Developing a Movement? Aid-Based Mediated Diffusion as a Strategy to Promote Labour Activism in post-Tsunami Aceh

05 January 2017

In this article we examine the extent to which mediated diffusion through trade union development aid succeeded in helping to establish a labour movement in Aceh after the 2004 tsunami. The international labour movement organisations involved in the post-tsunami reconstruction effort in Aceh focused their efforts primarily on humanitarian aid, physical infrastructure and vocational education. However, they also supported trade union-building programs, which succeeded in strengthening individual trade unions and instilling a sense of shared identity amongst Acehnese labour activists but ultimately failed to ensure the sustainability of the movement. We argue that while the Aceh case highlights the importance of local context to the outcomes of such interventions, the constraints imposed on international labour donors and their local counterparts by their focus on reconstruction and the time pressures of the post-tsunami aid cycle raise questions about the efficacy of the aid model as a means of promoting the growth of a social movement.