Port-au-Prince, Haiti

10 March 2009

Secretary-General's press encounter with former U.S. President William J. Clinton [unofficial transcript]

SG: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the media.

When they say that it is easy to come to Haiti and see only poverty, we have come together with President Bill Clinton but we have seen opportunity.

As you know international donors will meet in the middle of April in Washington to decide how much assistance to give this deserving a nation. Outwardly, the signs may not be good; there is a talk of donor fatigue and the effects of the global financial crisis. Yet from Haiti, I think we can deliver good news. Yes, Haiti still remains desperately poor. And it has yet to recover fully from last year's destructive hurricanes. Yet we can report what President Preval told us last night during dinner saying that Haiti is at a turning point.

We have spoken often about the Collier Report and the window of opportunity he identifies. To consolidate all the progress that Haiti has made to move beyond aid to genuine economic development, the country needs one thing above all else, that is they need jobs and we have seen such window of hopes this morning too. And the Collier report lays out such a plan. It identifies specific action, specific steps and specific policies to create those jobs with particular emphasis on textiles and agriculture.

In Washington, we friends of Haiti will lay out this trend. We will tell the world with complete conviction that we can be optimistic about Haiti's future and why.

The signs are everywhere, large and small.

Yesterday, President Clinton and I visited an elementary school in Cite Soleil. We have met more than 1000 young children who are the leaders of this country's future. It did my heart good to see these children. They were well fed. Thanks to the UN World Food Programme and World Bank and many other humanitarian agencies. Even better, they were happy and they were learning, dancing, singing as many other children would do. It is a sign of more normal times despite the hardships of recent years.

We visited a second a school, this one a school for gifted students called HELP –Haitian Educational Leadership Programme. Those of you who were there you have seen it for yourself. HELP raises money, to provide scholarships to the poorest Haitian children who could not otherwise dream of going to University. With HELP, virtually all of these young people go on (to) productive areas. They make good salaries and they embark upon lives of promises and happiness and they stay in Haiti. That was much more encouraging that these highly educated people decide to stay in their own country to help their socio-economic growth. I told them that I was seeing the seas of hope for Haitian countries –they were the seas of hope for this country. We can create these opportunities for many, many more children.

President Preval is right; Haiti is at a turning point. It can slide back into darkness if we do not properly manage it. But with our help, with the help of the international community, it can rise upward into light. It is up to us, working together, Haiti and its friends, to ensure that Haiti emerges once again into the light. Haiti can become a success story of the United Nations and the international community's involvement. This is my conviction, I am sure that President Clinton will agree and we will dedicate ourselves to making it a reality.

Thank you very much. Merci anpil.