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Grassroots Development and Upwards Accountabilities: Tensions in the Reconstruction of Aceh's Fishing Industry


  • Rowan Dixon,

    1. works at the Ministry for the Environment in Wellington, New Zealand where he manages environmental cooperation programmes with New Zealand's Asian trade partners and advises on trade and environment policy. He conducted this research while at the University of Otago and has research interests in environmental policy.
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  • Andrew McGregor

    1. (corresponding author) is a senior lecturer in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand/Aotearoa (e-mail: He is author of Southeast Asian Development (Routledge, 2008). His research focuses on political ecology, power and foreign aid.
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We would like to acknowledge everyone who gave up their time to participate in this research, particularly Crispen Wilson, Luke Swainson and Jane Dunlop for assistance in Aceh. We would also like to thank the anonymous referees of the journal for their helpful comments. The research was supported by grants from the University of Otago, the Ron Lister Trust, NZAID and Education NZ.


This article explores the tensions between aid funding and grassroots development goals in the context of post-disaster fisheries reconstruction in Aceh, Indonesia. We argue that both short- and long-term grassroots goals are distorted by upward accountability requirements which lead to unsatisfactory aid outcomes. Our analysis employs the concept of aid webs and draws on fifty-one formal interviews with stakeholders in Aceh in 2007/2008. The findings initially concentrate on the impacts of upward accountability on project cycles, with a particular focus on the problematic incorporation of private boat-building contractors and commercial values during the implementation phase. We then discuss the more subtle, long-term impacts of upward accountability on the professionalization of community institutions — in this case, the Panglima Laot Lhok. We conclude with a few observations about the hybrid institutions — combining elements of local and development cultures — that are produced within the current political economy of aid.