Secretary-General's press encounter with President Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy for Haiti [revised unofficial transcript]
New York, 21 January 2010SG: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am honoured to be joined by President [Bill] Clinton, United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti. I appreciate the strong leadership and commitment of President Clinton, acting as the Envoy of the United Nations, acting as a spokesperson for Haiti. And your leadership and global reach, at this time of need for Haiti, has never been more in demand. And I count on your Fontinuing support and leadership
No one is a better friend for Haiti and for the United Nations.
We had a very good meeting. You will understand that we will now have to move from the emergency response phase to more on-going relief and early recovery, and, eventually, the reconstruction phase of Haitian economy. This is what we have discussed, and I am very much encouraged by such a strong commitment and leadership of President Clinton.
We have three priorities: first, continuing to provide humanitarian assistance with effective mechanisms to deliver all the relief items to the people who need it.
And second, to provide security and stability for people. You have seen the Security Council has approved the increase of 3,500 military and police forces. We have been receiving quite positive responses from Member States. We will be able to deploy them quite quickly.
Thirdly, the reconstruction of the Haitian economy. I am going to dispatch [Emergency Relief Coordinator] John Holmes and [UN Development Programme Administrator] Helen Clark for the ministerial meeting which will be held in Montreal, in Canada, next Monday, 25 January.
The United Nations, together with the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Commission, are going to conduct a post-disaster assessment, which will be used to align with international cooperation for reconstruction.
During my recent visit to Haiti, I have met many people. What they asked us was that, of course, they need water, food and shelter, the basic needs. They need a better future, and permanent jobs, work with dignity. Therefore, I have asked President Clinton if he can work on this Cash for Work programme. Through this Cash for Work programme, we can employ many young men and women who can really devote themselves to the early phase of recovery: cleaning the streets and cleaning demolished places, and also other economic activities.
UNDP has made a Flash Appeal for $41 million. We have not yet received much response from the international community. We hope to have a generous, positive support for that. By creating jobs, by creating work for all these people, this would contribute to revitalize their economy.
I am again glad that President Clinton has committed himself to work together with the United Nations on this. This is something [on] which we will work together. And of course, I will work together with President Préval, Prime Minister Bellerive for better coordinated work, enhancing the institution building of the Haitian Government.
Thank you very much.
President Clinton: Thank you. I will be very brief so we can answer your questions.
I think the Secretary-General has pretty well summed it up, but I would like to tell you what this looks like from my perspective, and what I signed on to do before the earthquake, which was to help the Haitian Government and people implement the development strategy that they themselves had adopted. Now it's really important to get the immediate emergency aid up to scale. There must be maybe 2 million people who need food or water. A million will need shelter. Still unmet medical needs. And Mr. Mulet, the leader of our mission down there, is in Jacmel and Leogane today. He's looking at the other communities that were severely damaged.
I think the Cash for Work programme is the next step, and it's really important. The United States has a lot of experience with that in the Middle East and Afghanistan; it's really important to give young people something positive to do, and a lot of people there want to be a part of rebuilding their country.
And then, what I've been doing beyond that is going back to the investors who came to our investor conference and expressed interest; the people who came to my Global Initiative and made very specific commitments to Haiti, I met with them yesterday in southern Florida; the NGO community that's been working with us – we're trying to get everybody signed on for the long haul. And I'm really encouraged at the way that the UN and the United States and the Government of Haiti have begun working together on the ground.
I personally believe that they're going to be given the opportunity to, in effect, re-imagine their country, through the rebuilding of Port au Prince, the rebuilding of these other places, through opening new airports, opening new ports. And I have specifically urged the people who have made investment commitments there outside the Port au Prince area, where they can be affected now, to go and do it now – 70 percent of the country is living outside the Port au Prince area. And I see getting out of this earthquake as a part of Haiti's larger development strategy and I think it should be integrated into that, and I believe the leaders of Haiti agree with that. And insofar as I can help, I will do it. Thank you.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, could you talk a little bit more about your third point? You said you discussed reconstruction, so could you give us some specifics about the reconstruction.
And President Clinton, you had a plan, as you said, to get investors in there, but you have a huge amount of destruction in front of you. How much do you have to shove down the page and put reconstruction of Port au Prince at the top of the page and get people to focus on that?
SG: When President Clinton and I began to work last year for the reconstruction of the Haitian economy, we had a good plan, and we had received good support. There was an international pledging conference organized by IDP last year in Washington, DC. Now, with this unfortunate tragic disaster, we need to have an assessment, a [inaudible] assessment. That is what the United Nations, World Bank, IDP and the European Commission are going to conduct very soon. After that, on the basis of this, we need to get support from the international community for a more robust economic reconstruction of Haiti. That is what we are going to do. The Flash Appeal which we made last week in the amount $570 million has been receiving good support. But this is for the very limited emergency response. So we may have to have much more international assistance for this reconstruction.
And I need President Clinton's leadership to mobilize political [inaudible] as well as encourage donors and the business communities to invest and provide assistance.
President Clinton: In response to your specific question to me, some of the goals involving the larger Port au Prince area may have to be re-altered. But think New Orleans after Katrina. So the Government will want to have new building standards so that the buildings they rebuild are more hurricane and earthquake-resistant. But they may also be able to do what's being done in the Lower Ninth Ward, and at lower costs build more energy efficient buildings, using all kinds of different materials that are handy to them, that will encourage better sanitation, less deforestation, a lot of other things. This is an opportunity here.
Outside, the Port au Prince area, there should be no delay, if anything there should be an acceleration. The Royal Caribbean Lines resumed immediately its stops in Labadee. If the airport could proceed in Cap Haitien you would get some more investors for resorts there. That is just one example. The reforestation programme in terms of increasing the mangrove trees, that can continue. And I could give you ten other examples outside the area that would only help the rebuilding of Port au Prince by strengthening the infrastructure of the [inaudible] Haitian Government.
Q: President Clinton, there are a lot of people, a lot of individuals interested in donating money to Haiti now, but some concern about how much money actually gets into Haiti. What would you recommend. Should people go to more established charities? What is the best way to help Haitians?
President Clinton: Well first I think, right now, we are still sufficiently in the emergency phase, that we are better off giving cash to people that you know you can trust to turn it into products and services than sending things down there. I did take an airplane full of very specific medial supplies, but only because I had an order list a mile long from the biggest hospital, so that they could do 24-hour a day surgeries. But we don't want materials piling up on the airport. So that's my first recommendation.
My second recommendation is, I think that it's good to give to established groups, but they should be established groups with a heavy presence in Haiti. You know UNICEF, you know the World Food Programme, you know Partners in Health, you know OXFAM, you know World Vision, a faith-based group. You know there are lots of groups that we work with there. I think that right now that is what they need most of all. You are most likely to do the most good with a cash donation, no matter how small, because we are still working out the logistics. A month from now we may put out an appeal just for blankets; we may put out an appeal for a certain kind of tent. But right now, it would be irresponsible, because it's all we can do logistically to deliver what we are purchasing ourselves and bringing in ourselves.
Q: My first question is about how is going to be the cooperation between the Clinton-Bush Fund and the UN – how is the fund going to be managed? How are they going to be addressed in the recovery of Haiti in the long term. And also, Mr. President, you talk about some companies, some people made commitments to the recovery - can you tell me if they are private companies, American companies or foreign?
President Clinton: Let me answer your first question. President [George W.] Bush and I asked the American people who wanted to give money and trusted us to distribute it to give it to us. We hope we will be able to have some of that fund saved for the reconstruction projects. So, for example, suppose the Haitians want to bring in some people that help redesign the urban setting, and figure out how they can create the largest number of jobs and the most energy-efficient buildings and all that – we want to be able to have some money there because we don't know if there will be government money available for it at the time. So we will spend some of our money now, and some later.
The second question you asked was about the private sector. These are by and large businesses that either are operating in Haiti or are interested in operating in Haiti – some American, some European. The coordinator of that effort, Denis O'Brien, is an Irish businessman who owns Digicel, the big cell company there, and employs a very large number of young Haitians selling his cards, and he basically is driving this process for our group and making everybody keep their commitments, so I think you may see some more private sector commitments announced in the next couple of weeks, not just for aid, but for job generation.
Q: President Clinton, who makes the ultimate decision when the Haitian Government says 'I need money for a certain thing' and they propose something to you? Is it your ultimate decision? Can you say no, that is not the way to go? How is the direction there?
President Clinton: Maybe the Secretary-General should answer that instead of me. What they have tried to do, and I admire this so much, and now they are trying to build physical facilities to make it more efficient at the airport. There have been very few authority struggles since this earthquake. You have got the UN there with its coordinating role, with its various agencies delivering direct services, working with the United States, both of them trying to work with the Haitian Government. Thankfully, all the Ministers are now clearly saved, and the President and Prime Minister have been given the opportunity to work out of office space at the airport, so I think they are doing it in a cooperative fashion. In the end it's their country and their future. But when they ask us for something now it is normally evident that they need it and that they have reached the judgment that they need it more than they need something else right now. So far we have not had any conflicts to be resolved in that way.
Q: I asked that question because of your history of working with the Government on the island, so I just wanted to see if you sense that there may be something different this time around, because of the enormity of what you are doing?
President Clinton: Maybe, but when I was down there, I was with the Prime Minister, and President [René] Préval was over in the Dominican Republic, meeting with the donor nations. So, [inaudible] Prime Minister, and I talked to the First Lady when I got back to Florida about building the schools back. The think that impresses me is how, in the midst of this awful tragedy, they are imagining the future. They are really trying to think differently. They understand that for all of the burdens of this they have a bigger responsibility than ever before to give the Haitian people a different and better future. And so all I can tell you is, so far we've got no problems. Maybe we will. I hope we do have some disagreements. If we don't have any, it means someone's not thinking. But so far it's good.