Friday, November 1, 2013

Where Are They Now?

One of the reasons, as some of you may recall, that I started keeping track of what was going on in Aceh Timur/East Aceh as part of this blog was to get my own facts straight so that BBF could help JMD find more funding to do its small scale cocoa improvement project there. I wanted to make sure that we could tell potential donors the truth about what could be accomplished, how it would be monitored, what had prevented success in the past, and what people living in Aceh really felt about their current and future economic and social situation

As you know, I sort of went down the rabbit hole.

One of the things I did find out definitively, though, was that, well, facts are hard to come by in Aceh Timur. The inaccessibility and isolation of the region makes it nearly impossible for even the most well-meaning of organizations to actually put Doc Martins on the ground and say with any type of authority, “Yes, that company is treating all its workers fairly,” or “There hasn’t been any illegal logging done in that quadrant since 2009,” or “no private smallholder land has been usurped by agribusiness.”

Indonesia, like Afghanistan, has some of the best environmental and human rights regulations on the books, but it is safe to say that if there is no sunlight pouring into the rainforest, the toadstools stay hidden and protected.

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do is compile a list of organizations and entities who were here, who had been operating in Aceh, when I first arrived in 2005, and find out what happened to them. Many large NGOs left soon after the initial humanitarian crisis was declared “over;” it was far too dangerous, given the economy of scale, for them to keep people here. JMD cut its teeth on these abandoned projects, finishing many of them at the request of the agencies that were called back to HQ. But in the wake of their leaving was also the wreckage of local NGOs who had been gutted by their international partners, never to recover. Sometimes I feel like I’m in one of those post-apocalyptic movies where a lone survivor roams the countryside trying to find others who have managed to hang on. As far as I know, JMD is currently the ONLY local sustainable livelihoods NGO operating in Aceh. Other larger international organizations still administer projects, usually in education, health and environmental issues, and all of them depend on talented and experienced Acehnese staff to assist them. But close to none are ever required to partner or subcontract with a local NGO--probably because the donor community knows that now none are left.<

The WikiTravel website reports that “There are approximately 65 NGOs currently operating in Banda Aceh . . . [t]hese NGOs include various UN and EU agencies, USNS, Care, Americare, Islamic Relief, International Federation Of Red Cross and Red Crescent, Australian Red Cross, Turkish Red Crescent, Kuwaiti Red Crescent, French Red Cross, IMC, IOM, WHO, Japan International Cooperation System, Habitat, Medecins sans frontières, Japan Platform, USAID. At the peak of the post-Tsunami aid effort there were 850 NGOs . . .”

Did you see any LOCAL or Indonesian NGO mentioned in that list?

So as an exercise, and as a prelude to my rather obvious thesis (that the only way to insure sustainable enterprises and environmental protection is through LOCALLY-DRIVEN initiatives) is to list the entities, working groups, and initiatives with whom we worked post-tsunami, and one by one find out what they are doing now.

I think I’m going to start with the list below, since I know the answer to some of this, and have reported on a few of them in previous posts. I’m hoping that by putting it all down in one place I can get a better picture of where all the assistance went in Aceh, and why, and give you an idea, too.

  • The Aceh Recovery Effort
  • Badan Rehabilitasi dan Rekonstruksi (BRR) / Agency for the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Aceh and Nias
  • The Aceh Reintegration Agency (BRA--Organization of Ex-Combatants)
  • Aceh Monitoring Mission
  • The Multi-Donor Fund
  • SwissContact Aceh
  • Eye on Aceh
  • Unicef Aceh
  • Care Aceh
  • Red Cross Aceh
  • USAID Aceh projects
  • Green Hands
  • The Leuser Foundation
  • Muslim Aid Aceh
  • Islamic Relief Aceh
  • The UN Office of the Recovery Coordinator for Aceh and Nias (UNORC)
  • Flora and Fauna International
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • Kencamaten Development Project/ Aceh Village Survey
  • Aceh Research Institute, University of Singapore
  • SSPDA Aceh (Strength through Sustainable Peace and Development; UN)

It’s not going to be pretty.

In other news: I’ve been told that one of my blog posts has made it to the big leagues: a sustainable forestry paper ("The Timberland DSS Source -- Ideas about Sustainable Forest Management and Timberland Investment") has shared our “tweet share” of yesterday’s post; we’re right alongside talking about palm oil and deforestation. How about that!!! Since I’m a skeptic by nature . . . eyes on you, Timberland!!! Hope you really are concerned about global forest sustainability . . .

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