Private Authority and Disaster Relief
The Cases of Post-Tsunami Aceh and Nias
Author: Chhandasi Pandya
This article explores the rise of private authority in globalized disaster relief scenarios by looking at the case of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Aceh and its neighboring region, Nias, after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The author places the growing strength and presence of NGOs within the larger context of weak, cash-strapped local governments under decentralization schemes promoted by neoliberal economic policies and argues that under such conditions, private actors such as NGOs are gaining a legitimacy of authority once reserved exclusively for the state. In Aceh after the tsunami, five hundred NGOs began operating relief and recovery efforts on the island with little consultation with local Acehnese government agencies and community organizations. The article concludes by arguing that the example of Aceh, in which public and private parallel systems of relief and recovery have been operating raises long-term issues of accountability for all parties involved.