Meeting with OCHA; Distribution and corruption
Category: Acheh Tsunami
Time: 23:41:09 -0500
eeting with OCHA
In summary, it seems that there is still conflict in Aceh and there will need to
be a focus on distribution as well as corruption in the longer-run.
Kevin Kennedy led the meeting and introduced OCHA's new senior liaison
Mark Walsh, to be based in DC as of tomorrow. Walsh will be the liaison with US
govt, NGOs, etc. He can be contacted at
Kennedy said the situation on the ground is changing faster than those outside
the region can keep track of, but it's moving in the right direction.
Coordinating the different govts affected by the disaster, the many donor govts,
the UN agencies, the national and international NGOs is not an easy task.
Transport of supplies and logistics are a major issue at the moment.
Margaret Wallstrom has been appointed as a Special Coordinator for the UN
system, based in Bangkok. Other key players include Bo Asplund, Resident
Coordinator for the UN in Jakarta and Joel Boutroue, coordinator for Sumatra.
Boutroue has experience in Goma and in Iraq. There will be offices in Medan,
Banda Aceh and somewhere on the west coast, yet to be determined.
In Sri Lanka, there will be offices in Colombo as well as two sites on the
coast. There will also be offices that UN Resident Coordinators will liaise
with in the Maldives and the Seychelles.
The US military has given authority to the US military posted in Asia to make
decisions on the ground without having to come back to Washington. The UN will
follow the same model as it is more efficient considering the time difference
and need for immediate action. The US is helping with fixed and rotary wing
aircraft as well as with air traffic control in Aceh.
India and Indonesia are the most problematic govts, for different reasons. In
Jakarta, Bo Asplund has reported that there has been a 'sea change' in the past
48 hours in terms of opening up access but Kennedy wasn't sure if this access
included NGOs. India is keeping itself apart from the other countries and is
keen to be seen as a donor, not just another recipient. However, there is a UN
office in Chennai. India still has not opened up access to international groups
to the Andaman and Nicobar islands but Mercy Corps (US NGO) says that one of
their Indian partner NGOs has been invited in to the Andamans to do an
assessment. UNICEF may be allowed in.
Security in Aceh is a problem. There have been incidents of people killed when
there was an attempted robbery of a food convoy. The Indonesian military took
action. There are also protection issues in Aceh and it has been difficult to
negotiate the longer-term presence. The priority for the next 72 hours is to
eliminate the backlog in Aceh.
IRC has been in Aceh working with IDPs. They are concerned about the Indonesian
Govt's registration process for INGOs and asked if OCHA is looking into how this
could be streamlined. Kennedy said he would ask Bo Asplund to raise this with
the Indonesian Govt. I asked about continued reports of conflict between TNI
and GAM, whether there was a continued state of emergency and whether TNI was
controlling distributionKennedy said he had not heard that and IRC and Mercy
Corps said they are distributing food and medicine without interference in Aceh.
However, Mercy Corps said they have gotten unconfirmed reports of skirmishes.
Mercy Corps asked Kennedy what OCHA is saying to the Indonesian Govt about the
underlying civil conflict. . I also asked about Acehnese refugees in Malaysia
but at the moment there was no information.
Kennedy said that there still seemed to be fighting in Aceh and ICG confirmed
that Sidney Jones has reported this as well. Kennedy was frank and said he
didn't know how OCHA could handle this. (This is clearly an area for UN
advocacy). The International Medical Corps (IMC) said their staff in Banda Aceh
have complained that there is congestion in the airport there as TNI is not
distributing commodities and is selling humanitarian supplies donated by the
Indonesian Govt. IMC is worried that their supplies won't be off loaded because
of this congestion. Kennedy said OCHA has a team at the airport now that
focuses on off loading of supplies.
Core Group- The core Group is the US, Japan, Australia and UK (after India
dropped out). The UN was later invited on. The Core Group will probably go out
of existence after the donor conference in Jakarta. The conference's main
purpose is to launch a Flash Appeal for assistance.
ICG reported Sidney Jones' main concerns:
1- continued conflict: this tragedy will be unlikely to change negotiations
between the TNI and GAM, increasing jockeying for position. (GAM has agreed to a
unilateral ceasefire but TNI has put conditions on it)
2- Quality of relief efforts will affect Acehnese views of central govt-
corruption is a key issue
3- Local govt in Aceh has fallen apart but there will be a need to think
creatively to reach out to those who are being ignored.
4- There will need to be military logistics coordination with TNI but it will be
critical to phase them out quickly.
5- Indonesian volunteers in Aceh are being stopped by the military because they
lacked KTPs (?) Student volunteers are going into Aceh to help without
sufficient supplies of their own.
6- There are reports that TNI is firing on GAM and on individuals coming down
from the hills.
Corruption in the longer-term
Several participants asked what OCHA would do to curb corruption in the
longer-term. Kennedy said in this first 30 day phase the main focus is food
distribution, medical attention and putting people ashore. The problems will
come down the line as money continues to flow in over the next few months for
reconstruction. Bo Asplund is "pretty blunt" and will not shy away from being
frank with the Indonesian Govt.