Post-Tsunami Aid Effectiveness in Aceh: Proliferation and Coordination in Reconstruction


On December 26, 2004, an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale struck off the northeast coast of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (Aceh) on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. In the subsequent tsunami that followed, over 150,000 people lost their lives, while an estimated 700,000 people were displaced. The scale of the damage to the local economy, infrastructure and administration was unprecedented. The magnitude of these events triggered a huge outpouring of compassion and generosity from around the world. The influx of aid and assistance into the province of Aceh in the weeks and months that followed was unprecedented and surpassed all expectations. This paper seeks to provide some insight into the effects of such an influx whilst also exploring some of the coordination mechanisms put in place to manage what was the largest reconstruction program in the developing world at the time.

At the time the tsunami struck, Aceh had been home to a separatist conflict for 30 years. The influx of aid was seen as an opportunity to reach a peaceful settlement of the insurgency and for all parties to work towards community development, not only in rebuilding Aceh, but building it back better. Nearly 500 agencies flooded into the province, bringing funding and promises of a brighter future, whilst creating the enormous logistical challenge of doing so without duplicating efforts and squandering resources.

The second section of this paper looks at how the Government of Indonesia and the international community responded in the aftermath of the disaster and details the extent of the damage and the amount of funding provided towards the reconstruction program. This section also examines some of the many issues that faced the reconstruction of residential houses in the province and puts into context the enormity of the task of rebuilding homes. In contrast to many other reconstruction programs around the world, the money flowed in as promised. The third section examines why agencies began to fail to deliver on promised outcomes despite adequate funding. The fourth section goes on to assess whether the proliferation of agencies involved was effective and examines some of the costs associated with a large number of agencies whilst the fifth section reviews some of the various coordination mechanisms that were put in place to deal with this. Finally, the sixth section examines the key information systems used whilst delving into some of the problems experienced by the users of the systems.