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President Clinton’s Address to the United Nations Security Council

9 September 2009
United Nations Secretary-General Department of Public Information

President Clinton: Let me begin by thanking you, Madam President, for inviting me to this meeting, Mr. Annabi for his work and Prime Minister Pierre-Louis for her truly outstanding leadership. I would also like to thank Security Council Ban Ki-moon – whom I am still inclined to thank for asking me to become United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti – and Under-Secretary-General Le Roy for their support for Haiti’s building effort.

My wife Hillary and I first traveled to Haiti in December 1975, before many of you in this Chamber were born and just two months after we had married. Ever since then, I have been completely captivated by the promise and peril of that country; by its unique culture and history; by the gifts and the spirit of its people and the burdens of oppression, abuse and neglect that they have suffered; and by the beauty and bounty of the land and the barrenness that plunder and poverty have brought.

When I was President, I worked with many of you in the United Nations to end the violent military dictatorship there and to restore an elected President. And when President Préval succeeded President Aristide, I did what I could to support him in his first term within the limits imposed by the United States Congress, which was then hostile or indifferent towards our Haitian neighbors – a condition that, I am glad to say, no longer exists. There is an enormous amount of support for Haiti in the new Administration and in the United States Congress.

In spite of the devastation caused by last year’s hurricanes and storms, in spite of the absence of basic infrastructure and the inadequacies in health, education and other areas, and in spite of deforestation and its consequences, which are very severe, I am convinced that Haiti has a remarkable opportunity to escape the chains of its past, for several reasons.

First, the President, the Prime Minister and their Government are committed to building a modern State with a diversified economy, and they have the understanding and the capacity to do so. Secondly, Haitians, including a substantial diaspora in the United States, France and Canada and elsewhere, are hopeful and committed to contributing to a better future. Thirdly, both multinational and national donors have made substantial pledges of aid, not just to alleviate misery, but to help to build a modern, sustainable society. Fourthly, thousands of non-governmental organizations are already doing useful work there. Fifthly, Haiti’s neighbors have recognized that Haiti is part of our neighborhood and that, perhaps for the first time, by virtue of that recognition, all of us have a responsibility to help the Haitian people change their present and their future. This new embrace can be seen in Brazil’s outstanding leadership of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), in the positive initiatives of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organization of American States, in the promise of the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2008 (HOPE II), adopted last year by the United States Congress, and in the support that Haiti has received from two countries in our hemisphere, Venezuela and Cuba, with which the United States is often found not cooperating. In other words, in our neighborhood, there is a deep, wide sense that we can and should support Haiti.

As Special Envoy, I have no responsibility for the peacekeepers, although I do appreciate their contributions to improving security. I am grateful to every country that has contributed troops. Nor does my job entail any involvement in domestic Haitian politics. That is up to the Haitian people. My mandate, instead, is to work with the Government and the people of Haiti, the United Nations agencies involved in-country, the donor community, potential investors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and diaspora groups to do the following six things.

First, we seek to support the implementation of the Haitian Government’s recovery program, focusing on generating new jobs, enhancing delivery of basic services and being more sensitive to the needs of Haiti’s middle class, including, as the Prime Minister just emphasized to me, the shortage of decent housing for public-sector employees. Nor can we forget that 50 percent of all households in Haiti are headed by women and that, while maternal mortality rates are amongst the highest in the world, so far, of all the aid pledges, only 1.5 percent go towards women’s empowerment issues.

The second part of our mandate is to ensure that the recovery effort has assistance at the level of commitment we had when I did this work for the United Nations in the tsunami-affected areas. Our goal is to build back better – better schools, hospitals and housing, better public facilities and infrastructure, and much more effective disaster prevention and mitigation. Those here who were involved in the post-tsunami rebuilding know that that part of our endeavor was extremely successful, and I hope it will be here.

Thirdly, we seek to encourage more private sector investment in Haiti, with a focus on opportunities available now and on the need to make Haiti even more competitive to maximize its investment potential. We need to be promoting, at first, the opportunities that exist and that have been made possible by the more secure environment to which MINUSTAH has contributed so much.

In a few weeks, I will lead a trade mission to Haiti to explore investment opportunities. In August, the Government shortened the length of time it takes between filing an investment proposal and its approval. That is a very good beginning, but we need to do more to rebuild the roads, the infrastructure and the power supply necessary to advance agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. Given the untapped economically viable opportunities for clean energy and greater energy efficiency, there is also no reason why Haiti cannot become much more energy independent in a way that will create substantial numbers of new jobs and cut long-term costs to business, Government and individual citizens.

I see that Costa Rica is currently a member of the Security Council. Participants might want to ask that country’s representative what the economic benefits of being the most clean energy country in the world are. Every Caribbean country can achieve such energy efficiency due to the benefits of size, temperature and sunlight, but my focus is on what it can mean for the poorest country in our neighborhood, Haiti.

Fourthly, I will seek to urge philanthropists, NGOs and civil society groups to invest more financial and human resources and to work more closely together. My team is currently working on a NGO database to map out who is doing what to help us better coordinate the literally thousands of NGOs working in Haiti today. That is something that we did in the aftermath of the tsunami with quite exceptional success. Coordinating the work of NGOs with that of the host Government, the United Nations agencies and others can have a very tangible and real impact on the population, especially in a country like Haiti which, with the single exception of India, has more NGOs per capita working there than any other nation in the world.

Fifthly, I hope be able to project a more positive image of Haiti to the international community so as to push it into the spotlight, not as some sort of lost cause, but as a country genuinely primed to claim a bright future.

Sixthly, I hope to involve the Haitian diaspora to an extent never before seen. It is a very impressive group, not just in the United States, but also in Canada and Europe. Recently, I attended the second annual meeting of the Haitian diaspora in the United States in Miami and hosted leaders from the Haitian community in the northeastern United States in my office in Harlem in New York. I will continue this engagement.

Finally, Haiti can succeed, but not without the help of the Security Council and the United Nations. I urge all who made commitments during last April’s donor conference and in the immediate aftermath to begin actually funding them as soon as possible. An estimated $760 million have been pledged to the Government of Haiti since then, but so far only $21 million have been disbursed. The contributions that participants generously pledged are urgently needed now – now to create jobs, now to restore services, now to fund the public budget, now to help patient parents who cannot afford to send their children to private schools, now to build back better and finish prevention and mitigation projects that will minimize any storm damage that comes this year and create lots of new jobs.

I ask participants to help me to ensure that the commitments made by all Member States are honored in a way that is consistent with the priorities of the Haitian Government’s plan. Every now and then, the Prime Minister, the President and I get criticized by someone in the press in Haiti claiming that this mandate is some vast colonial conspiracy by me to take over Haiti. I assure the Council that that is not true. My sole goal is to help them to do what they have decided they want to do, and their knowledge and judgment on that score are far, far superior to mine.

Anything that we can do expedite the actual distribution of aid is going to have a positive impact on the lives of ordinary Haitians. There will be transparency, accountability and effectiveness in this process. I believe that the United States Government will fulfill its commitments in this way, and I am grateful for the personal interest of the Secretary of State and her Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills. They have made a real personal commitment, and Cheryl has already been to Haiti twice to support the Government in its priorities. Beyond the commitments of the Government and multilateral donors, some significant new individual commitments have already been made, even in advance of the trade mission. The Soros Economic Development Fund has launched its Haiti Invest Project, an equity investment programme with an initial commitment of $25 million and a potential of $150 million. That can do a lot of good in Haiti. Michael Carey, an Irish businessman, and a group of his colleagues recently established the Soul of Haiti Foundation after a number of visits, and have offered to host a delegation of Haitian business people in Ireland in October. The former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency when I was President, James Lee Witt, has committed $250,000 for disaster-preparedness training for women in Haiti and has already begun identifying training sites in coordination with both the Government and the United Nations. One of my partners in the Global Initiative, an Indian businessman, Desh Deshpande, who feeds a million children a day in India, has committed to work in Haiti to help expand some very impressive school feeding programs already under way there. A citizen of both the Dominican Republic and the United States, Rolando Gonzalez Bunster, who is an energy executive, has offered to install, initially, five Vestas windmills made in Denmark, which can provide economical, renewable energy at competitive prices within just a few months. We know that there is enormous untapped potential both for wind and solar energy in Haiti. The United Nations is also exploring ways to replicate a community-led recycling project I recently visited in Port-au-Prince, which has the best potential of anything I have seen anywhere to reduce deforestation in a way that creates 10 times as many jobs as the production of charcoal does and cuts the cost.

Essentially, in a neighborhood I visited, a young man and his nine fellow board members have employed people for the first time in picking up and sorting the garbage, and the organic waste is being turned into compost and organic fertilizer. The paper is being recycled with sawdust, and they are turning it into little briquettes about this size. I meant to bring one for every member of the Security Council, but I forgot to bring them down here today. With four of them one can cook dinner; they cost one penny apiece, which is one fifth the cost of cooking dinner with charcoal in Haiti. But the employment necessary to collect the garbage, sort it, produce these briquettes in a hand-held press and then sell them door to door is 10 to 20 times the employment that is generated by cutting down trees that should be left standing and turning them into charcoal.

It is a simple thing to think of a product that costs a penny apiece – it literally could employ hundreds and maybe thousands of people just in Haiti and help us to turn back the tide of deforestation even as we seek to increase agricultural capacity with mangoes, coffee and lots of other products. These are things that are important. In addition to the trade mission, many here will know that the Inter-American Development Bank is going to hold a trade conference on Haiti soon to showcase that country to businesspeople and investors from Latin America and the Caribbean, Canada, the United States and Europe. We are working at this.

Finally, let me say what I have no intention of doing. I will not give the Council one more written analysis of the problems of Haiti. If I file a report, it will be only on what we have actually done or what we have failed to do. I am very grateful for the team that the United Nations has provided, including some fine people who are permanent employees and worked with me on the tsunami.

I am also grateful for the Secretary-General’s appointment of Mr. Paul Farmer as my Deputy. We are both working with the United Nations for $1 a year, and we appreciate the compensation. I have known Paul Farmer for over 15 years. We have worked together in Africa, in Rwanda and Malawi, since 2005. He actually translated for me in 2004 in Haiti when I went there and was working with the Government of that time to help the country with its AIDS problem. His work in the mountains of Haiti to provide affordable and quality health care to some of the poorest people in our neighborhood has been recognized all around the world. He has been involved with Haiti since he was a student in 1983. When I asked my daughter some 12 years ago what she knew about Paul Farmer, she said that he was her generation’s Albert Schweitzer. We are indeed fortunate that he has agreed to be the Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti. He has a lot of personal contact and credibility with the Haitian Government. He has already met with representatives of the United Nations and the non-profit world, including George Soros and Jeffrey Sachs. He has met with Paul Collier’s team, which provided the United Nations with an analysis and set of recommendations on Haiti’s economy. We are all working on this, and we are 100 percent committed to delivering tangible results to the United Nations and, most important, to the people of Haiti.

In closing, let me just ask each member of the Security Council to recognize the actual and potentially critical role that they can play. I am grateful for their support of MINUSTAH and for the security it has provided, which has made possible the progress that has occurred so far. I am hopeful that investments in the socio-economic sphere will match or exceed the contributions that have been committed or those that will be discussed here today with the people who will speak after me.

I have been going to Haiti for nearly 35 years. Two hundred and ten years ago, Haiti was the wealthiest island in the Caribbean. It is now the poorest country in our hemisphere, but when we look at the Haitians here in New York, in Canada and in France, and even at many of the Haitians in Haiti, we see that they are intelligent, creative, innovative and successful. They have suffered from misgovernment, abuse and neglect from within and from their neighbors and partners in the international community. We have a great set of leaders down there now. We can turn this around and because we can, we must.