Haiti Ministerial Preparatory Conference

Press Conference
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Montreal, Canada
January 25, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Minister Cannon, and thanks to you and Prime Minister Harper and your government for hosting this conference. The United States looks forward, working with everyone here and all of the other participants, to move toward a conference in New York in March.

Today, we agreed on key principles that will guide our effort, including the leadership of the Government of Haiti and close cooperation among the international community. I’m very grateful to Prime Minister Bellerive and President Preval for their leadership and guidance as we commence this important effort. It is clear that the Government of Haiti has, under the most difficult circumstances, provided leadership. And we intend to support the government so that this is truly a Haitian-led effort, one that responds to the aspirations and the needs of the Haitian people.

I especially want to thank the United Nations and particularly Brazil, who has contributed so generously to the work at the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, and also to the other countries, some of whom are present today – Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, and others – who are making additional contributions to this UN mission.

We know that the extent of this devastation is almost more than any of us can grasp, but day by day, we have to make progress. Relief workers continue to operate around the clock to distribute more aid to more people. The generosity of countless millions of citizens around the globe continues to be manifest and making a contribution to those relief efforts. Banks, shops, and markets are starting to reopen. So, today was better than yesterday, and I am hopeful that tomorrow will be better than today for the Haitian people.

But as we plan for the transition from emergency assistance to long-term investment and reconstruction, it’s imperative that we maintain this spirit of not only cooperation, but coordination. And to that end, the statement that has been presented following this conference sets out the principles for our cooperation and coordination, strategic long-term objectives, and the beginning of a roadmap that can lead us where we intend to go.

It’s important that we see ourselves as partners with Haiti – not patrons – that we work intensely together to produce results that can be seen and felt by the Haitians themselves. Our goal is a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Haiti. Many of us have a great commitment to Haiti that precedes the tragedy of the earthquake, and the Obama Administration was committed to working with Haiti, and we stand ready to continue to do all that we can to help realize this better future for the Haitians. And I thank all of our partners in this effort.

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QUESTION: Thank you. I’d like to direct my question, if I may, to the two largest donors, the United States and Canada, and the question really is: Who’s driving the bus? I ask that because granted that this is all supposed to be under the leadership of the Government of Haiti, the prime minister has been candid in his remarks today about the severe limits on the capabilities of the Government of Haiti, especially where it counts, in Port-au-Prince. And therefore I’m interested in knowing why today’s declaration is so vague about the coordination, which would seem to be key. It’s certainly been a problem in the emergency phase, and no doubt it will be in the reconstruction phase. So who is driving the bus and why is it so vague? How are you going to decide, who’s going to decide, who is leading the way in what area? Because there’s nothing on that so far in this.

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SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. I think that the statement which was produced at the end of the conference is a good guidepost for how we intend to proceed. The Government of Haiti, as Foreign Minister Cannon just said, must be and will be in the lead. We all recognize that the Government of Haiti has suffered a very serious blow to its capacity and therefore we are coming together on behalf of the international community to work with the Haitian Government to establish the kind of coordinating mechanism that I think you’re referring to.

There are some other examples that we will look to. Just one to mention is what happened after the tsunami, another very large natural disaster. And particularly how the Government of Indonesia worked with the World Bank, the United Nations, an executive committee of donor nations.

We are going to, in the next weeks, determine the right approach to follow, but it will always put the sovereignty and the leadership of Haiti in the lead. That’s not only the right thing to do, but given what we have learned over many years about development, it is the smart approach. Now, we cannot any longer in the 21st century be making decisions for people and their futures without listening and without giving them the opportunity to be as involved and make as many decisions as possible.

So we will be coming forth with an approach that we think takes into account the principles that are in the statement reflecting the longer-term strategic objectives and moving toward a roadmap toward Haiti’s reconstruction and development.

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MODERATOR: The last question comes from Edward Luce, from Financial Times. Sorry.

QUESTION: Being the last questioner, all my questions have already been asked, so – (laughter). If I could, could I ask, Secretary Clinton, as the host of the meeting in New York in March, whether between now and then, you are to set targets that you want to achieve – financial numerical targets?

And also, at the risk of irritating everybody, could I return to the last question – but one? And one of the things you mentioned under targets for that meeting is to agree on an effective coordination mechanism. You’ve all stressed the importance of that. Clearly, one of the ways of doing that is having a single point of accountability, is having a point-person. Is that completely out of consideration?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say we are in the process of determining the most effective way forward. And I think there are a number of models that we will be examining. As Foreign Minister Cannon said, there will be some technical meetings between now and the meeting in New York. Those technical meetings will look at needs assessment and sectoral investment and coordination. So there’s a lot of work to be done.

Remember we are, as Bernard Kouchner just said, we are still in an emergency. There is a terrible humanitarian crisis that we are dealing with. As Prime Minister Bellerive said, we don’t yet feed all of the people, we don’t yet have water for them, we have so many who have been grievously injured. Those who have received medical care, many of them have amputated limbs and there are no prosthetics. There are no places to sleep.

So we are moving very rapidly. In fact, I think that the extraordinary outpouring of not just the support on the ground but the willingness for many nations to come today, to have gone to Santo Domingo, to be working toward the conference in New York, it’s a wonderful tribute to the generosity and humanitarian caring of the people of the world. It cuts across all boundaries, and that’s the way it should be.

So we’re trying to do this in the correct order. Sometimes people have pledging conferences and pledge money they don’t have any idea what they’re going to do with it. We actually think it’s a novel idea to do the needs assessment first, and then the planning, and then the pledging. So it may seem different from what you’re used to, where people come together and make all kinds of promises, many of which never get realized because the follow-up work is never done in the way that creates confidence in the donors.

So we are committed to, as best as it can be, doing this in a way that builds confidence in the international community and among donor states and donor organizations and individuals, coming forward with a needs assessment that looks at the entire country because, as Prime Minister Bellerive said today, you can’t look at just Port-au-Prince and the immediate area. You have to look at all of Haiti and figure out how we’re going to decentralize power and aid and the other kinds of necessities.

So I think we’re off to a cautiously positive start, given the extraordinary challenges we’re up against. But we’re going to work really hard to do this in a way that, at the end of it, people can look back and say they took their time, they did it right, but they were as forcefully committed as it was possible. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve here.

MODERATOR: Thank you. This concludes the press conference today. Thank you all for coming.

PRN: 2010/T20-3