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Aid Accountability and Participatory Approaches in Post-Disaster Housing Reconstruction 1

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Abstract In the last decade, housing has become one of the most prominent and best funded sectors in large-scale post-disaster reconstruction efforts. This has especially been the case in Asian developing countries where both official and private aid helped finance a significant amount of the housing reconstruction. Despite the emphasis upon community involvement, inclusive and participatory processes for housing reconstruction by international non-governmental organizations, recent experiences show that such ideas often do not readily translate in practice on the ground. This paper analyses the necessary conditions for successful involvement by local beneficiaries in rebuilding their homes following natural disasters. The analysis is situated within the context of community recovery, and the trade-off between centralized donor planning, and community driven initiatives, using primary and secondary data collected from post-tsunami Aceh, Indonesia. The paper also discusses how various stakeholders (including recipient government and donors) evaluate and make use of the practical capacities of affected persons and communities to be involved in planning, building and monitoring processes in the housing sector. Our research focused on the level and types of roles played by the aid beneficiaries in the housing reconstruction process in Aceh. In spite of considerable rhetoric about participation and inclusive reconstruction accompanying the post-tsunami reconstruction by various donors, a number of systemic barriers created considerable distance between beneficiaries and NGOs in Aceh in the housing sector. The drive for efficiency and need to produce tangible results quickly, mixed with the sheer number of stakeholders and resources involved, created a largely top-down environment in which decisions were centralized, and arbitrary standards imposed. This was exacerbated by an extensive chain of sub-contractors, a large supply of lower-cost imported labor, and highlighted the importance of local political affiliations, leading to weak accountability and reduced aid effectiveness.


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