Few natural disasters come bigger than the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. It left a trail of destruction from one side of the Indian Ocean to the other. Hardest hit was Aceh in Indonesia’s west where the tsunami killed almost a quarter of a million people, left half a million homeless and destroyed swathes of infrastructure.
The global community responded with the largest military deployment since World War II plus billions in private and public charity. Four years later, Aceh had been rebuilt from the ground up in one of the world’s fastest and most successful disaster reconstruction programs, a stunning achievement given that so many international recovery operations fail.
"Tsunami Chronicles: Adventures in Disaster Management" is a powerful series of six books that tell the inside story. Written by a key insider, they offer a great global case study in disaster risk management, preparedness and reconstruction, and a model of leadership in the politics of recovery and management of operational complexity.
“Consulting in Catastrophe” is the third book in the series. It explains the hidden contribution of technical advisors to emergency response, recovery and reconstruction. The author was senior advisor to the Indonesian Government for tsunami recovery. This is his personal story. Required to deliver excellence in technical leadership, he was derided as an easy target by ignorant critics and self-serving interests who failed to appreciate the critical contribution of consultants as the hidden backbone of recovery. Written with passion and purpose, and no few bruises from the experience, this exposé turns the tables on those who callously abuse their power with seeming impunity.
This extraordinary story of leadership under fire reveals what it is like to be a management consultant trapped in a hothouse of duplicity while helping a devastated community rebuild from an immense human tragedy. It shows how international aid agencies can get things fundamentally wrong, abuse their own consultants and even undermine the host governments they are supposedly there to help. And it offers a detailed critique of the ideological journalism that distorts and derails serious humanitarian contributions with hardly a care for the consequences.
The story will hold special appeal to professional managers and management consultants alike. Global consultants will relate to this tale of treachery, as they will to their role as program thought leaders. It is particularly important for those in the UN, World Bank, Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations and international development agencies who engage consultants and depend on their technical advice in disaster risk management and disaster preparedness, especially as global warming and climate change threaten yet more and even greater natural disasters.