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Aceh: Impressive physical rebuilding since the tsunami

Update on Aceh in new report: Impressive physical rebuilding since the tsunami, but human development picture is mixed

Aceh, 22 December 2010 -- Since the tsunami six years ago and the Peace Accords that followed a year later, the people of Aceh, Indonesia have achieved remarkable progress in the physical rebuilding of their communities, yet similar advances in key human development indicators remain elusive. The first ever Provincial Human Development Report for Aceh 2010 offers insights into the major challenges facing one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia. The report was co-launched by the Province Secretary T. Setia Budi and UNDP Deputy Country Director Stephen Rodriques.

Improving security, expanding efforts to mitigate future natural disasters, reducing poverty, reversing the downward trend in women’s well-being, and redressing inequalities in less developed areas of the province top the list of major challenges in Aceh, according to the 2010 Aceh Human Development Report launched here today.

“The achievements in Aceh since the tsunami go beyond anything imaginable six years ago,” says Stephen Rodriques. “Challenges remain for the province, including the need to resuscitate the economy to generate productive jobs, improve the quality and efficiency of public services and bring those services to the poor and disadvantaged.”

The Report was commissioned by Government of Aceh in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and BPS. The data in the report reflect the human development situation as of 2008, which is the most recent statistics available for the province.

Aceh, along with the rest of the country, has shown impressive gains in participation in the political arena and in community development, according to the report. It argues that the main platform to progress in human development in Aceh is empowering people to make their own decisions concerning development priorities and the use of resources. Many good precedents already exist in the province, and there are many other opportunities to extend the concept of community empowerment to a wide range of other sectors and services. The report provides numerous examples on how this can be done.

Life expectancy in Aceh is 68.5 years, up from 67.7 years in 2002. The incidence of poverty has declined to 22 percent from a peak of 30 percent in 2002, but remains well above the 14 percent for Indonesia as a whole. Mean years of schooling in Aceh is 8.6 years compared with the national average of 7.6 years. The report suggests, however, that improvements are needed in the quality of the education, and that expanded vocational training would help to equip school leavers to find jobs.

The report also argues that while several indicators show steady advances in human development in Aceh, it is important to ensure that everyone benefits from the progress being achieved. Disparities among regions also prevails. Within the province, Kota Banda Aceh and Kota Sabang lead the chart both in HDI and Human Poverty Index (HPI). It is also noticeable that the relatively low level of human development value is those in the newly established districts.

“The government is fully committed to advance basic sectors such as education and health, and also push areas of development where Aceh is still lagging behind,” said Province Secretary T. Setia Bud during the launch. “Another issue to be addressed is to make sure development does not leave behind the poor, vulnerable and those living in remote areas where access is difficult.”

The position of women in Acehnese society has advanced in some respects but several indicators show a retreat in other areas. While women’s participation in the workforce is 35.7 percent, well below the 64.3 percent of males in the workforce. Women are largely under-represented at the community level.

Despite a boost from reconstruction programmes, the local economy remains weak. Productivity in the agricultural sector is showing encouraging progress, according to the report. The report recommends that improvements in the process of planning and budgeting are needed to ensure resources are effectively targeted toward development priorities.

Based on the analysis of available information, the report advocates six primary goals to further enhance human development in the province:

Empower people for development: This means not merely promoting participation in public hearings, but also transferring fiscal resources to recognized groups and delegating authority for their use.

Ensure benefits for everyone: All government programmes should pay special attention to addressing the needs of particular social groups that may have been overlooked.

Improve the quality of public services: This means strengthening social services particularly in health and education.

Enhance opportunities for productive employment: This means creating new livelihood opportunities, and making better use of investments in education and human resources.

Couple disaster mitigation with environmental programmes: Measures to mitigate natural disasters should be integrated into a range of government and donor programmes, including those in the forestry, agricultural and fisheries sectors.

Make better use of public resources: The increase in fiscal resources flowing into Aceh as a result of the Peace Accords and the Law on Governing Aceh underline the imperatives of minimizing misuse and ensuring resources are channeled towards services that are effective in advancing human development.

ENDS


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