Today, Secretary Clinton delivered remarks at the Haiti Donors Conference, hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC. Secretary Clinton will travel to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago on April 16 through 19. While in Haiti, Secretary Clinton will meet with President Rene Preval to discuss issues of common concern including stability, security and assistance.
At today's conference, Secretary Clinton said: "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."
The Secretary added, "Now, like many nations, Haiti struggles against crime, particularly the global scourge of drug trafficking. But reforms to improve policing, strengthening the justice system and fighting corruption are now underway. And a peacekeeping force, led so ably by Brazil, has helped to bring stability to many communities. Haiti made these strides through the efforts of its government and its citizens and many of the nations and institutions represented here. This represents the full range of resources and relationships, from businesses and universities to NGOs and religious and cultural groups, as well as committed individuals, which is at the heart of smart power.
The trajectory of progress for Haiti, however, has been undermined by the combined winds of hurricanes and the global economic recession. So Haiti is in danger of stalling. This conference gives us all an opportunity to reignite its path to progress by working as a team with Haiti at the helm to advance a comprehensive, long-term strategy for Haiti’s growth, by coordinating hemispheric and international efforts, by targeting clear goals, by setting benchmarks to gauge our progress, and deploying our diverse skills and resources efficiently and effectively.
The president and the prime minister have identified what Haiti needs to stay on track. And with these priorities as our guide, we can make progress. Now is the time to step up our investment in Haiti, not just because the situation is dire and because the consequences of inaction could lead to significantly greater human suffering, but because Haiti has a real opportunity to make substantial progress. It has a plan to do so, and it has demonstrated the determination to carry it out.
Just think, for $150 we can pay to send one Haitian child to school for a year, or we can immunize 15 children. That is a tiny fraction of the costs of solving these problems if they escalate over time. The United States will target our support toward four areas that President Preval and Prime Minister Pierre-Louis have requested, all of which are essential for national and regional progress. First, the Haitian people need and deserve to be secure. They must be able to travel safely to work and school, and participate in civic lives without fear of violence. Second, the country needs stronger infrastructure, particularly roads, which are the circulatory system of any robust economy. And going along with the infrastructure needs is the need for jobs. So we can accomplish two things at once: putting people to work, building roads and other infrastructure throughout the country.
Third, last year’s hurricanes blew a hole in the government’s budget. Now Haiti is facing a huge deficit which will make it harder for them to meet their own goals and the needs of their people. Their debt obligations further constrain their ability to lay the groundwork for the future. And fourth, agriculture – you heard the prime minister refer to it – once again, providing a strong agricultural base for the people of Haiti to become more self-sufficient, as well as to move toward reforestation as part of that agricultural initiative, will give Haiti tools for growth it desperately needs. Now on each of these issues, we will lend our assistance and we seek partners with other nations to maximize our collective impact."
Further, Secretary Clinton said, "Now, this work is not only a matter for governments, but it is a mission for the people of our country. I’ve heard from many individuals and groups who care deeply about Haiti, but they don’t know how to invest their time and money in a way to make a real impact. We will, through our government, help to create a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that the Haitian Diaspora and the United States can contribute to. And we will help coordinate other NGOs, particularly those that have been started by Haitian Americans who want to give back and are looking for the best way forward."
At the conclusion of her remarks, Secretary Clinton said, "Every poor nation that has worked hard to gain a foothold in the global economy that has been knocked off their footing is looking to see what we can do together. I’m confident that we will make not only significant pledges here, but we will match those pledges by our follow-up efforts and our coordination, and that we will demonstrate to ourselves as well as to the people of Haiti and far beyond that we can, working together, make a significant difference."
Read the Secretary's full remarks here.