Natural Disasters & Peacemaking

"Turning Disasters into Peacemaking Opportunities"

In 2005, the Worldwatch Institute launched a project addressing the intersections between natural disasters, environmental degradation, conflict, and peacemaking. Researchers Michael Renner and Zoë Chafe co-authored a chapter on disasters in Worldwatch's State of the World 2006 report, Zoë contributed a chapter on urban disaster risk to State of the World 2007, and both researchers examined these connections in a range of additional articles, op-eds, publications, and online stories. In June 2007, they released a new Worldwatch Report, Beyond Disasters: Creating Opportunities for Peace, at events in New York and Washington, D.C.

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Michael Renner and Zoë Chafe of the Worldwatch Institute launch Beyond Disasters: Creating Opportunities for Peace at and event hosted by the World Bank Group on July 13, 2007.
Watch the video of this event.

Michael Renner and Zoë Chafe of the Worldwatch Institute discussed their new report Beyond Disasters: Creating Opportunities for Peace at a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars event on June 28, 2007.
Watch the video of this event.

[ Project Overview | Partner Network ]

Disasters & Peacemaking Links, Articles, and Resources:

Will Floods Add to Conflict in Balochistan?

Delayed or inadequate aid in the wake of a cyclone and major flooding in southern Pakistan may reinforce unresolved grievances against the central government.

The Casualties of Sri Lanka’s Intensifying War

Hopes that the tsunami might heal the country's divisions have given way to the grim reality of new killings and displacements from resurgent violence.

Post-Tsunami Housing Reconstruction Varies Widely across Sri Lanka

Renewed warfare in the northeast has caused rebuilding to fall far behind the pace set in the south.

Rising Aceh Tensions Reflect Ongoing Challenges

Aceh has experienced a remarkable transformation from war and tsunami-triggered devastation to peace. But a number of challenges remain.

Aceh Governor Imposes Logging Ban

NGOs demand comparable policies across Indonesia.

Will Floods Add to Conflict in Balochistan?

Delayed or inadequate aid in the wake of a cyclone and major flooding in southern Pakistan may reinforce unresolved grievances against the central government.

Desertification as a Source of Conflict in Darfur

A new UN report bolsters the argument that Darfur's conflict is partly rooted in environmental decline and competition for scarce land and water.

Disaster Responses May Lead to Peace, Say Researchers

The devastation and social disruption caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters may, paradoxically, provide opportunities for building peace, say experts with the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, D.C-based research organization.

Are Recent Flood Disasters the Result of Climate Change?

Bolivian President Evo Morales accuses industrial nations of causing devastating floods in his country because they appetite for growth unhinges the global climate.

ExxonMobil: Profit at the Planet's Expense

On February 2, 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Fourth Assessment Report, ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company, announced record profits, and Britain's Guardian newspaper revealed the company's latest efforts to discredit the IPCC's work.

Somalis Cope with Triple Disaster of Drought, Flooding, and Warfare

Somalia is confronting a series of disasters both natural and human-made.

Series of Typhoons Devastates the Philippines

Four typhoons between 25 September and 9 December wreaked havoc on the Philippines.

Disaster Apartheid

Despite the most generous amounts of humanitarian aid ever, many disaster victims get shortchanged.

2006 Expected to Be One of the Warmest Years on Record

Humanity confronts a continuous rise in global temperatures, a changing and less predictable climate, and potentially huge dislocations.

Disasters in Afghanistan, East Africa, and the Philippines Underscore Need for Adequate International Emergency Funds

With recent disasters in eastern Africa, Afghanistan, and the Philippines, and with UN agencies struggling to deliver adequate and timely relief supplies, the need for better international emergency preparedness is indisputable.. Donors need to abandon their stinginess in the face of repeated, severe disasters.

Residents of Rio's Favelas Face Diverse Risks

Rio de Janeiro, known to Brazilians as the “Marvelous City,” is home to over 10 million people, of which nearly a third live in shantytowns or ghettos known as favelas. Many favela residents were originally squatters and the vast majority lack legal title to their homes.

Africa: Climate Change Risk and Adaptation Potential

With the most recent climate change negotiations finished in Nairobi, much attention has been focused on how Africa will fair under future climate scenarios. Several reports detail how we need not wait to see the impacts of severe weather conditions on the continent, nor do we need to wait to start implementing simple technologies to cope with these impacts.

Disaster Diplomacy: Hope Despite Evidence?

In the aftermath of an immense 2003 earthquake disaster in the Iranian city of Bam, a headline in the Independent proclaimed, “Human tragedy forces US to rethink hard line.” Just over a year later, a headline in the Christian Science Monitor referring to the 2004 disaster in Sri Lanka inquired, “Peace dividend from tsunami?”. These news stories hint at growing interest in the concept of “disaster diplomacy.”

World Lags on Disaster Mitigation and Prevention

Though falling short of needs, the money allocated globally to humanitarian programs almost tripled between 1995 and 2005. It is far cheaper—and far preferable in human terms—to make a serious commitment to disaster prevention. As climate change-related disaster risk rises, prevention becomes even more important.

Australia Confronts Millennial Drought

The drought gripping Australia’s agricultural heartland has now lasted five years—longer than any previously recorded--and possibly the worst in 1,000 years.

United Nations Report Documents Climate Change Vulnerabilities in Africa

UN study indicates that Africa's vulnerability to climate change is greater than previously assumed.

Economic Costs and Disaster Risks of a Warming World Are Detailed in a British Government Report

Against the backdrop of rising carbon emissions and global temperatures, a new report to the British government—the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change—adds urgency to growing calls for action against climate change.

Worsening Drought Means Millions of Afghans Face Hunger

Some 2.5 million people across Afghanistan have lost their crops and are facing acute food shortages due to drought.

One Year Later, Disaster Survivors in Pakistan and Guatemala Struggle On

Early October marks two painful anniversaries of disaster in Guatemala and Pakistan.

Timeliness and Safety are at Issue as Java Rebuilds after the Massive May 2006 Earthquake

The approaching monsoon season is adding to the challenge of providing adequate shelter to the survivors of Java's May 2006 earthquake.

New Push for Disaster Risk Reduction in High-Risk Developing Countries

The Umited Nations and the World Bank have launched a joint initiative for disaster risk reduction and speedier disaster response.

Scientists Issue New Warnings of Climate Change’s Severe Impacts

Urging action by politivcal leaders, scientists issue new warnings about the dire consequences of unchecked global warming.

Flooding Displaces Tens of Thousands in Four West African Countries

Flooding caused by heavy seasonal rains has displaced almost 70,000 people in four West African countries.

Kenya: 3 Million Remain Dependent on Food Aid in Wake of Drought

Rainfall has eased Kenya's drought conditions, but some 3 million people remain dependent on food aid.

UNEP Honors Grassroots Action Against Desertification

The 2006 Sasakawa Prize was awarded to two grassroots initiatives that combat desertification and land degradation in Colombia and Mauritania.

UN Emergency Fund Gathers Momentum

A new UN Central Emergency Response Fund--set up in March 2006 to ensure the timely flow of emergency funds for humanitarian purposes--is gathering momentum.

Scientists Endorse Mississippi Diversion Project to Restore Louisiana Wetlands

Many scientists are recommending a new river diversion in the hope of restoring Louisiana’s wetlands.

More than One Million Homeless in Orissa State in Eastern India

Monsoon-related flooding made more than 1 million Indians homeless.

Storm Death Toll in China May Be Considerably Higher Than Official Reports Suggest

Official reports of a small death toll after Typhon Saomai are subsequently contradicted by media reports.

A Fatal Combination of Weather, Debt, and Unequal Globalization

In India, for deeply-indebted farmers the vagaries of weather can be economic life-and-death issues.

Indian Kashmir Hit by Worst Floods in Two Decades

Indian-administered Kashmir is facing its worst floods in two decades, affecting some 200,000 people.

Portable Satellite Phones to Assist in Disaster Mitigation and Relief

The UN International Telecommunication Union and United Arab Emirates-based satellite company Thuraya announced an agreement under which the company will provide portable satellite terminals and solar chargers for rescue operations.

Conference in Finland Addresses Climate Risks

Recent extreme weather events, including heat waves, drought, and severe monsoon rains, highlight the growing need to address the risks of climate variability, according to an expert conference held in Helsinki.

Kashmiri Farmers Lost Crops, Irrigated Land, and Livestock after 2005 Tremor

In Pakistani-administered Kashmir, 80 percent of crops and 50 percent of arable land were lost or destroyed by the October 2005 earthquake.

World Food Program Aiding North Koreans Hit by Floods and Landslides

Torrential rain in mid-July led to devastating floods and landslides in the central and southern regions of North Korea.

Pakistani Earthquake Survivors Face New Challenges in Monsoon Season

Ten months after the massive earthquake of 8 October 2005 in northern Pakistan, survivors confront monsoon floods and the specter of water-borne diseases.

Ethiopia Confronts One of the Most Intense Floods on Record

During August, almost 120,000 people in the north, east, and southwest of Ethiopia have been affected by floods, with hundreds killed.

Thousands of Afghans Uprooted by Drought and Resurgent Violence

Nearly 4,000 families have been displaced by fierce fighting between government forces and the Taliban militia and by harsh drought in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.

2005 Saw by Far the Highest Number of Atlantic Storms since 1990

The year 2005 saw the highest number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean—27 storms in total and including the infamous Hurricane Katrina.

Horn of Africa Continues to Suffer from Drought Despite Rainfall

Rainfall during 2006 in the Horn of Africa left some areas still short of what is needed to restore food security, while other areas suffered from too much rain—and serious flooding.

Torrential Rains Displace Thousands in Niger

Torrential rains have left at least 17,000 people homeless in the north and south of Niger.

Three Gorges Dam Causing Drought in Southwest China?

Chinese leaders say it is climate change, not to the Three Gorges Dam and other vast hydro-engineering works that causes China's worst drought in fifty years.

Large Dams Worsening Floods in India?

Environmentalists say heavy flooding on the Indian sub-continent in 2006 may at least partly be the consequence of dams building.

Worst Flooding in a Decade Hits Western Nepal

The worst flooding to hit Nepal’s western region in a decade affected as many as 60,000 villagers in 13 districts.

Mangroves Threatened by Rising Sea Levels

Urgent action is required to conserve mangroves in the Pacific, against the backdrop of climate change and rising sea levels, according to a new study.

Mangroves Crucial for Sustaining Livelihoods and Reducing Disaster Vulnerability

Mangroves for the Future was launched in September 2005 for the long-term conservation and sustainable management of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, coral reefs, wetlands, forests, lagoons, estuaries, beaches and sandy shores.

Most Powerful Storm in Half Century Strikes Southeast China

The most powerful storm to hit China in 50 years Typhoon Saomai (“Morning Star” in Vietnamese) made landfall on August 10. It has killed at least 255 people in the southeastern provinces of Fujian, Zhejiang, and Jiangxi.

Worldwatch Presentation at US Institute of Peace

Each summer, the US Institute of Peace—a congressionally-funded institute—hosts a series of seminars for peace and security educators at all levels. This July, eighteen community college faculty members and administrators gathered in Washington, DC for a session on “Global Peace and Security in Community Colleges and the Communities They Serve.”

China Confronted by Unusually Active Typhoon Season, with Global Warming Threatening More of the Same

Global warming is contributing to an unusually harsh typhoon season in China. Instead of late July, this year the first typhoon hit Guangdong province in mid-May—the earliest recorded typhoon in that region since 1949.

Ethiopia Hit by Flooding in North, South and East

At least 800 people are feared dead because of flooded rivers in several parts of the country. In the far north, thousands of people are battling floods along the Tegere River in Tigray province.

British Scientists Warn that Rising Temperatures Will Bring Greater Disasters

Climate scientists at Bristol University in Britain warn that rising global temperatures will increase the risk of forest fires, droughts, and flooding over the next two centuries. Even if the carbon emissions that drive global warming were cut now, many parts of the world would still face a greater risk of natural disasters.

Dual Disaster Puts Millions of Afghans at Risk

Afghanistan is suffering on two fronts—drought is devastating large swathes of the country and recent floods have caused damage in two provinces.

2005 Pakistani Earthquake Victims Displaced Again, This Time by Flooding

Hundreds of Pakistani families who had returned to their homes following last year’s massive earthquake have been forced to relocate again by flooding. The monsoon season has brought severe flooding to quake-affected northern Pakistan, killing at least 200 people since the rains started in mid-July.

Southwestern China Suffering from Worst Drought in 50 Years

China’s state meteorological bureau has reported the most severe drought conditions in over 50 years in the southwestern region of Chongqing, and neighboring Sichuan province. Sustained high temperatures and low summer rainfall have also brought drought to parts of southwestern Guizhou province, the central province of Hubei, northwest Ningxia region and Gansu province.

Tropical Storm Bilis Causes Massive Damage in China, Brings Charges of Local Government Cover-Up

Tropical storm Bilis killed more than 500 people in southern China, mostly in Hunan province, and caused heavy damage in five other provinces. An estimated 212,000 houses were destroyed and another 287,000 damaged. Almost 3 million people were evacuated, and economic losses in Guangdong province alone have been estimated at $1 billion.

Millions of People in South Asia Forced Out of Their Homes by Heavy Monsoon Rains

Swollen rivers forced 4.5 million people from their homes across India's south and west in early August and affected a total of more than 6 million. Though vitally important for the country's agriculture, monsoon rains have triggered floods across at least five states, killing at least 311 people and causing widespread damage to crops.

Medical Supplies Donated to Disaster Areas Often Unsuitable

Many tons of drugs and medical equipment pouring into Indonesia in the wake of recent major disasters turned out to be damaged, out of date, or otherwise unusable, according to the aid agency Pharmaciens Sans Frontières (Pharmacists Without Borders). Donated medicines have created more headaches than benefits for the victims.

Climate Change Imperils Pacific Ocean Mangroves

Urgent action is required to safe Pacific Ocean mangroves from the impacts of rising sea levels, linked with climate change. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that 16 Pacific Island countries and territories could see over half their mangroves lost by the end of the century.

Global Warming Causing More Destructive Wildfires

Global warming may be largely to blame for the increasingly destructive wildfires in the Western United States. Scientists find that longer and fiercer wildfire seasons since 1986 are closely associated with warmer summer temperatures, the earlier arrival of spring, and earlier snowmelts in the West.

Underdevelopment and Poverty in Africa Need to be Countered to Reduce Disaster Vulnerability

The UN special humanitarian envoy for the Horn of Africa, Kjell Magne Bondevik, has urged governments and aid agencies to address the issues of underdevelopment and poverty, which exacerbate people’s vulnerability during natural disasters, such as the prolonged drought that has destroyed the livelihoods of millions of people in eastern Africa.

United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund Disburses $32 Million for the World's Most Under-funded Emergencies

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said the beneficiaries of the CERF funds would be Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the African states of Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, the Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Global Warming May Trigger Greater Seismic Activity

The melting of glaciers driven by global warming portends a seismically turbulent future. When glaciers melt, the massive weight on the Earth's crust is reduced, and the crust “bounces” back in what scientists call an "isostatic rebound.” This process can reactivate faults, increase seismic activity, and lift pressure on magma chambers that feed volcanoes.

Three Meetings in June 2006 Underscore UN Efforts to Improve Early Warning and Mitigation of Natural Disasters

The UN brought together 130 international experts from 20 countries in a Bangkok, Thailand, workshop to help set up a tsunami early warning system for the Indian Ocean, in a bid to avoid a reply of the December 2004 tsunami. Presumably, many of the more than 200,000 people who perished could have been saved had they received advance warning of the incoming waves.

New Worldwatch Article on Peacemaking after Disasters

When disaster strikes a country already reeling from conflict, international aid and development agencies must be mindful of those who will profit from continuing conflict, write Worldwatch researchers Michael Renner and Zoë Chafe in a new article published in the Natural Hazards Observer journal.

The Relentless 3-year Drought in Parts of East Africa Has Turned Water into a Highly-Contested Resource

Villagers in Somalia now routinely speak of events like the “war of the well” and refer to the “warlords of water”—those who control access to scarce water as a result of their violent and unscrupulous tactics.

An Advisory Board Has Been Named to the UN's New Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)

Tapping emergency relief experts from governments and NGOs, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the appointment of twelve members to an Advisory Group for the Central Emergency Response Fund.  CERF is designed to bring faster relief to disaster victims.

UN Advisor Recommends Disaster-Prone Countries Turn to Insurance Policies, Not Rely on International Aid

UN Adviser Jeffrey Sachs has recommended that countries at risk for frequent hurricanes consider purchasing national insurance policies to prepare in advance for disaster relief needs, rather than rely on international aid appeals to help residents after a disaster strikes.

The United Nations Announces the Creation of a Central Emergency Response Fund to Permit Faster Relief Action After Disasters

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is designed to allow faster responses to disasters. UN agencies and their implementing partners will be able to access the Fund within 72 hours of an emergency being declared, enabling more lives to be saved in the earliest moments of a disaster when people are at most risk.

Over 15 Million people Are at Risk of Losing their Livelihoods Due to the Severe Drought in the Horn of Africa

Of the 15 million people at risk, 8 million are in need of emergency food aid and supplies, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Natural Disasters: Data and Analysis

Natural Disasters: News From the Field

Disasters Put Developmental Achievements at Risk, But Development Choices Themselves Can Generate Disaster Risks

UNDP points out that three quarters of all human beings live in areas that have at least once been affected by earthquakes, tropical cyclones, catastrophic floods, or droughts between 1980 and 2000. On average, about 220 million people worldwide are exposed to drought every year; 196 million to catastrophic flooding; 130 million to earthquake risk; and 119 million to tropical cyclone hazard.

Human Behavior and Environmental Degradation Are Behind Growing Disasters

A UN envoy for tsunami recovery says human behavior and environmental changes are primarily responsible for growing impact of natural disasters, and argues that substantial resources and new policies are needed for effective disaster prevention.

A New Study Confirms that Warming Oceans Create More Intense Hurricanes.

A new article published in Science magazine confirms that warming oceans are creating more intense hurricanes. Since 1970, there has been an increase in the strongest types of hurricanes—those that measure 4 or 5 on the commonly-used Saffir-Simpson scale—and researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology set out to discover why.

Innovative Communications Can Prevent Disaster Devastation and Speed Relief Efforts.

When disaster strikes, informal networks can succeed where official warnings fail, says the World Disaster Report 2005, an annual publication from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The report details case studies from around the world.

UNESCO Releases the Second UN World Water Development Report

This edition of a triennial report was released 9 March 2006, on the eve of the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City. Titled Water: A Shared Responsibility, it is a comprehensive assessment of freshwater resources.

Two Years After the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Recovery Effort Has a Mixed Record

The second anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami attracted relatively little attention in a world that has moved on to other preoccupations. But the affected countries and communities continue to struggle, and recovery will still take many years.

Disaster Survivors in Indonesia and Pakistan Protest Corruption and Slow Reconstruction Progress

In Pakistan and Indonesia, survivors of deadly tsunamis and earthquakes are growing impatient with the slow and inadequate reconstruction efforts.

Resumption of Warfare Imperils Tsunami Recovery Efforts

In parts of the north and east of Sri Lanka, tsunami recovery has ground to a halt because of renewed warfare, and international reconstruction investments are imperiled.

Destructive Fishing Practices Cause More Damage to Coral Reefs Than the December 2004 Tsunami Did

The December 2004 tsunami's impact on Indonesian coral reefs was slight compared to the devastation previously caused by dynamite and cyanide fishing practices.

Portable Satellite Phones to Assist in Disaster Mitigation and Relief

The UN International Telecommunication Union and United Arab Emirates-based satellite company Thuraya announced an agreement under which the company will provide portable satellite terminals and solar chargers for rescue operations.

Evaluation of Post-Tsunami Efforts Reveals Many Shortcomings

The December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami triggered the most generous-ever global aid response to a disaster, producing an estimated $13.5bn in aid delivered or pledged. The ample funding allowed rapid initial recovery activities. Schools and health services in all affected countries were quickly restored, for example. Some 400 new schools were under construction.

Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System Operational

UNESCO announced that an initial tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean is now operational. The system will be capable of improved and faster detection of strong, tsunamogenic earthquakes; increased precision in the location of the epi- and hypocentres of earthquakes; confirmation of the presence of a tsunami wave after a strong earthquake; and issuing a range of advisories and warnings.

Indonesian Tsunami Kills Hundreds as No Warnings Given

A tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Java off the Pangandaran beach resort, following a 7.7 magnitude undersea earthquake on 17 July. As of 19 July, 520 people were confirmed dead and 275 missing. More than 50,000 people have been displaced.

MAP Indonesia Helps With Earthquake Relief Via Bamboo Construction

For reconstruction, turn to bamboo to save tropical forests, writes the Mangrove Action Project’s Indonesia team. By using bamboo to construct buildings and furniture, the demand for sensitive hardwoods decreases. Though it is considered an invasive species in many environments, bamboo is a renewable resource that grows rapidly and can be reharvested in quick succession.

Rising Costs and Scarcity of Materials and Labor Will Lead to Delays in Completing USAID Tsunami Reconstruction Projects

In May 2005, the U.S. Congress appropriated $908 million for tsunami relief, reconstruction, and related programs. Some $327 million was budgeted for immediate needs after the disaster struck, and $496 million for longer-term reconstruction ($349 million in Indonesia and $85 million in Sri Lanka), administered by USAID.

Clinton: Formidable Challenges Remain in Post-Tsunami Reconstruction

Speaking at the 4th meeting of the Global Consortium on Tsunami Recovery in New York, UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery Bill Clinton noted that some 100,000 new homes have been built or are under construction across the tsunami-hit region.

Tsunami: Data and Analysis

  • U.S. Government Accountability Office, USAID Has Begun Tsunami Reconstruction in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, But Key Projects May Exceed Initial Cost and Schedule Estimates, GAO-06-488, Washington, DC, April 2006,

Tsunami: News From the Field

Fishing Vessels Meant to Replace Boats Destroyed by the Tsunami Are Not Seaworthy

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization warns that many replacement fishing vessels that have been constructed since the disaster are seriously sub-standard in quality or may soon have to be replaced again.

Human Rights Principles Have Been Ignored in the Response to the December 2004 Tsunami

Based on extensive field research undertaken in November 2005, Actionaid International, an NGO headquartered in South Africa, presents the following key findings:

Rising Aceh Tensions Reflect Ongoing Challenges

Aceh has experienced a remarkable transformation from war and tsunami-triggered devastation to peace. But a number of challenges remain.

Aceh Governor Imposes Logging Ban

NGOs demand comparable policies across Indonesia.

After Tsunami Reconstruction: A Grassroots Economy for Aceh?

International aid is helping tsunami-devastated Aceh to rebuild, but it has neither alleviated pervasive poverty stemming from the long conflict nor put in place the foundations of a sustainable economy. Aceh's first democratically elected governor Irwansi Yusuf is aware of the province's rich endowment of resources, but he knows he can't meet popular expectations without pursuing land reform, education, and a labor-intensive economy.

Illegal Logging, Tsunami Reconstruction, Biofuels, and Climate Change: Indonesian Governors Take Action

In late April, the governors of three Indonesian states--Aceh, Papua, and West Papua--pledged to crack down on illegal deforestation and thus help reduce their country's greenhouse gases. But their announcement was also driven by concern over poverty and unemployment, the impact of post-tsunami reconstruction, and the rampant growth of palm oil plantations--the latter driven by the biofuels boom economy.

Crisis Group Says Aceh Progress Is Remarkable

But the ICG notes continued challenges and assesses splits within the former rebel group, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), in the context of the recent December elections.

Aceh Elections Help Consolidate Peace

Aceh staged landmark elections on December 11, 2006—barely two years after the 2004 tsunami devastated the province at the northern tip of Sumatra, and 16 months after a peace agreement with the central government in Jakarta that ended a three-decade armed conflict.

Disaster Survivors in Indonesia and Pakistan Protest Corruption and Slow Reconstruction Progress

In Pakistan and Indonesia, survivors of deadly tsunamis and earthquakes are growing impatient with the slow and inadequate reconstruction efforts.

Destructive Fishing Practices Cause More Damage to Coral Reefs Than the December 2004 Tsunami Did

The December 2004 tsunami's impact on Indonesian coral reefs was slight compared to the devastation previously caused by dynamite and cyanide fishing practices.

Poverty, Corruption, and Limited Management Capacity Are Big Challenges in Post-Tsunami Aceh

Increased revenues and budgets have yet to translate into concrete socio-economic improvements in Aceh.

European Union to Send Election Observers to Aceh

The European Union has agreed to send observers to monitor the December 11, 2006 elections in Aceh.

How Indonesia’s Top Leadership Neutralized Opponents of Peace

To make a peace agreement with the GAM rebel organization possible, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla needed to confront and manage powerful constituencies in Jakarta that were not necessarily in favor of a peace deal.

Date for Aceh Elections Confirmed

After repeated delays, crucial elections are to be held in Aceh province on December 11, 2006.

Aceh Government Declares Environmental and Other Activists Groups Illegal

On June 21, Aceh’s acting governor issued a decree declaring 16 Acehnese groups illegal. Most of them are militia groups that were set up by the military prior to the August 2005 peace agreement.

Shoddy Construction and Unfulfilled Promises Prompt Growing Disillusionment in Aceh

Communities in Aceh complain that extravagant promises made by international aid groups are largely at odds with actual reconstruction performance. Only $1.5 billion of $8.5 billion in post-tsunami pledges has so far been disbursed.

Two Aceh Community Radio Stations Closed Down

In mid-July, the Association of the Indonesian Frequency Monitoring Board (BALMON), an agency of the Communication and Information Ministry, forcibly closed down two community radios in Aceh and may close down more, arguing that the stations did not have a proper license.

Introduced as a Panacea to Combat Insurgency and Social Ills, Islamic Law in Aceh is Causing New Conflicts

After the fall of the Soeharto dictatorship in 1998, the Indonesian government began to assume that granting Shari’a (Islmaic law) to Aceh would mollify its population—alienated from Jakarta by years of conflict, massive human rights violations, and economic exploitation—and thus woo it away from the separatist movement.

Islamic Law Increasingly, But Unevenly, Enforced

Increasingly, Shariah (Islamic law) is being enforced in Aceh, upsetting the ideal of post-conflict Aceh as an open society. Religious police in brown uniforms—typically men in their 20s and 30s—arrest unmarried couples seen together in public and others for drinking or gambling. And public canings, held at mosques, are becoming increasingly common.

European Union Requested to Extend Aceh Monitoring Presence

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has asked that a European Union-led monitoring mission remain in Aceh through local elections that are now tentatively scheduled for 10 December 2006.

Continuing Controversy over Aceh Governing Law

Aceh’s peace process could be in jeopardy because the legislation passed by the Indonesian parliament to deliver greater autonomy to Aceh appears not to honor some key clauses of the 2005 peace agreement.

Peace in Aceh Has Opened Previous 'No-Go' Areas to Logging

Aceh’s Leuser ecosystem suffered considerable damage from logging during the 1980s. Intensified conflict after the late 1980d made it largely impossible for logging concessionaires to keep operating. But with peace restored, previously inaccessible areas of forest have opened up once more.

Peace in Aceh Depends on Successful Reintegration of Fighters and Economic Development

As Aceh celebrates the 1-year anniversary of its 15 August 2005 peace agreement, many observers believe that it is the re-integration of former fighters, along with economic development of the villages to which they return home, that will ultimately determine whether peace is going to hold.

Complaints Over Tsunami Rebuilding Money Funding Security Operations

The Aceh Working Group, an NGO, has criticized the government’s tsunami reconstruction body, known as the Aceh-Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR), for allocating funds to security and intelligence operations by the Indonesian military.

One-Year Anniversary of Aceh Peace Deal Draws Commemorations and Protests

More than 10,000 protesters gathered in front of Banda Aceh’s Baitur Rahman Mosque to accuse the Indonesian government of failing to deliver on promises made when it signed a peace agreement last year in Helsinki, Finland, with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Aceh's Experience Offers Broader Lessons for Making Peace

Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono reflects on the first year of peace in Aceh and offers a number of insights that appear to be applicable to conflicts around the world.

United Nations Will Assist Aceh in Preparing for Elections

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will assist with elections in Aceh that are expected to be held in November 2006. UNDP and Aceh’s Independent Elections Commission (KIP) signed an agreement to that effect.

Restoration of Aceh Fisheries Makes Slow Progress

The 2004 tsunami affected 54,516 fishermen, or more than 70 percent of the people involved in the industry.

Indonesian Military Business Interests Impede Human Rights Accountability

Some commanders and units of the Indonesian military have long benefited from the Aceh conflict because it provided them with an opportunity and a cover to proceed with lucrative, if often illicit, economic activities.

Norway to Provide Human Rights Training for Aceh Police

The Norwegian government and the Indonesian Ministry of Justice and Human Rights have agreed to cooperate in providing human rights instructions for police officers in Aceh.

Conservatives Pushing Religious Law in Aceh

The struggle between those wanting to hold firm to Indonesia’s secular Constitution and those who favor the introduction of Sharia (Islamic law) is becoming more intense. Nearly 30 local governments, including Aceh, have introduced Sharia laws or Sharia-inspired legislation.

A Pledge to Crack Down on Illegal Logging in Aceh

Speaking in Banda Aceh, Indonesia’s police chief Gen. Sutanto pledged to arrest illegal timber bosses in a bid to stop illicit logging.

A Campaign to Disrupt Peace in Aceh?

The Jakarta-based Aceh Working Group, a human rights organization, warns of a campaign to disrupt peace in Aceh.

New Aceh Governing Law Falls Short on Autonomy Promises, Triggers Protests

Four months later than stipulated by the peace agreement ending hostilities in Aceh, the Indonesian Parliament passed a governing law for Aceh on July 11, 2006. The law is intended to give the province greater autonomy, reflect the terms of the August 2005 peace accord, and pave the way to provincial elections later this year.

People Displaced by Conflict Remain Largely Invisible Next to Tsunami Survivors

An estimated 120,000 Acehnese were forced from their homes by counter-insurgency operations prior to the tsunami and the subsequent peace agreement. Compared with those displaced by the tsunami, they have remained largely invisible, and their right to return remains unfulfilled in many cases.

Why Aceh Peace Efforts Have Been Successful

The head of the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), Pieter Feith, summarizes why AMM has been successful and distills key lessons learned:

International Aid NGO Concludes Aceh Fraud Investigation

Oxfam International’s investigation into procurement fraud at its Aceh office revealed discrepancies of more than $20,000 between amounts paid to suppliers for goods and the quantity of goods received.

Tens of Thousands of Acehnese Tsunami and War Orphans Abandoned

About 40,000 children who became orphans due to either the tsunami or the armed conflict have been abandoned, forcing many of them to become beggars and vagrants.

Aceh Elections Likely to be Held in August 2006

The Indonesian government is confident that gubernatorial elections for Aceh can be held in August, and it has begun registering the estimated 2.6 million eligible voters among Aceh’s population of about 4 million.

Human Rights a Critical Aspect of Cementing Peace in Aceh

The question whether a Human Rights Court for Aceh should have the power to judge abuses committed before the 2005 peace agreement was signed remains controversial, but is a critical element of cementing the 2005 peace agreement.

Friction Over Resources Rises in Aceh

Provincial management of natural resources and lack of transparency in assistance to conflict victims are causing disputes between Acehnese and central government leaders.

Aceh Reconstruction Remains Painfully Slow

The speaker of the Indonesian parliament, Agung Laksono, expressed dismay at the slow pace of post-tsunami reconstruction in Aceh. As of April 2006, only 19,483 housing units had been completed in Aceh, while 21,997 were under construction.

Acehnese NGOs Demand that Peace Deal Be Fully Implemented

The Acehnese Network for Democracy, a coalition of 30 NGOs, says it is very concerned that Indonesian legislators may dilute some of the powers that were granted to Aceh under the August 2005 peace deal.

International Peace Monitors Extend Stay in Aceh

In mid-May, the European Union and the Indonesian government agreed to extend the mandate of the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) until mid-September. While this is welcome news, the extension is too short.

Extortion Has Substantial Impact on Post-Tsunami Reconstruction in Aceh

Bribes, extortion, and other illegal payments that truck drivers pay on the road connecting Banda Aceh and the capital of neighboring North Sumatra province, Medan, constitute a major cost to doing business in Aceh and have a substantial impact on tsunami reconstruction.

Environmental Groups Criticize the Indonesian Government’s Decision to Issue New Timber Concessions in Aceh

The government has granted new concessions to five timber companies, in addition to 13 companies that already held concessions. Aceh has remaining forest areas of 3.3 million hectares, including 638,000 hectares designated as production forests.

Indonesian Government Confident that Aceh Gubernatorial Elections Will Be Held in August 2006

The peace agreement between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) stipulated that a new Aceh governing law be passed by March and elections be held in April. Although the slow pace of parliamentary deliberations has meant that both deadlines have been missed, the peace process remains on track.

Aceh Peace Process May Help Settle Papua Conflict

Damien Kingsbury, a former advisor to the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), writes that the outcome of the Aceh peace process has important implications for reaching a satisfactory settlement in Papua, where calls for independence from Indonesia may trigger a violent backlash from the Indonesian military and nationalist legislators in Jakarta who are determined not to allow Papua to secede.

Acehnese Villagers Oppose Oxfam Presence

Frustrated with the mismatch between rebuilding promises and actual performance of international aid groups, villagers in Pasi, Aceh, told Oxfam they no longer want the agency to operate there.

Aceh Anti-Corruption Movement Calculates that 30 to 40 Percent of Aid Funds Have Been Tainted

Funds have been frozen and projects are on hold while audits are being undertaken. To date, only 10.4 percent of the funds allocated by the government have actually been spent.

Residents of Aceh Jaya Regency Urge Government to Suspend Three Recently-Issued Forest Concession Permits

The permits are intended to accommodate the demand for wood in Aceh’s post-tsunami reconstruction effort. But residents complain that they were not consulted and that they will have to bear the brunt of adverse consequences, such as increased flooding dangers.

Indonesia's Supreme Audit Agency Finds Massive Irregularities in the Use of Post-Tsunami Emergency Funds

A total of 5,8 trillion Rupiahs ($650 million) were collected from domestic and international donors. The value of aid was deflated in translating foreign currencies into Indonesian Rupiahs.

The Bidding Process for Reconstruction Projects in Aceh is to be Accelerated

The Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for Aceh and Nias (BRR) plans to accelerate the bidding process for housing, schools, and education projects worth about Rp 7 trillion ($777 million) during the second quarter of 2006.

Delays in Passing a New Governing Bill for Aceh Are Unexpected Boon for the Free Aceh Movement (GAM)

The delays mean that elections will have to take place later than planned. Therefore, GAM has more time to build popularity for its candidates.

Aceh: News and Analysis

  • Reintegration / Natural Resources:  Tony Hotland and Nani Afrida, “Let Us Manage Aceh’s Natural Resources, Say Local Leaders,” The Jakarta Post, 15 June 2006,
  • Reconstruction:  M. Taufiqurrahman, “House Dismayed by Slow Aceh Reconstruction,” The Jakarta Post, 14 June 2006,

Aceh: Worldwatch Analysis

Aceh: Peacemaking after the Tsunami

The December 2004 tsunami that devastated Aceh kick-started negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted for almost 30 years and led to widespread violence and displacement.

Conflict and Peacemaking in Aceh: A Chronology

Conflict and Peacemaking in Aceh: A Chronology

Aceh's Peace Agreement Leads to a Sharp Reduction of Violence

Incidents between the Indonesian government and GAM have been near zero since the beginning of the year (see figure below), but local-level conflicts have risen steeply since the peace agreement was signed in August 2005 (with between 50 and 80 cases per month).

Most Houses Built for Tsunami Survivors in Aceh Are of Sub-Standard Quality

The Indonesian government’s Bureau of Reconstruction and Rehabilitation found that about 10,000 of the newly-built houses were of poor quality. Many have no running water, sewerage or wastewater outlets.

Aceh's Peace Process Remains on Track, But Distrust Between the Indonesian Military and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) Remain

Following the successful, demilitarization, phase of the peace agreement in Aceh, the next steps, focused on political change and human rights issues, are far more challenging. Several challenges are surfacing, according to the International Crisis Group.

Despite a Smooth Implementation of the August 2005 Peace Agreement, People in Aceh Remain Afraid of Soldiers and Police

A poll of more than 1,000 Acehnese by the Indonesian Survey Institute found that half the people in Aceh still fear that security forces may arrest them unjustly.

World Bank Assesses Reintegration Needs in Aceh

In order to facilitate the reintegration of Free Aceh Movement (GAM) members into Aceh’s civil society and economy, the World Bank conducted a qualitative and quantitative assessment from October 2005 to March 2006. The report relies on surveys of released political prisoners and GAM members, as well as fieldwork in ten districts.

Delays, Shortages of Construction Materials, and Corruption Mar the Post-Tsunami Reconstruction Effort in Aceh

These difficulties are leading to growing tensions between the government’s Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) and international aid groups.

ExxonMobil can be sued under U.S. law by Acehnese villagers

Villagers contend that the oil company has been complicit in human rights violations committed by Indonesian soldiers guarding the company’s operations in Aceh province.

Local Communities Are Not Consulted in Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Programs in Post-Tsunami Aceh

A report by two watchdog groups—Eye on Aceh and Aid Watch—focuses primarily on projects funded by five major donors: the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank, the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development (AIPRD), the European Commission (EC), and the Multi Donor Trust Fund for Aceh and North Sumatra (MDTF).

The Casualties of Sri Lanka’s Intensifying War

Hopes that the tsunami might heal the country's divisions have given way to the grim reality of new killings and displacements from resurgent violence.

Post-Tsunami Housing Reconstruction Varies Widely across Sri Lanka

Renewed warfare in the northeast has caused rebuilding to fall far behind the pace set in the south.

Escalating Conflict Results in More Killings, Displacements, Abductions

Sri Lanka’s conflict continues to escalate, but typically receives precious little coverage in the Western media.

Sri Lanka Donors Wary of Increasing Conflict

Last week, international donors convened in the tsunami-hit city of Galle for the Sri Lanka Development Forum 2007, which focused on future development assistance for the country, once again wracked by violence between the government and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). The US Ambassador made clear that military might would not solve the violence.

Report from Colombo: Warfare Makes for Mixed Progress on Tsunami Rebuilding

Reports suggest that up to 80-90 percent of the reconstruction needs in Sri Lanka’s south have been completed. In the north and the east, however, it’s a different story. Already less developed than the south, and now increasingly under duress from the resumption of warfare between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels, rebuilding is lagging far behind.

Report from Colombo: Small Success Stories in the Face of Ongoing Tsunami Reconstruction Challenges

The districts of Galle and Matara—Sri Lanka’s southernmost area—was hit hard by the December 2004 tsunami.  Two years after the disaster, there is still plenty of evidence of the ferocity with which the waves lashed the coast here.

Treading Water, or Moving Forward? Humanitarian versus Development Aid

If there is one thing that everyone seems to agree on, here in Colombo, it is that the conflict between Sri Lanka’s government and the rebel Tamil Tigers (LTTE) is getting markedly worse—and civilians are caught in the middle.

Report from Colombo: NGOs Confront Rising Difficulties as Conflict Escalates

As Sri Lanka’s conflict between the government and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) continues to heat up, domestic and international non-governmental organizations find it increasingly difficult to carry on with their work—particularly those in the field of development and human rights.  The renewed conflict has also meant that the post-tsunami rebuilding effort in the northeast—large swaths of which are under the control of the LTTE—faces yet another hurdle.

Report from Colombo: Unreported Disaster, Forgotten Conflict?

Worldwatch Researchers on Fact-Finding Trip to Sri Lanka - “Rains wreak havoc” shouts the front page of the Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka’s largest English-language newspaper, in its January 14 edition. Floods and mudslides in south-central parts of the country killed at least 18 people and displaced close to 80,000. Sadly, as disasters go, these are unremarkable numbers, and the human drama behind them goes largely unnoticed in a world consumed with many other crises.

Germany Suspends Tsunami Aid to Sri Lanka, Conditions Resumption on New Peace Efforts

The German minister for development cooperation calls on other donors to follow suit.

Sri Lanka Peace Efforts Falter; Hundreds of Thousands of People Remain Displaced

The lack of commitment to serious negotiations on the part of both the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has become painfully evident. All signs point to continued bloodshed.

Sri Lanka Establishes Commission of Inquiry into Civilian Killings Even as Violence Continues

More than 3,000 civilians have been killed in violence since the beginning of 2006. Can the new commission bring impunity to a halt?

Geneva Peace Talks End in Failure

Talks between the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Tamil Tigers in Geneva ended without any progress, prompting Sri Lankans to brace for more bloodshed.

Sri Lanka: Talking Peace, Waging War

New talks in Geneva between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil rebels could halt the spiraling violence or simply be another milestone of failure. More than 2,700 people have been killed since December 2005.

Prospects for Peacemaking in Sri Lanka Simultaneously Advance and Retreat

Even as fighting between government forces and the separatist Tiger Tamils continues to claim many lives, political prospects for an eventual settlement of Sri Lanka’s long-lasting conflict have somewhat improved.

Resumption of Warfare Imperils Tsunami Recovery Efforts

In parts of the north and east of Sri Lanka, tsunami recovery has ground to a halt because of renewed warfare, and international reconstruction investments are imperiled.

Sri Lankan Protagonists Signal Willingness to Resume Peace Talks, But Fighting Continues

Following months of intensifying violence, the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers now say they are prepared to return to negotiations on 28 October, but they can't agree on the venue for such talks.

Sri Lanka Government and Tamil Tigers Responsible for Numerous Violations of War Laws

Both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers have been responsible for numerous violations of the laws of war since major fighting resumed in April 2006, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, summary executions, blockading of humanitarian relief, and targeting of aid workers.

Sri Lankan Public Opinion Is in Favor of a Negotiated Solution to the Conflict

A public opinion survey showed that 79 percent of respondents preferred a peaceful resolution of the country’s conflict.

Fighting or Talking? Contradictory Reports from Sri Lanka

In mid-September, a flurry of reports first indicated that the Sri Lankan government and their Tamil Tiger opponents were willing to return to the negotiating table, then questioned whether the protagonists had agreed to such a move.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Urges that International Monitors Be Deployed in Sri Lanka

Prompted by recent massacres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, called for international human rights monitors to be deployed in Sri Lanka.

New Peace Negotiations in Sri Lanka Unlikely Before a New Balance of Power or a Stalemate Has Been Reached

Violence in Sri Lanka between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and the Sri Lankan armed forces keeps escalating, making a mockery of the four-year-old ceasefire.

How Ordinary People in Sri Lanka Are Affected by the Spreading Violence

BBC News presents the reactions from ordinary people in different parts of Sri Lanka to the escalating violence in their country.

EU Ban on Tamil Tigers Backfires, Spawns Growing Violence

The outgoing chief monitor of Sri Lanka's crumbling ceasefire criticized the European Union's decision to ban the Tamil Tiger rebels as a terrorist organization.

Number of New Refugees and Internally Displaced in Sri Lanka’s Renewed Fighting Climbs to 213,000

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said in late August that fighting between government forces and the separatist Tamil Tigers has forced 204,620 people from their homes since April, and driven another 8,742 to seek refuge in India.

Fatalities Rise Sharply as Sri Lanka Reverts to War

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, the number of conflict-related deaths in Sri Lanka in the first eight months of 2006 already surpass those during 2001, the last year of combat before a ceasefire was struck in early 2002.

Sri Lanka Monitors Say Government Troops Killed Air Workers

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission said government security forces killed 17 aid workers, employees of the French branch of the international aid agency Action Against Hunger, on 6 August in the eastern town of Mutur, in one of the worst attacks against humanitarian workers worldwide in recent years.

Sampur Defeat Signals Tamil Tiger Weakness

In heavy fighting with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Sri Lankan Army captured the town of Sampur, a strategically important rebel position near the northeastern city of Trincomalee, in early September.

Sri Lanka

The 2004 tsunami sent massive amounts of debris and rubble into the coral reefs surrounding Sri Lanka, damaging them at a time when they were already struggling to survive. Recovery could take 20 years in the hardest-hit reefs, or even longer if harmful fishing practices continue.

Number of Displaced Persons on the Rise Again

The upsurge in violence in eastern Sri Lanka during the first half of 2006 has led to 45,674 new internally-displaced people (IDPs), according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Dispute over Water Reservoir Triggers Rising Violence in Eastern Sri Lanka

In early August 2006, control of a disputed irrigation canal and reservoir in eastern Sri Lanka continues to be at the center of the worst fighting since a 2002 truce.

Politicization of Aid in Sri Lanka Turns Deadly

Seventeen Sri Lankan aid workers (local employees of the group Action Contre La Faim) were massacred in the northeastern town of Mutur, as fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels raged.

Breakaway Rebel Faction May Turn to Electoral Politics

A rebel group that broke away from the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka opened an office in the capital Colombo with the aim of eventually contesting elections under the name TMVP (Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Puligal).

Fighting Between Sri Lanka Government and Tamils Grows Wider and Fiercer

Fighting between government troops and Tamil Tigers is intensifying in Sri Lanka’s north and east. The government’s decision to launch a ground offensive near Trincomalee two weeks earlier may have been a turning point in the slide to renewed civil war.

More Than 160,000 Sri Lankans Displaced Since April by Escalating Fighting

Continued heavy fighting in the north and east of Sri Lanka, particularly in the Jaffna peninsula in the north, has sent many more thousands of civilians fleeing their homes in search of safety.

Almost 40,000 Sri Lankans Displaced by Violence Since April 2006

The upsurge in violence in Sri Lanka has uprooted an additional 39,883 people in the country’s north and east in just two months, April and May 2006.

International Donors Say Aid is Dependent on an End to Violence

Sri Lanka's main donors—Japan, Norway, the European Union, and the United States—told the government and the Tamil Tigers that they needed to honor their ceasefire agreement if financial aid was to continue.

Small Arms Fueling Conflict and Crime in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is heavily affected by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, according to a report by Saferworld. The spread of such weapons in Sri Lanka is reaching crisis proportions.

UNICEF Accuses Guerrillas of Abducting and Recruiting Underage Soldiers

UNICEF says that a guerrilla faction that split away from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is abducting and recruiting children. More than 30 abductions have taken place in eastern Sri Lanka near the city of Batticaloa.

Violence Surges in Sri Lanka

International ceasefire monitors say that at least 900 people have been killed in Sri Lanka in a surge of violence since December 2005. At least 500 of them were civilians. Most of the killings have taken place in the country’s northeast.

Calls Increase for India to Become Involved in Resolving Sri Lanka's Conflict

Both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger separatists are making overtures toward India to help mediate their conflict.

Sri Lanka Examining Power-Sharing Arrangements

Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapakse met with an advisory committee of constitutional experts in a bid to draw up a power-sharing arrangement with Tamil Tiger rebels and end decades of conflict.

A Vicious Sectarian War is Taking Place among Tamils in Eastern Sri Lanka

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the breakaway faction known as the Tamil People’s Liberation Party (TMVP) are involved in rising violence.

The European Union Lists Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a Banned Terrorist Organization

The EU had in September 2005 already imposed a travel ban on LTTE members. Its new decision followed earlier similar moves by the United States, Canada, Britain, and India. A freeze on Tamil assets could hurt the LTTE’s ability to raise funds from Tamil expatriates.

A Fundamentally Different Approach Is Needed to Bring Peace to Sri Lanka

Since the 2002 ceasefire agreement, the Tigers have ruthlessly imposed their complete political domination on the north and east. These acts, along with the assassination of foreign minister Kadirgamar in August 2005 and attacks on government troops, strengthened Sinhalese hardliners. Provoking the military and Sinhala supremacist groups to lash out at Tamil civilians, has lent credence to Tiger claims that Tamils can only be safe with their own state.

Although the 2002 Ceasefire Has Not Been Formally Abrogated, Sri Lanka is Sliding into an Undeclared Low-Intensity War

Hardliners on the Sinhala side believe that a short war could overwhelm the Tamil Tigers and force them into a settlement. Observers worry that the Colombo government may overplay its hand. Despite brinkmanship on both sides, neither of the protagonists can afford a return to full-scale hostilities.

With in Sri Lanka violence rising, April 2006 was the bloodiest month since the 2002 ceasefire was signed

The international Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission says 191 people, mostly civilians were killed. Distrust between the government and the LTTE is now at its worst in four years. There are now routine skirmishes near the line that divides the two sides.

Some 40,000 Sri Lankan Wells, Each Serving Several Families, Were Destroyed or Contaminated by the Tsunami

Scientists from the United States, Sri Lanka, and Denmark found that the tsunami poured large quantities of seawater and other contaminants into the wells as well as into the aquifers. Efforts to restore wells have sometimes been counterproductive because excessive pumping may have allowed more seawater to enter the aquifers from below and caused many wells to collapse.

Sri Lankan Ceasefire Talks Collapse Before They Even Start

Distrust between Sri Lanka’s main conflict parties has reached such intensity that planned talks in Oslo, Norway, to ensure the safety of Scandinavian ceasefire monitors collapsed before they even started.

Human Rights Watch: Sri Lankan Government Fails to Protect Tamil Civilians

In a report, the human rights organization says that the government failed to stop attacks by armed Sinhalese mobs in Trincomalee district; the attacks occurred after an alleged Tamil Tiger bomb there killed 5 persons.

Tit-for-Tat Violence Inches Sri Lanka Back to Civil War

In retaliation for a suicide bomb attack on the headquarters of Sri Lanka’s army, the military launched air attacks on Tamil Tiger targets in the northeast of the country, causing thousands of people to seek safety in the jungle.

Sri Lankan Voters Support Peace Talks in Local Council Elections

The election results are a setback to parties that have taken a hardline stance against peace talks between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

LTTE Refuses to Attend Ceasefire Talks

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) announced they will not attend talks with the Sri Lankan government, scheduled for 24-25 April 2006 in order to strengthen an increasingly fragile 2002 ceasefire.

Stepped-up International Pressure from the International Community Needed to Revive the Stalled Peace Process

Michael Vatikiotis, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, argues that the small Nordic monitoring mission—the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission or SLMM, with just 64 observers—is inadequate.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are a "Wounded Tiger"

According to an analysis by the Indian-based South Asia Analysis Group, since March 2004, the LTTE has suffered a series of setbacks that influence both its ability to wage renewed war and its willingness to make peace.

Sri Lanka: News and Analysis

Strategic Conflict Assessment Report Provides Detailed Analysis of Structures and Dynamics of Conflict and Peace in Sri Lanka

The report, conducted for the British government’s Department for International Development, examines international involvement in this process, and identifies ways for donors to strengthen peacebuilding efforts.

Significant Funding for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Is Derived from the Tamil Diaspora

Before the 2002 ceasefire that is still in effect, the Sri Lankan civil war took at least 60,000 lives and compelled almost a quarter of the country’s Tamil population to flee. The Tamil diaspora worldwide now encompasses some 600,000 to 800,000 people.

Sri Lanka's Military and Tamil Tiger Rebels Are Re-arming Even as They Prepare for a New Round of Talks in Geneva

Both sides are trading accusations about alleged abuses and ceasefire breaches. The government claims that the Tamil Tigers have increased their recruitment of child soldiers, but UNICEF says there is no evidence of higher recruitment.

Earthquake Diplomacy Fails to Deliver Breakthrough on Kashmir

People-to-people contacts across Kashmir's dividing line have been too limited to effect a transformation in relations between India and Pakistan.

Disaster Survivors in Indonesia and Pakistan Protest Corruption and Slow Reconstruction Progress

In Pakistan and Indonesia, survivors of deadly tsunamis and earthquakes are growing impatient with the slow and inadequate reconstruction efforts.

One Year Later, Disaster Survivors in Pakistan and Guatemala Struggle On

Early October marks two painful anniversaries of disaster in Guatemala and Pakistan.

Tight Security Wins Out Over People-to-People Contact in Divided Kashmir

Hopes that the earthquake that hit Kashmir in October 2005 would move Pakistan and India closer to resolving their dispute have been dashed.

Watchdog Group Says Human Rights Protections Are Key to Resolving Kashmir Conflict

In a new report, Human Rights Watch argues that state-sanctioned abuses and continued impunity from prosecution have fanned the flames of violence in Kashmir, and that human rights protections and accountability are key ingredients of any efforts to resolve the long-running conflict.

Indian Kashmir Hit by Worst Floods in Two Decades

Indian-administered Kashmir is facing its worst floods in two decades, affecting some 200,000 people.

Kashmiri Farmers Lost Crops, Irrigated Land, and Livestock after 2005 Tremor

In Pakistani-administered Kashmir, 80 percent of crops and 50 percent of arable land were lost or destroyed by the October 2005 earthquake.

Pakistani Earthquake Survivors Face New Challenges in Monsoon Season

Ten months after the massive earthquake of 8 October 2005 in northern Pakistan, survivors confront monsoon floods and the specter of water-borne diseases.

Kashmir Peace Bus Has Limited Impact

A bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, two Kashmiri cities on opposite sides of the Indian-Pakistani cease-fire line, was inaugurated in April 2005 as a “confidence-building measure.” But if the number of people actually crossing the border during the first year of the service is an indication, then there is still precious little confidence.

Mumbai Bombs Complicate India-Pakistan Peace Efforts

Following the bombings of commuter trains in Mumbai that killed 200 people on 11 July 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh scolded Pakistan on Friday for failing to rein in terrorism and warned that this could endanger the peace process.

India-Pakistan Peace Efforts Imperiled

A few days after the 11 July metro bombings in India’s Mumbai, which killed 182 people and injured 900 others, India told Pakistan that a meeting of the foreign ministers planned for later that month had been shelved.

Monsoon Rains May Impede Earthquake Reconstruction

Across the quake-hit areas of northern Pakistan and Pakistani-administered Kashmir, the local population and relief agencies are aware of the dangers the monsoon brings—floods, landslides and road blockages that threaten to halt reconstruction work.

U.S. Planning to sell Pakistan up to 62 Fighter Jets

The Bush administration is planning to sell Pakistan as many 62 fighter jets in a deal that could cost as much as $5 billion.

Many Earthquake Survivors Still Live in Tents, as Reconstruction in Pakistan is Slow

More than eight months after the massive earthquake in northern Pakistan and the Pakistani portion of Kashmir, reconstruction has barely begun. The disaster left 3 million people homeless and destroyed 460,000 rural and 120,000 urban houses.

Talks between India and Kashmiri Separatists Are to Continue

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella alliance of nearly two dozen political separatist groups, have agreed to carry out a continuous dialogue to discuss solutions to Kashmir dispute.

New Truck and Bus Connections Link India and Pakistan Across Divided Kashmir

In an effort to promote bilateral trade and strengthen mutual confidence-building, India and Pakistan agreed to launch a truck service across the “Line of Control” in Kashmir in July, linking the cities of Muzaffarabad and Srinagar route, and to start a second cross-Kashmir bus service in June, connecting the cities of Rawalakot and Poonch.

UNICEF is Working to Provide Safe Drinking Water for Earthquake Survivors in Pakistan

A water network (including tube well, water pipes, reservoir, and pumps) constructed by UNICEF will supply 250,000 gallons of water per day and benefit up to 30,000 people in the earthquake-affected zone in Mansehra district.

Hopes Dashed for a Breakthrough in India-Pakistan Relations

Despite hopes for a breakthrough through humanitarian collaboration, the 8 October 2005 earthquake with its epicenter in the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir has failed to dissipate India and Pakistan’s mutual mistrust.

Some 100,000 People Displaced by the October 2005 Earthquake Have Left Temporary Camps and Returned Home

The emergency phase of the relief operation is winding down, but some 99 camps with 55,000 inhabitants still remain open. UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration are facilitating the return, providing medical screening and transport.

Child Malnutrition in Earthquake Areas Persists as a Major Problem

UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, and Pakistan’s Ministry of Health undertook a joint survey to assess whether the situation is improving or deteriorating and to establish a baseline to monitor future progress.

Some Kashmiri Separatist Leaders Seeking New Ideas for Resolving the Kashmir Conflict

The options usually discussed include maintaining the status quo; Kashmir independence; and Kashmir joining either Pakistan or India in its entirety. But the governments in New Delhi and Islamabad and the people of Kashmir never found consensus around any of these options, and perhaps never will.

Pakistan's Government Decides to Go Forward with Purchase of U.S. and Chinese Fighter Jets

The number of planes and the cost of the deals were not disclosed. In November 2005, President Musharraf had delayed the purchase, following the earthquake that killed tens of thousands in northern Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.

"Peace Bus" Stultified by Security Checks

A bus service connecting families in divided Kashmir was launched with much fanfare as a “peace bus” in April 2005, but elaborate security checks and stultifying bureaucracy have severely limited the number of people actually traveling on the bus.

Kashmir: News and Analysis

Children in Earthquake-Affected Areas in Pakistan and Kashmir May Be at Serious Risk from High Levels of Toxins in the Rubble

The rubble of collapsed buildings contains heavy metals such as iron, zinc and lead. Private homes in the region are often painted with lead-based paints.

Pakistan's October 2005 Earthquake has Major Implications for Democratization and Regional Peacemaking

The response by Pakistan’s government to the 8 October 2005 earthquake in the Northwest Frontier Province and Kashmir was generally ill-planned and poorly executed, leading to the unnecessary loss of countless lives.

Global Security Brief #8: Peacemaking in Kashmir: From Physical Tremor to Political Earthquake?

The massive tremor that struck northern Pakistan and Kashmir on October 8, 2005 cut through a fault line of conflict that has divided Pakistan and India for 58 years. The epicenter of the quake was near the cease-fire line demarcating Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir—the so-called Line of Control. With the death toll unofficially pegged at close to 90,000, the disaster within mere minutes inflicted even greater suffering than that wrought by 16 years of conflict: since 1989, an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 people have been killed in the region.

Peacemaking in Kashmir: from Physical Tremor to Political Earthquake?

The massive tremor that struck northern Pakistan and Kashmir on October 8 cut through a fault line of conflict that has divided the two nations for more than 50 years. It inflicted death on a scale comparable to that wrought by 15 years of conflict over Kashmir: currently pegged at close to 90,000 deaths, the earthquake's toll surpasses the estimated 40,000 to 80,000 people killed in regional fighting since 1990.

A Second Disaster: Continued Displacement after Katrina

Fifteen months after Hurricane Katrina, the efforts to overcome the storm’s destruction and dislocation are still slow, inconsistent, and incompetent.

New Orleans’ Post-Katrina Population Loss Greater Than Previously Estimated

According to a new survey, the city’s population is now only 187,525, down from the pre-storm figure of 454,863.

Greater Transparency Needed in Spending on Post-Katrina and Post-Rita Recovery

In two new reports, the U.S. Government Accountability Office urges better reporting and greater transparency on how $88 billion worth of federal reconstruction appropriations are being spent, to ensure accountability and acceptable results.

Scientists Endorse Mississippi Diversion Project to Restore Louisiana Wetlands

Many scientists are recommending a new river diversion in the hope of restoring Louisiana’s wetlands.

Profiteering Wins, Rebuilding Loses on Gulf Coast

A report by the nonprofit group CorpWatch says disaster profiteers make millions of dollars while local companies and laborers in New Orleans and the rest of the Katrina-devastated Gulf Coast region are systematically losing out.

Rebuilding Efforts in New Orleans Are Lagging Far Behind

Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University, takes stock of the rebuilding—or rather, the lack of it—as the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina nears.

One Year After Hurricane Katrina, Many Citizens of New Orleans Remain Scattered

By August 2006--one year after Hurricane Katrina--the population of New Orleans was somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000, still substantially down from a pre-storm population of 480,000.

Post-Katrina Work Marred by Waste and Corruption

A House of Representatives study released by its Democratic members shows that out of $10.6 billion in contracts awarded for post-Katrina reconstruction by June 2006, more than $7.4 billion were handed out with limited or no competitive bidding.

One Year After Katrina, New Orleans Remains a Shadow of its Former Self

One year after Katrina, socially and economically New Orleans remains far from recovering from the storm's devastation.

2005 Saw by Far the Highest Number of Atlantic Storms since 1990

The year 2005 saw the highest number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean—27 storms in total and including the infamous Hurricane Katrina.

Surge of Katrina Evacuees Strains nearby Baton Rouge

In the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana’s capital city of Baton Rouge was inundated with as many as 235,000 evacuees—temporarily doubling the city’s population.

Mainstream Media Lose Interest in Poor Katrina Survivors’ Predicaments

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, mainstream print and television media suddenly rediscovered poverty and the existence of an underclass—conditions that made it almost impossible for many of Katrina’s victims to leave New Orleans before the storm and that have made poor survivor’s life extremely difficult after the storm.

New Orleans Labors Under Frequent Power Failures

Ten months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans still lacks a reliable supply of electricity, and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of repairs are still needed. The city faces frequent power failures, and a section of the Lower Ninth Ward still has no service at all.

A Long Way to Go for New Orleans

Rebuilding in New Orleans has been agonizingly slow, as a range of statistics collected by researchers at the Brookings Institution demonstrates.

Post-Katrina Building Skewed

Post-Katrina rebuilding in New Orleans is slow and skewed against the poor and the public sector. More than 200,000 people have not yet made it back to New Orleans—many of them poor and black.

Massive Waste and Fraud in Post-Katrina Spending

Investigations reveal “one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history.” Up to $2 billion has been lost in fraud and waste, representing 11 percent of the $19 billion spent on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as of mid-June 2006.

Poor Survivors of Katrina Remain Scattered

Louisiana children displaced by Hurricane Katrina number more than 125,000. Part of the American underclass, they and their families now live in tiny Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers that have been placed in remote fields with few dependable services and resources.

Hurricane Katrina Demonstrated the Weaknesses of U.S. Flood Insurance

Nearly half the people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina did not have flood insurance, yet the federal flood insurance program did not have enough funds to pay claims worth about $25 billion by those who were insured.

Emergency Bill Provides Money for Post-Katrina Recovery -- But Far Greater Sums for the Military

In mid-June, President Bush signed H.R. 4939. Called the "Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery, 2006," the bill provides about $95 billion in funding.

Dispute Over New Orleans Low-Income Housing Intensifies

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there are growing disputes over housing for lower-income residents and the future makeup of New Orleans. Displaced residents of public housing projects fear that local and federal officials, along with real estate developers, are using the storm damage as an excuse to get rid of much public housing and to bring in wealthier residents instead.

Louisiana Flood Risk Maps Badly Outdated

The flood risk maps that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relied on when it released its long-awaited guidelines for rebuilding homes and businesses in New Orleans in mid-April are badly outdated—in some cases two decades old—and thus grossly underestimate the hazards of rebuilding.

Louisiana Counties Hit Hardest by Hurricane Katrina Suffer Massive Population Loss

A June U.S. Census Bureau report found that, as of January 2006, Louisiana’s hardest hit counties had lost 385,000 people, about 39 percent of its total population. Orleans Parish lost a whopping 64 percent, while the smaller St. Bernard Parish was almost totally depopulated, losing 95 percent.

Report: In the Wake of the Storm: Environment, Disaster, and Race After Katrina

This interdisciplinary report, written by professors from around the country, illuminates the environmental justice implications of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. The researchers focus on race disparities and linkages to environmental quality in the US, and the ways in which these disparities influence the preparation and relief efforts: before, during, and after a disaster.

Business Interests Win Out Over the Poor in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Some eight months after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, about 125,000 homes remain damaged and unoccupied. More than 60 percent of its residents—but an estimated 80 percent of the city’s pre-storm African-American population—are scattered in trailers and temporary accommodations.

The Record Hurricane Season in 2005 Can Be Attributed to Global Warming

Greg Holland, a leading storm researcher at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says that while tropical storm anomalies in the 1940s and 1950s can be explained by natural variability, the wind and warmer water conditions that fuel storms that form in the Caribbean are now “increasingly due to greenhouse gases.”

Class and Wealth Playing Important Role in Deciding which Parts of New Orleans Will be Rebuilt and which Abandoned

Ostensibly, the rebuilding plan puts all neighborhoods on the same footing. Neighborhoods are responsible for determining who is moving back to the community and to make collective decisions about the community’s future.

Reconstruction Decision-Making Puts Barriers in the Path of the Displaced

The “Bring New Orleans Back Commission” has designated parts of New Orleans East “delayed recovery”—which means that residents can rebuild only at their own risk, without any guarantee that there will be any basic public services in the near future.

Hurricane Katrina: News and Analysis

Wetlands Protection Has Long Received Inadequate Funding, Even Though they Absorb Some of the Destructive Power of a Hurricane

Flood control measures in southern Lousiana have led to large-scale damage to wetlands. An elaborate system of levees, dams, spillways, and pumps has allowed the presence of a major metropolis like New Orleans in an area that is below sea-level.

Gulf Coast Towns and Residents Resist a Proposed Expansion of Officially-Designated Flood Zones and Tougher Building Standards

Over the next year or so, new flood maps for Louisiana and Mississippi will be finalized. Once that step is taken, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will have the power to force cities and their residents to rebuild homes in flood zones with more robust foundations or to raise houses higher above the ground.

Maintaining Adequate Flood Protection in New Orleans Has Been Shortchanged for Several Decades

With the advent of the Bush administration, the neglect worsened. From 2003 on, the invasion and occupation of Iraq absorbed huge amounts of resources.

Sailors, Disasters, and Climate Security

When the U.N. Security Council voiced "grave concern" over the fate of 15 British sailors held by Iran on 29 March 2007, it was front page news. But another Council meeting to be held on April 17 will be a far more momentous event.

Post-Disaster Peacemaking: Conceptual Issues

Events in three conflict zones—Indonesia’s Aceh province, Sri Lanka, and Kashmir—all gave rise to hopes that post-disaster goodwill could assist in breaking conflict dynamics. But these three areas have followed very different post-disaster trajectories. What accounts for such dramatically different outcomes?

Worldwatch Analysis

  • Michael Renner and Zoë Chafe, “Hurricane Katrina in a Human Security Perspective,” World Watch, September/October 2006, pp. 18-22. (Purchase issue at
  • Zoë Chafe, “Weather-Related Disasters Affect Millions,” in Worldwatch Institute, Vital Signs 2006-2007. The Trends that Are Shaping Our Future (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., July 2007), pp. 44-45. (Purchase PDF, Excel, or Powerpoint files at Print copy or PDF of entire publication at:
  • Zoë Chafe, “Disappearing Mangroves Leave Coasts at Risk,” in Worldwatch Institute, Vital Signs 2006-2007. The Trends that Are Shaping Our Future (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., July 2007), pp. 100-101. (Purchase PDF at Print copy or PDF of entire publication at:
  • Michael Renner, “Worldwatch First-Person: Reconciliation from Destruction in Aceh,” World Watch, May/June 2006, p. 2. (Free download at
  • Michael Renner, “Post-Tsunami Aceh: Is the World Watching?” Worldwatch Global Security Brief No. 9, February 13, 2006,
  • Michael Renner and Zoë Chafe, Web chat on “Disasters and Peacemaking: Helping Communities Heal,” February 2, 2006. Transcript at
  • Michael Renner, “Conflict and Peacemaking in Aceh: A Chronology,” Worldwatch Institute, February 2, 2006,
  • Worldwatch Institute, “Rising Toll from Disasters Underscores Need for Humanitarian, Political Action,” Press Release, January 24, 2006,
  • Michael Renner and Zoë Chafe, “Turning Disasters into Peacemaking Opportunities,” Worldwatch Institute, State of the World 2006 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., January 2006), pp. 115-133. [Link to:]
  • Michael Renner, “Peacemaking in Kashmir: From Physical Tremor to Political Earthquake?” Worldwatch Global Security Brief No. 8, December 6, 2005,
  • Michael Renner and Zoë Chafe, “Peacemaking in Kashmir: From Physical Tremor to Political Earthquake?,” One World United States, November 8, 2005,

Natural Disasters & Peacemaking Network

Natural Disasters & Peacemaking Network

Worldwatch Presentation at US Institute of Peace

Each summer, the US Institute of Peace—a congressionally-funded institute—hosts a series of seminars for peace and security educators at all levels. This July, eighteen community college faculty members and administrators gathered in Washington, DC for a session on “Global Peace and Security in Community Colleges and the Communities They Serve.”

Travel Report: International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature, Rome, Italy

From October 12 to 15, 2005, Michael traveled to Italy for a speaking engagement at the International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature. He gave a presentation based on Worldwatch's current two-year research project, on “Natural Disasters, Environment, and Peacemaking.

Natural Disasters & Peacemaking Project Overview

The Worldwatch Institute has launched a two-year project addressing the intersections between natural disasters, environmental degradation, conflict, and peacemaking. Researchers Michael Renner and Zoë Chafe co-authored a chapter on disasters in Worldwatch's State of the World 2006 report and will examine these connections in a range of additional articles, op-eds, and publications.