Indonesia: Lessons learned and good practices from the ILO Aceh programme Jan 2006 - Oct 2006

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
Originally published


1. Introduction

The tsunami of 26 December 2004 wreaked death and suffering across the Indian Ocean. It killed 186,983 people. More than two-thirds of them, 130,736, died in Indonesia. In Aceh province, only 150 kilometres from the epicenter of the earthquake that triggered the tsunami, the wave barreled over 800 kilometres of coastline. Nias Island, part of neighbouring North Sumatra province, was severely affected as well, and was jolted again by the earthquake of 28 March 2005 (One-year report of BRR and partners; Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Relief).

As relief operations began, the toll not just in lives but also in livelihoods became clear. The ILO estimated that unemployment in Aceh could jump from 6.8%, or 250,000 people, to some 30.0%, or 600,000 people (ILO Jakarta Special Edition, April 2005). Some 130,000 farmers, 300,000 fishermen, and 170,000 small business owners and employees were estimated to have lost their livelihoods. In Aceh and Nias, 141,000 houses and 2,240 schools were destroyed; 3,229 fishing boats were damaged or lost (Tsunami Special Envoy). Villages emerged from the wave reduced to their foundations. Bright green fields turned dun.

This damage made the relevance of employment to the recovery clear from the start. The ILO realized that tsunami response called for urgent action to help affected people find work and to help relief agencies find workers; to deliver skills training in areas in demand for the recovery; to improve the capacity of local organizations in employment-related matters; and, most generally, to promote equitable and sustainable socioeconomic development. This suggests the dual role that the ILO has played: helping individuals gain skills and employment and facilitating the broader relief efforts of various agencies.

In this work the ILO supported and received support from various institutions. These included its tripartite constituents - the government, workers' organizations, and employers' organizations - and other partners. These public and private institutions have varying levels of capacity and are in great need of assistance. While the tsunami's effects on individuals and their assets are well-known, its impact on these institutions, which are vital to long-term development in Aceh and Nias, is not. Their loss of human resources has significantly reduced their institutional capacity, already low prior to the tsunami, to carry out both normal and relief functions.

These shortcomings of capacity and knowledge created difficulties for international agencies seeking local implementing partners. For the ILO, low capacity among tripartite constituents to address overwhelming labour and employment challenges hit especially hard. The ILO generally engages with such institutions to build their capacity over time.

Since the tsunami, the ILO has indeed strived to improve the capacity of these organizations. But the need for jobs was urgent. The ILO sought immediate results. Therefore, in addition to collaboration with social partners as appropriate, it established other partnerships and implemented some projects directly.

Engagement with local institutions has been challenging but crucial to ensure impact after international relief is completed. Aceh has changed radically in recent years. The tsunami has come and gone and peace has taken hold. A province that previously had little contact with international development institutions is now open to external support. The tsunami and reconstruction effort have brought the world's attention and resources to Aceh. The ILO and other international development agencies have an unprecedented chance to help local tripartite constituents and other partners build a strong foundation for recovery and development.

Some 20 months after the tsunami, the recovery phase is ceding to reconstruction, a process expected to last officially until 2009. The ILO now maintains an integrated programme in Aceh and Nias with a variety of projects working together to boost employment and livelihoods. Many projects have ended, though others continue. The organization is seeking to consolidate its gains in building the capacity of local institutions to continue supporting decent work and livelihoods after its own programme concludes. Learning from the Aceh programme, it is also looking for techniques to help it respond quickly and effectively to future crises.

The time is right, therefore, to extract lessons learned from the ILO's Aceh Programme and propose good practices for future ILO crisis responses. This report aims to do so. It results from a desk review of documents produced by the Aceh programme; interviews with Aceh- and Jakarta-based staff; consultations with implementing partners, beneficiaries, and others involved in the projects in Aceh; and visits to project sites. The intended audience comprises officials of the ILO and other international organizations working in post-crisis situations, public and private donor agencies, Indonesian government institutions and non-governmental organizations, and all those interested in promoting employment and socio-economic development after crises. Through this publication, the ILO seeks to advance further discussion on employment in recovery and reconstruction work in post-crisis situations.

The report contains five parts. After this introduction, section two summarizes the ILO's Aceh programme, including its history and development, strategic framework, place in the UN context, structure, geographical scope, and funding. In section three, the report describes the projects executed under the ILO programme's six components, including the ILO approach and methodology behind them. Section four reviews the results and achievements of the ILO's work in text and numbers, including a general assessment of progress toward ILO goals and more specific outputs. Finally, section five illustrates lessons learned, both narrow and broad, from the ILO Aceh programme. It also proposes good practices for all agencies addressing employment concerns in future crisis situations.

This report is not an exhaustive description of all ILO activities in Aceh. Comprehensive reports are available covering individual components and the overall Aceh programme. This document, instead, aims to present lessons learned and good practices from the ILO's integrated programme in Aceh and Nias.