The pain itself is enough to heal the wounded soul..

Implementing Human Security in Post-Conflict Aceh*


Jabal Ali Husin Sab

Brief Story of Aceh

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Helsinki 2005 which is the Peace Agreement that signed by Indonesian Government and Free Aceh Movement (GAM) became a conclusion of the conflict between Indonesian Government and Aceh separatist group called Free Aceh Movement(GAM) that had been struggling for Aceh’s Independent since three decades ago.

In 1989, the former Indonesian President Soeharto decided to make a military operation area in Aceh called Daerah Operasi Militer (DOM) to eliminate GAM. At that time, GAM did not have many followers like what they had in 1998 (after Soeharto fell), but the casualties among civilians had brought such sympathy from the people. Most of GAM’s fighters are the family of the victims.

The fell of Soeharto in 1998 and protest movement and chaos that happened at that time brought a chance to GAM to empower his military armed force. Chaos that happened in Jakarta and the weakening of Indonesian Government at that time gave an opportunity for GAM to get more support from the people. At the reform era, numbers of casualties had been published. GAM used this as a tool to get International support. Student movement such as Central Information of referendum in Aceh (SIRA) asked for referendum and other movements fight for justice from the government for numbers of casualties that have been killed during an operation and the unbalance policies of Indonesian Government towards Aceh Province. At that time, majority of Acehnese thought Independence was the only way to achieve to establish peace and give them the feeling of security. The people no longer trust Jakarta.

After Soeharto fell in 1998, Habibie took his place as the next president; followed by Abdurrahman Wahid had brought hopes for peace by stopping the military operation and trying to negotiate with GAM. These efforts became useless as Megawati, the next Indonesian President after Wahid decided to send more army to Aceh to destroy GAM as her policy to make another Military Operation in Aceh. Since the first military operation in 1989 until 1998, 10.00-26.00 were  killed (Kingsbury, 2005).

At the time of Yudhoyono’spresidency in 2004, his vice president Jusuf Kalla had been working hardly to get contacted with GAM and started to negotiate. After the tsunami, both sides decided to negotiate in Helsinki and agree to make peace. The GAM agreed to join back to Indonesia. In addition, Aceh is granted with autonomy and Acehnese is allowed to have its own local party. GAM has transformed itself from a separatist group to a local party called Aceh Party (PA).

The Roots of Aceh Conflict

The roots of Aceh conflict Aceh have several factors. According to Aspinall, the Aceh conflict is a conflict over identity (2005). Aceh was known as the last part in the archipelago that had been colonized by Dutch, the Dutch was never actually conquered Aceh as a whole. GAM claimed that Aceh still have its own sovereignty and asked Indonesia to give the sovereignty back to the Acehnese.

The other problems occurred when the centralistic government of Jakarta became injustice on sharing wealth from Aceh natural resources. With such a great resources, Aceh is one of the parts of Indonesia that not really developed at that time. The economic factors that have been a reason for many conflicts in the world became a catalyst of Aceh conflict.

The Peace agreement likely settle this conflict factor by giving Aceh its rights for 70% of its wealth and only take 30% of wealth to National government in Jakarta.

It becomes a big question mark: will the Aceh conflict happen again after the Peace Agreement that has tried to solve every roots of conflict? I would say it has some potential if the implementation of the agreement does not go well and the people do not feel the benefit of the Peace Agreement.

Numbers of poor in Aceh in 2011, six years after the MoU approximately in 19,48 % (BPS, 2011). The number shows the ineffectiveness of Local Government, the product of the Peace Agreement to protect the people from certain problems regarding to poverty and other problems such as the improvement in education, public services and many more. Furthermore, there are many social and political problems such as gender, children protection, the freedom of speech and many more that have to be done in Aceh. Especially, when certain cases occurs during these years such as murders of certain people and terrors close to the time of election (2009 and2012).

Therefore, the people of Aceh need a new formula that could protect people from any threat and fears. The human security concept becomes important to be applied in Aceh as a post-conflict area.

Implementing Human Security in Aceh

The human security as an approach was introduced in global Human Development Report in 1994. In 2012, General Assembly of United Nation adopted a common definition of this concept. This concept broadens the concept of security and policy from territorial security to the security of people. The main components of this concept are achieving ‘freedom from fear’ and ‘freedom from want’ as a part of human freedom. According to this concept, the idea of security is not limited to issues on security such as armed conflict, genocide and mass crimes. More than that, the issues of global poverty, health, development and good governance are considered as important issues on human security. Those issues are global challenges that could be tackled in order to give a sense a security to the people and let people live with dignity.

The idea of protecting people vital core and to empower people that deliberating them from fears and wants could be introduce in Aceh. Along with democratization process in Aceh, the capacity of the people is needed indeed to let them decide their own life by participating on governance process. In this way, the people could decide what they want and need so the policies of government itself is according to their wants and needs, protect them from every threat and help them to empower themselves.

The concept of human security has related to many issues. In this case there are several ways to implement it in post-conflict area in Aceh.

Firstly, the International Organization that concern on this issue could work with a government in promoting Human security and introducing certain ways to implement it in policies of Government. This way is effective if the process becomes a regulation first. The International Organization could promote human security to be part of regulation in Aceh that written in Local Act. By this local act, there should be one institution on Local government in Aceh to guarantee its implementation

Secondly, it could start from the people and civil society. The International Organization could firstly introduce this concept to people and let the civic level transform itself as one power to implement this concept. The civil society could start from empowerment process, make people realize what their wants and need, and help them to reach these goals by working together to get involved in participating on democratization process. People could work on achieving the implementation of human security by pushing the government towards government policies.

Finally, the implementation of human security could be emphasized on cooperation between government, civil society and international organization. By giving much job on protection to the Government and empowerment to civil society, this concept could fit the post-conflict Aceh development plan.


Aspinall, Edward. 2005. Aceh/Indonesia Conflict Analysis and Option for Systemic Conflict Transformation in

Commission on Human Security. 2003. Human Security Now. New York

Kingsbury, Damien. A Mechanism to End Conflict in Aceh in Security Chalenges. Vol 1 Number 1. 2005

Tornquist, Olle. 2010. ACEH: The Role of Democracy for Peace and Reconstruction. Yogyakarta: PCD Press

 *This paper has been presented in Japan Short-Term Study Program on Human Security, Osaka School of International Public Policy, Osaka University, Japan on 22 February 2012. Edited on 12 November 2014.


3 comments on “Implementing Human Security in Post-Conflict Aceh*

  1. landscapetsunami
    Agustus 17, 2012

    Hi check out our blog on Aceh …

    we are students, trying to find out what its like there now …

    • jabalsab
      Agustus 31, 2012

      I’ve been checking your blog. If there’s anything I can help, you can directly contact me by email:

      • landscapetsunami
        Agustus 31, 2012

        Hello Jabalsab…good to hear from you! We’re very happy that you’ve been checking our landscapetsunami blog and we will certainly contact you again soon with some questions about Aceh…. Thanks. landscapetsunami (Chris, Anthony and Averil)

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