Real-Time Evaluation Indonesia: Earthquakes and Tsunami (Lombok, Sulawesi) 2018 - Final Report (23 January 2019)
Indonesia was struck by a series of disasters in the latter half of 2018, causing significant damage and loss of life: several strong earthquakes hit Lombok Island in July and August, and then in late September a major earthquake struck the island of Sulawesi triggering a tsunami and liquefaction. In total, more than 2,700 people were killed, 156,000 houses destroyed or damaged, and about 930,000 people affected in in Lombok and Sulawesi.
The Government of Indonesia’s (GoI) decision to declare both Lombok and Sulawesi ‘provincial disasters’ did not come as a surprise to those who had been following the trajectory the GoI had been on since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami to build a disaster management structure and capacity at national, provincial and district levels.
While international assistance was not requested, the GoI welcomed assistance to a limited extent through defined channels (focused on Sulawesi), preferencing Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) Member States in line with ASEAN disaster management commitments and efforts. This led to some confusion amongst international actors about how the GoI had classified the disaster, with some people incorrectly thinking the disasters had different classifications by virtue of the GoI’s less restrictive approach go Sulawesi. The GoI’s strong stance for a national-led response caught many in the international community (donors, humanitarian organisations, and media) off guard; learned behaviours of decades of humanitarian action - the muscle memory - kicking in with scant regard to the actual reality on the ground. Push back from donors, international humanitarian organisations and some Participating National Societies reflected the disconnect between commitments made at the global level and the operational reality on the ground.
Overall, the operation was a positive example of a national-led response, while acknowledging that (as with most responses worldwide) some aspects of it could have been improved:
• Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), the largest humanitarian organisation in Indonesia, responded at scale from the onset (pursuant to its auxiliary role), quickly mobilising capacity from its strong network. However, challenges persist to sustain the required volunteer resources for the current operations. PMI’s centralisation of decision-making at head quarter level also posed challenges; PMI is encouraged to increase its focus on decentralisation, developing leadership at provincial and local branch levels, and delegating responsibilities with necessary decision-making powers.
• PMI responded in coordination with Indonesia’s national disaster management authority (BNPB) and other stakeholders, including the Indonesian Armed Forces. Still, PMI faced challenges with internal and external coordination, including those from new roles (e.g. for logistics) attributed by the GoI in the course of the operation.
• PMI successfully worked with the GoI to launch an international appeal through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for Lombok (later-on widening the appeal to Sulawesi) asking for a total CHF 38.5 million (at the time of writing).
• PMI’s success with domestic fundraising (mainly corporate donors) was evident. With respect to international institutional donors, PMI did not receive direct funding (to the best of the RTE team’s knowledge) except from IFRC’s pooled Disaster relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Donors consulted in the RTE expressed their preference to contribute to the IFRC Emergency Appeal (EA) or through bilateral programming of well-known PNSs as ‘trusted partners’, ensuring accountability. Some donors mentioned that their current funding regulations do not allow direct funding to PMI.
• National / local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) provided assistance, many of them supported by their international partner organisations. By contrast, United Nations organisations and major international NGOs kept their limited in-country activities low-profile.
• International Red Cross Red Crescent capacities complemented NS capacities at different scale in Lombok and Sulawesi, reflecting that leveraging the ‘Red’ footprint requires case-by-case decisions. PMI interpreted the GoI’s national-led approach quite strictly for Lombok, keeping the numbers of international personnel low. For Sulawesi, an initial lack of clarity on the GoI’s disaster classification decision and, subsequently a less restrictive policy on the acceptance of international assistance, resulted in the deployment of significantly higher IFRC surge capacities. This was driven by PMI resources under pressure with its commitments for the Lombok response, the need for specific expertise (ERUs), and the necessity to ensure compliance with IFRC’s administrative and accountability processes with specialized surge personnel.
• National capacities for emergency needs assessments, information management, quality assurance, Community Engagement and Accountability, and Protection, Gender and Inclusion lacked operational integration. PMI finance and logistics capacities were not working effectively to meet operational needs. PMI, supported by Movement actors, is encouraged to develop these capacities further.
• The GoI’s commendable efforts in reshaping Indonesia’s disaster management framework now need to fully transform into operational procedures, the articulation of concrete roles and responsibilities, and the development of (national) humanitarian standards guiding operations. PMI and IFRC are well positioned to undertake humanitarian diplomacy with the GoI on this, given the important role they have already played in helping shape Indonesia’s disaster management architecture.
• The integration of bilateral and ICRC capacities into the response worked, despite Movement coordination mechanisms at a strategic level not being fully established in Indonesia.
• IFRC positively managed to focus on support roles and operational coordination with pragmatic solutions taken by staff on the ground and by senior management. Gains on ‘Surge Optimisation’ have not fully filtered through to PNS, with some pushing for more international personnel on the ground. In addition, existing international regulations and processes (finance, HR) are complex and not yet coherent with a localised response.