Urban Poor Linkage (UPLINK) Indonesia, initiated in July 2002, is a coalition of grassroots/community based organizations and NGOs focusing on urban poverty and impoverishment issues. Uplink envisions a city where social, economic and cultural diversities are positive resources and strength for a socially just and democratic city, as well as where the urban poor are strongly organized and independent, and are able to develop a pro-poor counter system.
Uplink works to empower the urban poor by implementing three main strategies: 1) People’s organization through a women’s savings scheme, children’s creativity program, waste management, traditional/alternative health and medication system, clean and healthy settlements and environment, and community radio; 2) Advocacy – influence and change of anti-poor government policies and practices on the issue of land and housing rights of the poor, eviction, pro-poor city budget, and foreign debt. Advocacy is carried out through negotiation, mass pressure and providing alternative solutions; and 3) Networking – involves developing support and solidarity from social groups such as the mass media, professionals, academia, and actors for the urban poor. There are two type of networking i.e. horizontal and vertical networking which is conducted through meetings, exchange visits where people learn directly from each other, and joint work; close and intensive collaboration with professionals in providing for alternative solutions to city issues in inter-community and city levels, as well as national, regional and international levels. Currently Uplink works in 13 major cities in Indonesia, namely: Banda Aceh, Medan, Palembang, Lampung, Jakarta, Tasikmalaya, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Pontianak, Makassar, Palu, Kendari and Manado.
The main purpose of the project is the reconstruction of Aceh community life following the devastating effects of the 2004 tsunami through provision of 3,331 homes, reconstruction of houses and infrastructure; economic renewal; reinforcement of social relations and cultural cohesion; and environmental regeneration. The target beneficiaries are the tsunami survivors, mainly fisher-folk communities along the west coast in 23 villages in Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar, areas worst hit by the tsunami where all buildings and houses were swept away by the high waves, leaving about 10% human survivors.
Community members are involved in all aspects of the project. A complete survey was carried out of the ruined villages, including participatory land mapping and a full account of surviving families. Ownership certificates are being issued based on this work. Further involvement includes land surveying and mapping, housing design, material purchase and data collection; as well as playing crucial roles in the construction process as material suppliers, labourers, and building inspectors.
The project has a target that 60 per cent of the funds for reconstructing houses and infrastructure shoulyd be retained in the village, so that the rebuilding process boosts the village economies. The project employs many community members in the construction process and in building-block making plants. Only when the reconstruction labour and resource requirements cannot be met in the village itself, are nearby villages approached.
A village-based revolving economic fund providing loan capital has been established to help village members, especially women’s groups, to start small businesses. A combination of training and village based small-scale economic activities provides increased opportunities to improve long-term livelihood prospects, as well as strengthening their confidence, skills and expertise. Typical activities include acupuncture, block-making, composting, mushroom cultivation, disaster management, rice farming, earthquake-resistant construction and pedi-cab businesses.
Uplink’s partners are involved in the design, planning, development, financing and in-kind contributions. They include: Abhiyan and Hunnar Sala, a network of NGOs in Gujarat, India, ILO, Misereor Germany, Development and Peace Canada, CIDA Canada, and Plan International. Project beneficiaries provide in-kind contributions including provision of labors, local wisdom, participation and solidarity, while Uplink provides the overall management.
The lessons learned show that post-disaster reconstruction is more than physical facilities, and encompasses community participation and relationship-building. Having trust in the people’s resilience and wisdom is paramount, and with a little support even the most traumatised people can immediately work together to begin to build a better life for themselves. Community participatory housing reconstruction can deliver a large number of well-constructed quality homes within a reasonable time frame.
The main achievements and outcomes have been physical, social and cultural. Physical – the construction of quake resistant and flood safe houses, village level infrastructure, restoration and implementation of organic farming, revival of the community economy. Social – the establishment of community-based organisations (JUB) and its organisational mechanisms; increased social cohesion of the community. Cultural – the increase of trust among community members; awareness of the importance of solidarity, social control and participation.
The impacts have included restoration of a sense of security and stability to a traumatized community, improved long-term livelihood prospects, strengthening the sense of community cohesion in an area which had been torn apart with years of civil strife. There has been increased awareness among government, NGOs and other agencies working with similar projects on importance of people’s participation in the reconstruction process. Policy change has been evident with government changes in its two free kilometer free-zone policy for post-tsunami coastal areas, to no-free-zone policy with safety and security as the main guiding features.
The initiative has contributed to environmental sustainability through utilization of local materials, increased environmental awareness of the community – organic farming, renewable energy, pressed-soil block, trauma healing, and capacity building. Financial sustainability has been achieved by retaining 60 per cent of the reconstruction funds within the village economies, greatly enhancing community members’ opportunities to gain employment, training and skills. The loan-capital available increases the long-term income-generation prospects and has funded a rich diversity of small business start-ups. Social sustainability is evident through increased community cohesion, participation, trust, capabilities, women’s empowerment, and improved conflict resolution.
The approach used by Uplink has been transferred and up-scaled. For example, the Australian Red Cross is collaborating with Uplink to implement the same approach in Nasi Island. Uplink’s reconstruction approach has been applied by the government Post-tsunami Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (BRR) to its work. Uplink is implementing the same project in its post-earthquake reconstruction project in Yogyakarta. Some NGOs are transferring Uplink’s participatory approach to other housing projects in post-tsunami Aceh. These include: Local Governance & Infrastructure for Communities in Aceh, Diakonia Germany, British Red Cross, Centre for Poverty Analysis, Atlas and Plan International. Beyond its current implementation of two years, it is seen as an opportunity for more regions of the world to learn and to turn crisis situations as sources of inspiration to bring the best of mankind.
This practice exhibits innovation in several ways. This practice demonstrates how a challenge can be turned into an opportunity to develop new and stronger community links. The initiative uses a people driven, holistic and integrated approach to disaster reconstruction. It further uses people’s organization, advocacy, and networking as three inter-twining strategies to address both physical and non-physical aspects of reconstruction. The approach is fast, cheap, transferable and comprehensive when compared to many other post-disaster reconstruction methods. Efficient monitoring and evaluation systems have been adopted including financial auditing and reporting. The initiative has been recognized as an exemplary practice by national mass media such as Kompas daily, Tempo weekly, TV and radio stations, as well as international mass media in Germany, Canada, and Japan.
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