The Haitian Donors conference is set for March in New York City. The framework of a 10 year Haitian international rebuild plan was set in Montreal, Canada with representatives from the United States, Haiti, Spain, France, Brazil, Canada, and the European Union. The United States leads in donations for Haiti followed by Canada. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had some time for a one on one to answer questions about American presence in Haiti and how we need to proceed on Haitian issues of housing, debt forgiveness and the extension of temporary protective status for some Haitians in the United States. Haiti is a priority of the Obama administration in the short term and long term. President Obama is expected to address issues of Haiti in his State of the Union Address.
On the plane headed to Canada Sec. Clinton came back to talk with the press about Haiti.
Interview With April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
January 25, 2010
QUESTION: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, thank you so much for your time, and talking to us about issues of Haiti. We are here at this ministerial preparatory conference. You are setting the outline, I guess, for the Haitian donors conference.
Could you talk to me, first of all, about the positives that came out of this conference, and what you see down the road for Haiti?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, April, first of all, thank you for following this story and coming to this conference in Montreal, because I think we established a good framework for how we are going to move forward. It’s only been 12 days since this horrible disaster occurred. But already we have a set of principles about how we want our work to be shaped. We have some long-term strategic objectives, and we have the beginnings of a road map for reconstruction and development.
It is really heartening, and I think your listeners would find it so, that people from across the world are showing their hearts on behalf of Haiti. But it’s not enough that we show compassion. It’s not enough that we contribute to a good charity, or that we bless the use of our tax dollars to help the people of Haiti. We have to have a plan that we can execute on, that we can demonstrate results from on behalf of the people of Haiti.
So, we will be having the next conference, which will try to set all of this in place, in New York in March. Because the United States has a great commitment to the people of Haiti. President Obama and I had already been working on a plan to try to assist the people of Haiti before the earthquake. So we are going to build on that, and we are going to come up with some workable, practical approaches to give the Haitians a better future.
QUESTION: Now, am I correct in understanding that, from this press conference with the ministerial leaders, that it will be 10 years — you have a 10-year plan — correct?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that the time frame that everyone is talking about is 10 years, because we look at other disasters — take, for example, the recent tsunami in Asia over Christmas of 2004 into the new year then. So that’s been five years. And a lot of good work has been done, but there is still work to be completed.
But, for example, in the terrible impact of the tsunami in Indonesia, it didn’t affect the Government of Indonesia. So the Government of Indonesia and most of the country was unaffected. What happened here was so much more devastating, because it just wiped out government buildings, records, public services from schools and hospitals and police stations. The penitentiary was unfortunately damaged, and therefore, all the criminals got out.
So I think most experts believe that we’re talking about, on the low end, a 5-year, on the upper end, a 10-year — of sustained commitment. And then, hopefully, we will have put the Haitian people on a strong foundation.
One other example I would use is think about the terrible genocide in Rwanda. Yet now, about 15 years later, Rwanda is recovering. I mean they lost 800,000 people. It was the worst kind of terrible evil. And yet now their economy is growing, because they had a plan. And the international community stood with them while they implemented that plan.
QUESTION: Well, you speak of that, and Haiti is a whole different — in a whole different boat than many of these other countries: the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. You know, I went there and, I mean, I saw beauty in poverty, because people wanted to survive. And now they are trying to reorganize that survival, and change how they lived before.
And that brings me to something that I found out this week. I talked to Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, and he said his city, five years in, still has a lot of problems. And he says typically it takes a city or a community, to rebuild, 10 to 15 years. You’re talking 10. And New Orleans had buildings that at least met code. They had certain infrastructures that were in place. Haiti doesn’t.
So, do you realistically think 10 years, or maybe even beyond? And, if so, it’s going to go beyond the billions and billions, and maybe into trillions, correct?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t think so, and here is why. I think every disaster is different. There is no doubt that what has happened to Haiti is extraordinarily damaging. If we do this right, though — the countryside was largely unaffected — if we can get economic activity going in the countryside, the farmers able to once again plant and harvest and have markets for their food, there is an opportunity here which is unique, because Haiti has been studied to death. Everybody has an opinion about what needs to be done in Haiti. The problem has been there has never been the political will matched with the resources and the pressure to follow through, as there is now.
So, that’s why 10 years is a time when we will be able to assess how much has happened. Of course, there will continue to be problems and challenges beyond that. But Haiti had those before the earthquake. And part of what we have to do here is to create a different mind set among Haitians themselves. The people in the establishment in Haiti have to understand that their country and their fellow men and women can do better if they are more generous, and share the results of success. The people out in the country have to grasp education as a true vehicle for personal achievement.
So, there is a lot to be done. But I am always struck by how, when Haitians leave their country, come to the U.S. or Canada or France, they are very successful. They are doctors and nurses and teachers and business leaders. And there is no reason that they cannot see that success back in Haiti, if we get the attitudes of people to match the development agenda.
QUESTION: You talked about the countryside. Let’s go beyond Port-au-Prince. What is happening now to help those who are beyond the Port-au-Prince borders who are affected right now? We know that roads are still impassible. But what is this administration doing to help those?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, we are helicoptering in food, water, supplies into areas where there has been an increase in population because people are leaving Port-au-Prince. Many experts, including the prime minister, Prime Minister Bellerive, today said that this is an opportunity that should not be missed.
Port-au-Prince got too big for the size of Haiti, in part, because previous governments did not invest in the countryside. And, therefore, if we can reverse some of that in-migration to Port-au-Prince, and as people are leaving Port-au-Prince to go back to their family homes, if we can provide opportunity back there, then we will have a better chance to develop Port-au-Prince in a more thoughtful way.
QUESTION: Well, let’s talk about migration. You have heard the calls. Many people, to include the NAACP, CBC, they are looking for an extension into the temporary status, the protected status, for many that are here for 18 months. And they are saying it may need to happen beyond. What are your thoughts?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I certainly think we have to stay open to that. I think that the immediate need to provide temporary protected status to the people who are here without documentation was necessary, and the Obama Administration did it. But we have to watch this carefully. You cannot return people until there is some sense of stability and security and opportunity. And I don’t think 18 months is a magic number. So we are going to have to evaluate this as we go forward.
QUESTION: And also, Congresswoman Maxine Waters wants the United States to forgive or help the — get the help from the United States to forgive the debt to the IMF, the World Bank. Is that something that is feasible, especially now, since they need you, they need all your money, all your support?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely, it’s feasible. We are looking at that. We heard presentations today from all three of those — those two organizations, plus the Inter-American Development Bank. They all recognize the need that they face in trying to work through a program for the forgiveness of debt. It’s just unrealistic to think that Haiti would ever, in the far foreseeable future, be able to repay that.
QUESTION: And lastly, housing and security. What are you going to do on the ground there? And how is the U.S. really going to get involved with security over time? Because that is a major issue. And the housing, trying to house these people as they are rebuilding to a new standard, a new building code standard?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, two things. One, as you know, we have sent thousands of our troops — soldiers and Marines — to assist in the delivery of humanitarian supplies, and also to support the UN troops on the ground in providing security. The UN troops have done a good job. The UN mission, led by a Brazilian general, has really made enormous progress in providing law and order, in working on corrections, and many of the other aspects of law enforcement. But they are overwhelmed, and the UN personnel probably will, when it’s all said and done, suffer more than 300 losses. So, this is a big burden for them to assume. But the Security Council has expanded the number of forces that they can take, in both the police training and the units of soldiers to support those that are already there.
So, we are going to work closely with them, because security is paramount, and it has to be in the streets. And, as I said, we have all these people who broke out of the penitentiary. So we have, unfortunately, more than our share of dangerous criminals wandering around now that have to be disarmed and subdued and returned to a prison. But we are really committed to working on the immediate needs of shelter and housing.
We talked today in our meeting about how we can come up with 200,000 tents so that people will have some shelter. We are racing against the clock, because the rainy season starts in a couple of months, and the hurricane season will also return. So we just have to do everything we can, and everyone is committed to that.
QUESTION: And lastly, have you been able to talk to some of these leaders here about what many around the world are saying, this heavy-handedness by the United States in helping? They don’t want the military there, a strong military presence. It’s almost like you’re hearing the same thing with the African Union when there was a concern about bringing AFRICOM there. People don’t want the U.S. military there. What are your thoughts about that? And have you talked to these world leaders about that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have not only talked with them, I have followed the international press very closely. That’s a minority opinion. The much greater majority opinion is that the United States is using its power in a way that everyone can see helps people. We have made it clear we are not there for the long term, this is solely to assist the Haitian Government and the international community and support the UN.
But, boy, are people glad to see us. And I have lots of pictures of Haitians embracing our soldiers, waving at our helicopters, expressing their thanks. So we know that some want to draw some historical parallel that is not applicable, but we are not paying any attention to that. Our goal is to help as many Haitians as possible, and our military is absolutely instrumental in doing that.
QUESTION: Last note, last word from you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Just thank you for following this. This is something that, just as it’s a long-term effort on the ground, we need Americans involved for the long term. And there will be roles and opportunities for people to volunteer, to contribute, to do the kinds of things that America does better than anyone. When we come out with our heart showing in the face of these kinds of catastrophes, it’s the best example of who we are, and the values that we live by.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton. You are awesome. Thanks for having me with you, and doing this interview. You keep your promises.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, ma’am. I try. As you know, we have known each other a long time, April.
QUESTION: A very long time. Take care.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.