For those of you keeping score re: how many NGOs and trade associations are still active in Aceh, I am sorry to report that another has gone to that great roundtable in the sky: Eye on Aceh.I wrote to Dr Aspinall of ANU Cllege of Asia and the Pacific, regarding a 2009 paper he co-wrote for Eye on Aceh called “The Golden Crop? Palm Oil in Aceh" which I’ve referreed to (and linked to) in a previous post. I also asked him to direct us to any local NGOs that he knew were still active, or any groups of NGOs who met regularly (as they used to do via the NGO Forum, during the post-tsunami days when the concept of information sharing seemed to get more support than it does now).
He referred us to Leslie, with whom he worked who was
directly involved with Eye on Aceh, who reported that“Eye on Aceh
has, unfortunately, closed its doors. You're right, the local NGO sector in
Aceh is much weaker, especially in the areas you mention. You might try Walhi
(environmental...not sure whether they might be doing livelihood work), Kontras
(human rights) and LBH (legal aid). There are some other small NGOs but I'm
unsure how active they still are.”
She is no longer working in Indonesia (a common refrain)
so I gave this info to JMD’ Director and he set out on a month-long quest to
look up the contacts mentioned by Leslie and Dr A, see what happened to the NGO
Forum (Forum LSM), and look up information on the Aceh Institute, After about 2 weeks of hanging out at their offices,
trying to get the right person n the right day, and speaking to a
representative from the Ace Institute, which was the only NGO I could find on
line, and its focus is human rights.
Well, Junaidi, JMD's Director asked around and no one ever heard of
the Aceh Institute but he found many colleagues who were more or less in touch
with the NGO Forum, although many either were not joining or were no longer
participating. (It was then that he located a member of the Aceh Institute, who
was a member of the Forum.) It seems
that the NGO Forum, like so many groups in Aceh, felt that it had to be
super-formal and institutionalized, and so has a mission, vision, rules, regulations,
application forms, and a specific political goal (if some of its members can be
believed) that puts some agencies off. When Junaidi told me about some of the contortions that NGOs went
through to either join or not join, participate or not participate . . . . “I’m
not joining because that agency is a member, and they have a track record of
doing X; “I am frightened of joining because we do agriculture and not women’s
rights;” “Some of the agencies are too political; the scream about orangutan
rights and we don’t want to be associated with them;” and on an on. It was like family members invited to a wedding—Aunt
Mavis threatening not to come because “that woman will be seated across from me
and you know how I hate her . . .” My god. JOIN ALREADY! I told him. But it is not that easy because of the forms
and the phone calls and the blood tests and the security clearance . . . now I
am just making that up. Suffice it to
say, he could only find about 10 local NGOs in Banda Aceh, and he knows people from 4
of them. So if the NGO Forum cannot get
its act together and actually allow a (very rare) local NGO to show up and
participate, JMD is going to start its own informal local NGO coffee klatch.
Which does not help the sorry state of now-defunct local NGOs, but it gives those few
remaining a shoulder to cry on.
Remember: Today is Giving Tuesday! See my previous post, and GIVE!!! You will feel so much better!!!