Year

2006

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Research)

Department

School of History and Politics - Faculty of Arts

Abstract

The 26 December 2004 tsunami was far reaching in its effects but the two areas most devastated by the tidal wave were the Indonesian province of Aceh and the country of Sri Lanka. These areas have much more than the impact of the tsunami disaster in common. They have both also been sites of decades-long violent conflicts that have compounded many of the problems caused by the tsunami. One result of the tsunami was an influx of NGOs into these two areas. NGOs, as promoters of development, have increasingly been associated with activities deemed necessary to the creation of peace. This stems from an understanding in the fields of development and peace and conflict resolution that not only does war undermine development, but that the cause of internal wars can be linked to failures of development. Therefore, the role of NGOs is important when examining efforts at peace creation in Sri Lanka and Aceh since the occurrence of the tsunami. In this thesis I have focused on Oxfam International and CARE International which are two of the largest international NGOs acting in both Sri Lanka and Aceh. In undertaking this assessment I aim to consider the ways in which NGOs may have impacted the resumption or resolution of conflict in Sri Lanka and Aceh, and whether or not NGOs have played a role in the differing outcomes of the wars in these areas. To undertake this investigation I first present an overview of the conflicts in Sri Lanka and Aceh. This includes an inspection of the historical, economic, and political elements that have been contributed to the origination of each conflict. This is followed by an exploration of development theories and theories of peace and conflict resolution, focusing on the ways in which the situations of Sri Lanka and Aceh support or contradict arguments from these fields. I then examine the literature concerned with NGOs in order to present a thorough consideration of the pros and cons associated with NGOs in both conflict situations and the creation of peace before I review and evaluate NGO activities in Sri Lanka and Aceh subsequent to the tsunami disaster. In the course of writing this thesis I have found that many of the advantages and disadvantages emblematic of NGO involvement in conflict and post-conflict situations are currently present in Sri Lanka and Aceh. However, NGOs in Sri Lanka have been associated with fewer of the drawbacks identified with non-governmental organisations in conflict situations than NGOs in Aceh. If the proposition that NGOs can aid in peacemaking and peacebuilding is correct, we could therefore expect that in this situation NGOs have been more effective in Sri Lanka than Aceh. This highlights one of my primary findings which is that NGO activities addressing problems associated with underdevelopment cannot in themselves lead to the creation of peace. In fact, it seems that NGO efforts are merely an adjunct to endeavours to create peace.

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