andWorld Bank,have pledged at least $300 million.Andin an indication of the world’s continued generosityin the year after the tsunami,84 percent of the finan-cial needs for the United Nations tsunami appeal hadbeen fulfilled as of early December 2005 (converse-ly,all other UN appeals for humanitarian aid in 2005had received an average of 52 percent of neededfunds by that date).
No. 130
MAY 2006
This Special Report was made possible through a grant from the GE Foundation.
Michael Kugelman
isprogram assistantwith the Woodrow Wilson Center’sAsia Program.
This edited report,the outgrowth of a January2006 Wilson Center event (hosted by the AsiaProgram with assistance from the GE Foundation),assesses post-tsunami reconstruction efforts inIndonesia—and Indonesian views of them—one year later.In the first essay,
Bambang Harymurti
,editor-in-chief of the Indonesian weekly newsmagazine
,describes the sustained international cam-paign of post-tsunami giving as “heartwarming.Yetthis outpouring of aid puts pressure on Aceh’s recon-struction.For if the rebuilding process founders inAceh,site of the brunt of the tsunami’s destruction,then,he asserts,the donor communitys magnanimitymay succumb to cynicism,jeopardizing the prospectof aid during future post-disaster periods.Harymurti lists several potential obstacles to a suc-cessful reconstruction.Among them is Aceh’s politicalsituation.The goodwill that arose in the tsunami’saftermath is often cited as a spur to the historic August2005 peace agreement between Indonesia’s govern-ment and the Free Aceh Movement,or GAM.However,Harymurti warns of the challenges of assim-ilating the recently disarmed former combatants into
Acehnese society.Another obstacle is corruption.TheAceh and Nias Rehabilitation and ReconstructionAgency (BRR),the civilian agency charged withcoordinating Indonesia’s reconstruction,is regarded asclean and efficient,but Harymurti notes thatTransparency International consistently ranksIndonesia among the world’s most corrupt nations.The BRR itself,he adds,has been accused by oneIndonesian NGO of price mark-ups.These challenges notwithstanding,Harymurtiasserts that the Indonesian public has grown increasing-ly favorable toward the rebuilding effort.He cites pub-lic opinion data demonstrating rising optimism aboutIndonesian government reconstruction efforts between June and December 2005.However,Harymurtiexpects the numbers may increase further as the BRRdeepens its involvement in reconstruction.Have Indonesian perceptions of the United Statesimproved as well after the tsunami?
,executive deputy director of the Indonesianpolling firm Indonesian Survey Circle,addresses thisquestion in the second essay.A notable fact of the post-tsunami response has been the high level of U.S.involvement.American forces were on the front linesof the initial wave of relief efforts.Qodari notes thattens of thousands of U.S.military personnel as well asdozens of ships and aircraft deployed to the disaster zones.And one local observer has recounted howAmerican Marines rapidly recovered bodies from river beds,ensuring proper Islamic burials for Aceh victims.
The U.S.government has also pledged $857 million inaid,more than any other nation.Additionally,American private donations total $1.48 billion,anamount that dwarfs private funding from other topcontributing nations.
How has all this affected Indonesian views of theUnited States? Relatively positively,according toQodari.A November 2004 poll found that 66 per-cent of Indonesians harbored an “unfavorable opin-ionof the United States.However,this figuredecreased to 54 percent in a separate poll conductedin February 2005,using field data from theIndonesian Survey Institute.
This February 2005 pollalso asked Indonesians how much more or less favor-able an opinion they held toward the United States,knowing Americans were providing assistance toIndonesian tsunami victims.Qodari reports that 65percent of respondents answered either “much morefavorable”or “somewhat more favorable.Only 5percent said “much less favorable.More complimen-tary views of the United States among Indonesianshave been sustained in public opinion into this year.The nonprofit group Terror Free Tomorrow,usingfield data obtained by the Indonesian Survey Institutein late January 2006,concludes that 63 percent of Indonesians have more favorable views of the UnitedStates because of its provision of tsunami aid.
The Wilson Center’s Asia Program is dedicated to the proposition that only those witha sound scholarly grounding can begin to understand contemporary events. One of the Center’s oldest regional programs, the Asia Program seeks to bring historical andcultural sensitivity to the discussion of Asia in the nation’s capital. In seminars, work-shops, briefings, and conferences, prominentscholars of Asia interact with one another and with policy practitioners to further under-standing of the peoples, traditions, andbehaviors of the world’s most populous con-tinent.
Robert M.Hathaway
,Program Director 
Mark Mohr
,Program Associate
Bhumika Muchhala
,Program Associate
Michael Kugelman
,Program Assistant
Qodari’s data are notable in that they depict a risingAmerican image in Indonesia,the world’s largestMuslim nation,at a time of often turbulent relationsbetween Muslims and the West.Harymurti and Qodari judge that Indonesian pub-lic perceptions of post-tsunami reconstruction effortsare relatively favorable.Yet what have been the actualresults on the ground? In the third essay,theBrookings Institution’s
Roberta Cohen
evaluateshow well Indonesia’s government and the interna-tional community have helped Indonesians displacedby the tsunami.She uses as an analytical frameworkthe Guiding Principles on Internally DisplacedPersons (IDPs),a series of rights (and governmentobligations) that apply to people uprooted by conflictor natural disaster within national borders.TheGuiding Principles were developed by the UNCommission on Human Rights in the 1990s andunderpinned by resolutions of this Commission andby the UN General Assembly.Cohen argues thatthese principles,though nonbinding,have attained ahigh normative value and constitute a useful means of gauging the status of IDPs.Cohen’s assessment reveals that Indonesia’s govern-ment has upheld certain obligations while also oftenneglecting to protect IDPs’rights.For instance,oneprinciple obliges governments to take preventativemeasures against future displacement—and an IndianOcean tsunami early warning system will indeed soonbecome operational.Similarly,the Guiding Principlesunderscore the importance of civilian-led reconstruc-tion and consultation with the affected—and theagency created to oversee reconstruction is in factunabashedly civilian and uses what Cohen labels a“participatoryapproach.However,the GuidingPrinciples also stress attention to vulnerable groupsand protection of property rights—and Cohen assertsthe reconstruction efforts often marginalize womenand offer insufficient property rights protections.Cohen’s commentary gives credence toHarymurti’s observation that Aceh’s political situationhas a strong bearing on reconstruction.Access toreconstruction assistance is a fundamental right for IDPs,argues Cohen.However,Aceh’s legacy of politi-cal strife had long kept international aid groups out of much of the region.Therefore,during the first fewmonths after the tsunami,these groups,owing to their unfamiliarity with the region,struggled to reach thosein hard-hit areas.Additionally,notes Cohen,discrimi-nation must never be used in determining how aid isprovided to IDPs.Yet she cites reports of general dis-parities in assistance to those uprooted by the politicalconflict and those displaced by the tsunami.However,after the August 2005 peace plan was signed,theIndonesian government began pledging equal treat-ment to both groups of IDPs.Still,Cohen writes,theissue of disparity lingers,as certain NGOs earmarktheir funding exclusively for tsunami victims.While Cohen analyzes the extent to whichIndonesia’s government has safeguarded the rights of IDPs,
Courtland Robinson
examines in the finalessay the steps taken to facilitate IDPs’permanentreturn.Robinson,of the Johns Hopkins BloombergSchool of Public Health,concludes that progress isbeing made with improving conditions in temporaryliving centers (TLCs) and with constructing new per-manent homes,though the rebuilding of old homeshas occurred at a slower pace.By the end of 2005,according to his data,more than 16,000 new homeshad been built with more than 13,000 still in con-struction (the BRR’s goal was to build 30,000 homesin 2005).In 2006,the BRR aims for upgrades—bothfor TLCs as well as for the homes of “host families”housing the tsunami’s displaced.The BRR projects75,000 new homes in 2006,with all housing construc-tion to be complete by mid-2007.Beyond these encouraging figures,however,liewhat Robinson refers to as “formidable”challenges.Some of these,such as clearing millions of tons of debris from land and rebuilding water,sewage,andelectricity facilities,must be addressed before sustain-able communities can flourish.Robinson worries aswell that as reconstruction moves away from areas eas-ily accessible by road and burrows into the more iso-lated swaths of Aceh,“forward progress”could growmore difficult.Finally,he notes the even greater chal-lenge of accommodating the tens of thousands of fam-ilies that do not have the option of permanent return,because their former homes are located in land nolonger fit for living.Robinson cites a survey that underscores theurgency in surmounting these challenges.ASeptember 2005 Johns Hopkins/Mercy Corps poll of more than 600 households,drawn randomly from 70Aceh villages,concluded that although 70 percent of the polled households were displaced,90 percent of these displaced households still sought return.Theseresults,notes Robinson,indicate that “neither the ter-rors of the tsunami nor the trials of prolonged dis-placement”has “shaken the resolveto return.

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