Monday, December 22, 2014

Build Back Better

Haven't given a lot of thought to Indonesia since the tsunami there a decade ago. Recently started getting the Christian Science Monitor as a news source on the Kindle. Gotta say, "I love CSM!" They have fairness and balance any other media can only dream of. I'm very happy to see that the people of Indonesia seem to have built a society that's better in many ways than what they had before the storm.

Yet to visit Banda Aceh today is to visit a city that has not just been patched together but largely fulfilled the post-tsunami mantra of aid officials: “Build Back Better.” In an age when massive outpourings of aid often get diverted or diluted before reaching the needy, fueling donor fatigue, much of the tsunami relief money has trickled down to survivors of the disaster – and made a difference. This is evident in the 130,000 new houses, 1,700 schools, and nearly 1,000 government buildings built in the aftermath. Aceh has new airports, seaports, sewers, and potable water systems; it has 2,300 miles of new roads and a rebuilt power grid.

“In terms of physical infrastructure, we are better off now,” says Saiful Mahdi, director of the International Center for Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies in Banda Aceh.

And beyond the rebuilding physically is political rebuilding as well.

The rebuilding has also been about more than simply restoring the physical past. Before 2004, decades of fighting between separatist rebels and security forces had killed at least 10,000, mostly civilians, and mired a resource-rich province in poverty. For that reason, it quickly became clear that absent a credible peace process, rebuilding Aceh would result in the squandering of vast sums of money. Eight months later, the rebels and Indonesia’s government signed a historic power-sharing agreement in Helsinki, Finland. And that deal has held, bringing peace to Aceh, a new crop of leaders, and an end to its political isolation. This d├ętente set the stage for a post-tsunami revitalization, a new chapter to be written.

Yes, I have a happy holiday post to put up. There is good news in the world.  

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