Clinton on Haiti

March 31, 2010 By Jordan Smith

 width=The United Nations’ international donors conference for Haiti kicks off today in New York. Secretary Clinton is expected to pledge an additional $1 billion to rebuild the earthquake-devastated nation. “We are completely focused on how to build the capacity of the Haitian government effectively,” said Cheryl Mills, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s chief of staff.  Former President Bill Clinton is expected to co-chair the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission with the Haitian Prime Minister, which will oversee the funds. The conference will be guided by a blueprint released by the Haitian government, with input from some two dozen organizations including the UN and the Inter-American Development Bank, earlier this month. The government estimates that it will take $11.5 billion to rebuild the country’s basic infrastructure. Haitian President René Préval says his guiding principle and top priority for aid dispersion is “Decentralization.”

Speaking to PBS, Secretary Clinton said that Haiti has been a priority for the administration since its inception. “I had my chief of staff and counselor, Cheryl Mills, work in a whole-of-government approach and we sent a lot of experts from government agencies here in the U.S. And we worked closely with the Haitian Government. President Preval had his own national development plan and we wanted to support that insofar as we could.” Once the earthquake hit, she said, they were prepared, and could apply the developed plans.

Clinton also answered the question about whether aid money would be better spent at home. “Haiti has been in the past a security and immigration challenge to us. We have people who risk everything to get on creaky little boats to try to make it to our shores. So it’s not a problem that is way over there – hundreds of miles off our coast. It is often a problem that we live with right here at home. But secondly, we now have a broad base of international support. This is not the United States coming in and saying, ‘Oh, let us fix it.’ This is the United States, along with international organizations and countries from France to Canada to Brazil to Japan, saying we all will play a role. Half of – nearly half of all American households have contributed to Haiti relief.”

She reflected on America’s response to Haiti thus far: “If you take what we started at the State Department, which was the SMS texting message for $10 cell phone contributions, first to the Red Cross and then to the Clinton Bush Fund, $32 million to Red Cross, $31 million just through that one means of contributing, over $700 million contributed from Americans to their churches or to other organizations that they had confidence in, plus the United States has spent many hundreds of millions dollars in deploying USAID and deploying the military and so much else. So we are already invested, and we don’t want that investment to go to waste. We want that investment to realize a positive outcome.

Photo Credit: UN