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Haiti Donors Conference

In foreign policy, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, United States on April 15, 2009 at 6:21 pm

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Remarks at the Haiti Donors Conference

Well, thank you very much, and I congratulate the IDB, President Moreno and the staff for hosting this important donors conference. I thank Secretary General Ban Ki-moon not only for the United Nations commitment, but your personal commitment with the recent trip that you took with my husband to Haiti. And I congratulate the prime minister for an excellent plan that was laid out and clearly explained, and now presented to all of us. And to Minister Oda, thank you and your government for linking the aid that we hope comes from this donors conference with the effectiveness that needs to be present.

Now, for some of us, Haiti is a neighbor, and for others of us, it is a place of historic and cultural ties. But for all of us, it is now a test of resolve and commitment. Now, some may ask, and I am sure there are some in my country and my Congress who may ask, why a small nation in the middle of the Caribbean should command so much attention. Why should countries in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, the Middle East and Asia offer assistance to Haiti in the midst of a global economic downturn (inaudible)? And I think the answer is very clear. Because what happens in Haiti affects far beyond the Caribbean and even the region. This small nation of 9 million people is on a brink. It is on a brink of either moving forward with the help of the collective community or falling further back. And it, as well as this region, will be shaped to a large extent by the decisions that we make.

On a personal note, my husband and I went to Haiti for the first time shortly after we were married, so we have a deep commitment to Haiti and the people of Haiti. Our homes are filled with art from Haiti. We have friends who hail from Haiti. But it is not only my personal concern that brings me here today. On behalf of the United States, we are here because Haiti is a neighbor and a friend. Our ties reach back to the early years of both of our nations. They have endured for generations, through our struggles for independence, through the defeat of slavery in Haiti which inspired slaves and abolitionists in my country, to the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who have emigrated to the United States and have strengthened us through their contributions in politics and business and health and education, in science, sports, and culture – the benefits of which I experienced firsthand as a senator representing New York, which has a vibrant Haitian American community.
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Remarks With Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis After Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 15, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. I am so delighted to extend a warm welcome to the prime minister of Haiti and to her distinguished delegation. She and I were together at the donors conference on behalf of Haiti yesterday. And as you know, I will be traveling to Haiti tomorrow.

But before I turn to the important issues that we discussed today about Haiti, I’d like to take a moment to discuss an issue that affects us all, and that is the scourge of piracy. The attempted capture of the Maersk Alabama and the attack yesterday on the Liberty Sun off the coast of Somalia are just the most recent reminders that we have to act swiftly and decisively to combat this threat. These pirates are criminals. They are armed gangs on the sea. And those plotting attacks must be stopped, and those who have carried them out must be brought to justice.

Last weekend, we were all inspired by the courage and heroism of Captain Phillips and his crew, and by the bravery and skill of the U.S. Navy. These men are examples of the best that America has to offer. And I salute and thank them. But now it falls to us to ensure that others are not put into a similar situation. As I said last week, we may be dealing with a 17th century crime, but we need to bring 21st century solutions to bear.

I want to commend the work that this Department’s anti-piracy task force has already done, along with their counterparts throughout our government. In the past several months, we have seen the passage of a robust United Nations Security Council resolution, a multinational naval deployment, improved judicial cooperation with maritime states and an American-led creation of a 30-plus member International Contact Group to coordinate our efforts.

But we all know more must be done. The State Department is actively engaged with the White House and other agencies in pursuing counter-piracy efforts, both unilaterally and in concert with the international community. This Friday, a steering group that includes State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the intelligence community, will meet to consider recent events and potential responses.
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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton concludes his remarks to the Haiti Donors Conference at the Inter-American Development Bank

in Washington.

Tuesday April 14, 2009

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton concludes his remarks to the Haiti Donors Conference at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington April 14, 2009.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton concludes his remarks to the Haiti Donors Conference at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington April 14, 2009.

Paul Farmer (2nd R), co-founder of Partners In Health and board member of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, laughs with former U.S. President Bill Clinton (R) at the Haiti Donors Conference at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, April 14, 2009. Also pictured are Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno (2nd L) and Haiti's Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis (L).

Paul Farmer (2nd R), co-founder of Partners In Health and board member of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, laughs with former U.S. President Bill Clinton (R) at the Haiti Donors Conference at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, April 14, 2009. Also pictured are Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno (2nd L) and Haiti's Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis (L).

Haiti's Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis (L) speaks with former U.S. President Bill Clinton at the Haiti Donors Conference at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington April 14, 2009.

Haiti's Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis (L) speaks with former U.S. President Bill Clinton at the Haiti Donors Conference at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington April 14, 2009.

HAITI: Donors Pledge 125 Million Dollars to Rebuild After Storms

WASHINGTON, Apr 15 (IPS) – International donors have pledged 324 million dollars over the next two years in additional aid to help Haiti recover from food riots and damage to roads and other key infrastructure caused by four hurricanes that ravaged Latin America’s poorest nation last summer.The commitments were made during an all-day, all-star meeting that featured former U.S. President Bill Clinton, his wife and current secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the heads of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), among others, at the headquarters of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) here Tuesday.

The new commitments, including 41 million dollars to reduce the government’s anticipated deficit this year, came amid growing concern that Haiti’s economy faces daunting challenges not only in recovering from the hurricanes that effectively erased 15 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) last year, but also in coping with the global financial crisis which, among other effects, has reduced remittances to Haiti from the U.S.

For the first time in several decades, the economy’s growth in 2007 – 3.4 percent – exceeded the increase in its population. But the hurricanes, which hit the country’s third-largest city, Gonaives, particularly hard, more than reversed the advances of the previous year. Losses were estimated at some one billion dollars, while more than 800 people were killed by the flooding and tens of thousands were displaced from their homes.

“Haiti’s economy was beginning to show the first signs of a turnaround,” noted World Bank President Robert Zoellick, who visited Haiti shortly after the storms, “but the results haven’t yet reached critical mass or visibility. Now, set back once again by global recession, there is a real danger that we fail to seize the moment of Haiti’s promise,” he noted, adding, “long-term ‘Haiti fatigue’ may prove more devastating to the country’s future than natural disasters.”

Just last month, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) warned that serious instability could ensue if donors failed to sharply increase their assistance in the wake of last April’s food riots, which resulted in the ouster of the then-Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis, and the following summer’s hurricanes.

“The socio-economic situation is worse than at the time of the April 2008 riots and the fall of the Alexis government,” said Bernice Robertson, the group’s senior Haiti expert, when the report was released in early March.

“We are treading on very fragile ground,” declared Haiti’s new prime minister, Michele Duvivier-Louis, during the opening session of Tuesday’s meeting. “If no action is taken now the consequences will be catastrophic.”

Haiti’s urban areas, she noted, were filled “with unemployed young men and women whose future looks absolutely grim.”

“This small nation of nine million is on a brink,” agreed Hillary Clinton, who plans to meet with President Rene Preval during a visit Haiti Thursday on her way to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. “It is on a brink of either moving forward with the help of the collective community or falling further back.”

Clinton said Washington will provide 287 million dollars in non-emergency to Haiti this year, most of which will be devoted to infrastructure, agricultural development, debt relief, and security, which, despite the natural disasters, has improved sharply over the last several years due largely to the efforts of the Brazilian-led U.N. 9,000-strong peacekeeping force, MINUSTAH.

In addition to aid, Washington has provided Haiti with duty- and quota-free treatment to Haitian garment exports guaranteed over 10 years under its Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE II) Act of 2006.

Development economist Paul Collier, who has acted as Ban’s special adviser on Haiti, has praised HOPE II as “best trade deal on earth” and one that could, given needed investments in energy and infrastructure, create tens of thousands of jobs in a country where unemployment is estimated at 70 percent and some one million young people are expected to enter the job market over the next five years.

In addition, Haiti is on track to meet the conditions for gaining one billion dollars in debt relief from the IDB, the IMF, and the World Bank as early as the end of June. IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said debt cancellation would free up to 48 million dollars a year for projects to reduce poverty and promote economic growth.

“Haiti is at a turning moment,” said Ban, who traveled to the Caribbean nation with former President Clinton and Haitian-American rapper Wyclef Jean last month. “It may count among the world’s poorer nations. Yet the plain and simple fact is that its prospects, today, are better than almost any other emerging economy.”

Clinton, whose intervention in Haiti in 1994 resulted in the restoration of civilian rule and whose foundation supports a number of projects there, echoed that view in the conference keynote address. “Haiti’s got a chance, the best chance in my lifetime,” he said. “Haiti has good leaders. Haiti has a good plan, only you can give them the capacity to do it,” he told the donors.

The Haitian government is hoping that President Barack Obama will yield to appeals by Preval and Duvivier-Louis to grant “temporary protected status” (TPS) to tens of thousands of undocumented Haitians – as it has done for Central Americans after natural disasters. TPS, which was repeatedly denied to Haitians by the administration of President George W. Bush, would permit them to work here and send money back home. The issue is reportedly under review by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The U.S. is Haiti’s biggest bilateral donor, although Canada, France, and Japan – all of which sent senior officials to Wednesday’s conference – have also provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid in recent years.

Canada’s Minister of International Co-operation, Beverley Oda, announced Tuesday that Ottawa was on track to meet its commitment of 555 million dollars in aid to Haiti over five years, making it the largest per capita bilateral donor.

The Haitian government has worked closely with donors in developing a two-year recovery plan designed, among other things, to create 150,000 jobs. Zoellick called for improved co-ordination among the donors, particularly reducing the administrative and accounting burden on Haiti’s weak government bureaucracy, channeling more aid through the national budget, and aligning funding with priority projects.
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