Friday, January 07, 2005
  The three-minute silence observed across Europe in remembrance of the victims of the Sumatran tsunami was much appreciated here in Indonesia, even though doubts have been expressed by several bloggers. It's been widely covered on TV here and although flags at half-mast are less in evidence, we Jakarta residents have had other signs of the world's support.

Crossing the bridge over the toll road in front of Carrefour this morning, I had to wend my way past four soldiers toting long-barrelled guns. The roads across town were surprisingly jam free; I suspect that other residents were similarly afeared of the armed forces lining the roads up to the Jakarta Convention Centre where many of the world's leaders were gathering.

It's nice to know that the soldiers could be spared from their twin duties in Aceh, helping the refugees and chasing separatists

According to the Asian Forum, media reports and witness accounts from the ground indicate that survivors are again facing imminent threats to their lives, this time due to relief operations which are being seriously hampered by military control in Aceh.

Some blame the US neocons. The American military are undoubtedly doing an excellent job in Aceh, but their leaders, in the name of the war on terrorism, ... attempt to bolster the repressive military. GAM reports that the Indonesia military is using the catastrophe to launch a new offensive.

Meanwhile, the army reports that rebels on a fishing boat fired on Thursday at soldiers and tsunami victims on the devastated western coast of Aceh province.

For a mere blogger, it is hard to know where the truth lies.

What is fairly clear, however, is that the public face of yesterday's Jakarta Summit produced a further trickle down of 'western' expertise and wealth, thank you, and more platitudes.
"We expressed our continuing commitment to assist the affected countries and their people in order to fully recover from the catastrophic and traumatic effects of the disaster, including in their mid- and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts."
"We believe that through concerted efforts, spurred by a spirit of compassion and sacrifice and endurance, together, we will prevail in overcoming this catastrophe."

What has not been agreed to is the following. I make no apologies for reproducing this Asian Forum briefing statement in full. I agree with it 100%.

Six Points on Tsunami Humanitarian Challenge
from a Human Rights Perspective

The tsunamis hitting South Asia have created unprecedented havoc in the affected countries. The world has been heartened to see the outpouring of donations, of volunteerism, and indeed, of the heroic acts of bravery that have saved many lives. At the same time, they have also brought to light and aggravated some existing weaknesses in accountability structures, emergency response, and the gaps between civil society and governments that, if properly bridged, would maximize the impact of interventions for the benefit of the most vulnerable. We want to highlight the following six areas of special concern.

1. The beginning of an effective response must be a proper assessment of the situation and acknowledgement of the challenges. There must be openness in the affected areas to humanitarian agencies, which is being seen in many of the affected countries, and an increasing openness is being seen elsewhere. We urge for unimpeded access in all areas by independent assessors.

2. Humanitarian considerations must be paramount. Reports of undocumented victims fearful of expulsion indicate that many of these victims are unable to receive the help they need. We urge all actors to deal with their cases with the same humanitarian considerations as all victims, and for the relevant authorities to publicly issue assurances that they will be so treated.

3. The damage so far tallied points to another looming crisis already emerging of large numbers of displaced persons. Many of them will face immediate problems of unverifiable legal status, access to housing and essential services, separation from their families, and possibly vulnerability to trafficking. We strongly recommend that measures be taken as soon as possible to stabilize their status and access to services with full respect for their human rights, in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

4. Many of the victims of the tsunamis were already victims of conflict. The crisis should be responded to in a way that promotes dialogue for peace. Where not already done, parties to conflict should immediately agree on a cease-fire. Further, we strongly recommend that the transition from immediate life-saving measures to recovery and reconstruction should include the establishment of mechanisms for dialogue between civil society and government. By enabling the affected communities to have a voice already in the delivery of aid, the seeds for long-term dialogue and conflict resolution could be sown in the midst of this disaster.

5. The inescapable fact that many of the victims in the region were already among the most marginalized in their societies gives added urgency to reconstruction, for these persons have little or no assets of their own on which to rebuild their lives. Reconstruction must therefore focus on the promotion of sustainable livelihoods, in a way that respects the culture, traditions and dignity of the victims.

6. Rehabilitation efforts must avoid the re-victimization of the victims. By enabling an inequitable distribution of resources and monopolization of decision-making authority by persons or groups with vested interests, a lack of effective and transparent accountability and participation mechanisms would compound the problems faced by the most vulnerable victims. Already the shadow of a black market in foodstuffs and other aid items or extraction of bribes for access to them is appearing in some places. The converse is also true. Taking steps now to ensure accountability, transparency and accountability would ensure that resources are directed to where they are most needed, that they are used in ways that best benefit the victims, and protect them from abuse of power.



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