This chapter presents an examination of the role of the Panglima Laot (translation: sea commander) customary institution in the recovery of fisheries communities in Aceh following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, as well as the roles and relationships of other actors from the perspective of the Panglima Laot local leaders and institution. The roles of the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) of Aceh-Nias, the local government and international and local non-governmental organizations (NGO) are also analyzed in order to understand the broader recovery process, the interactions between these different stakeholders, and the types of loss and damage systems relevant to coastal fishing communities affected by the tsunami.
Based on a review of the academic literature, an analysis of documents published by humanitarian and government organizations engaged in Aceh’s recovery and key informant interviews with representatives of Panglima Laot, local government agencies and international and local humanitarian organizations, our findings show that the Panglima Laot leaders and institution were instrumental in the recovery of Aceh’s coastal fishing communities. Importance lies in the trust people have in the institution and its community leaders; their role as mediators between communities, government and NGOs, and their leadership in implementing, monitoring and evaluating livelihood recovery programmes that address community needs. External agencies recognized these capacities and some provided financial and technical support to strengthen the institution further.
In conclusion, we argue that the case of the Panglima Laot, positioned within the context of wide-scale disaster recovery interventions, offers lessons for actors engaged in localized post-disaster operations that aim to build resilience. Lessons in particular are around the importance of leadership, community engagement and people-centered recovery approaches.