Hundreds of foreign relief workers, it turns out, provided more than medical care and other emergency services to Aceh province in Indonesia following the tsunami a year ago. Their presence is credited by many with encouraging peace between the Acehnese separatist movement and the government. While the tsunami did not have this effect in Sri Lanka, in Aceh the conflict became harder to sustain before the eyes of the world.

If the peace agreement reached in recent months between the separatists and the government turns out to be enduring, it will aid in the recovery of the northwest corner of Sumatra. With an estimated 67,000 Acehnese still living in tents, reconstruction has a long way to go. It has been slowed by confusion over deeds and land rights and by the fact that huge stretches of the formerly built-up coastland of the province were simply washed away. Officials are also concerned that land immediately inland might not be safe to build on.

Fatigue over the unresolved conflict was one factor in moving the separatists, in particular, to peace talks in Helsinki even before the tsunami struck. The separatists have turned in weapons and demilitarised. The challenge will be to ensure that this unexpected benefit of the disaster is sturdier than all the buildings swamped by the waves. — The Boston Globe