Remarks With Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
As some of you know, when I came into office as Secretary, I made Haiti a foreign policy priority and committed to working to change the way that we partnered with Haiti, moving from working in Haiti to working with Haiti. And in the 30 months – actually, more than that, because we started before the earthquake. And then once the earthquake happened, we scrambled to make sure we were being a good partner in helping Haiti recover from such devastation, but at the same time, working with them to help build a firm foundation for more prosperity and stability.
So today, the Prime Minister and I had a chance to take stock of what we have accomplished together, along with Haiti’s other international supporters, and to discuss the way forward. Haiti is working very hard to overcome extreme poverty, very, very high unemployment, the devastating natural disaster, and so much more. Some of these challenges existed before the earthquake, but they were exacerbated by the disaster. And while we want to highlight the progress we’ve made together, we cannot ignore what more lies ahead in terms of the challenges facing Haiti and its leaders. We have focused our work in four critical areas: agriculture, healthcare, infrastructure, and the rule of law.
Through our Feed the Future Initiative, we’ve helped nearly 10,000 farmers access improved seeds, fertilizer, and introduce new techniques for better productivity. And for those farmers, production has already increased. Rice yields have more than doubled; corn yields have more than quadrupled. Our goal is to help 100,000 farmers over the next few years.
Working with Haiti and its partners in the health sector, we have had to work hard and have succeeded in greatly reducing the fatality rate of the cholera epidemic from 9 percent to just over 1 percent. But we know that the only way to stop cholera long term is through improved water and sanitation. So we’re working with the Inter-American Development Bank and other donors on water, sanitation, and hygiene programs. And we’re working to upgrade health clinics in Haiti and to renovate the general hospital in Port-au-Prince in partnership with France.
In the infrastructure sector, we’ve removed more than two million cubic meters of rubble. We’ve worked with the Haitian Government to help return more than one million internally displaced persons to temporary shelters and safer homes. We’re also working hard with our Haitian partners to build up Haiti’s economy, building infrastructure that will expand and diversify the economic base.
In northern Haiti, the new Caracol Industrial Park is a landmark project that captures an integrated, sustainable approach to economic development. The park is drawing companies and will create more than 20,000 new jobs for Haitians. The first factory in the park has already begun operations; a second tenant has just signed up. Construction is underway on a new settlement in the area with more than 1,200 homes designed to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes, each with electricity, potable water, and flush sanitation.
And finally, in the rule of law sector the international community has provided critical support during Haiti’s elections for president and parliament – and we have the president of the senate here with us today – to ensure that the votes of the people of Haiti are counted. President Martelly and the Prime Minister and the parliament are demonstrating real leadership in making these reforms. The government has successfully stood up the superior judiciary council, making this government the first with all three branches functioning since 1987.
And today, the Prime Minister and I discussed the importance of the upcoming elections for local officials and the senate. And we talked about the continued need for police reform, border security, judicial reform, and the other important elements of stability that Haiti is committed to. Haitians have been in the lead at each step. This is something I believe in very strongly, that in the 21st century, country ownership, country priorities, country agenda setting, is absolutely essential. The United States can be helpful, but what’s really important is building the capacity of the Haitian Government and the Haitian society so they can have the means and the experience and the expertise to solve their own problems.
As I said to the Prime Minister, as I’ve said many times, Haitians are among the most creative, most vital, most hardworking people in the world. We have benefited so greatly from Haitian Americans in our country as many other countries have as well. Haiti has also, unfortunately, been the leading country in the world for brain drain. More Haitian college graduates have left Haiti, per capita, than any other country in the world. When you think of the talent that Haiti has produced that benefits us and others, what we want to do is make it possible for any bright, young, ambitious Haitian to stay home and to build his or her country. And we are excited by the progress we’re making. We are clear-eyed about the challenges we face, but we look forward to a future where every single Haitian has a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential in the country they are from and love.
So Prime Minister, personally, I want to thank you for what you are doing with your leadership to bring that day closer.
PRIME MINISTER LAMOTHE: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. And I want to thank you for your leadership, the leadership that you’ve shown into promoting Haiti, and not only for the leadership, but for the love also that you’ve shown toward the Haitian people, the compassion that the United States is showing toward Haiti, and the support that the U.S. is giving to Haiti is greatly appreciated.
My office, my – the Prime Minister’s office, the President is deeply touched also by the appreciation. The respect that you give to Haitians is very important to us. The respect that we get from you, from your government, will go a long way and has. Of course, we’re celebrating 150 years of relationship when President Abraham Lincoln recognized the independence of Haiti and Haitians, and we just celebrated on the 12th of July, and we’re very happy about that and very proud of that.
The U.S. is doing a lot of good things in Haiti. The Northern Industrial Park is a development model that we want to replicate and that we want to support. The unemployment rate, as you well said, Madam Secretary, is at 52 percent. Fifty-two percent of the Haitian people are looking for jobs and are not finding the opportunities for the job, and when Haitians are given the opportunities, they succeed. The Northern Industrial Park will give, as you said, 20,000 jobs, direct jobs. But out of the direct jobs in Haiti, you get a (inaudible) of 10 to 20 percent. That means over 1 to 200,000 people will benefit from that park. That’s why it’s important to not only promote the park, but seek additional tenants and improve the capacity of that park to make it a big success. And once it’s inaugurated in October – and we’re looking forward to your visit – we assure that the rest of the world will see what us Haitians see, which is a success story.
We have – we’ve committed – the Haitian Government – the new Haitian Government is committed to improving the fight against corruption, which we’ve made as our number one priority – education, fight against extreme poverty. Too many Haitians are living in difficult circumstances with less than a dollar a day. We’re thinking about them, and we’re coming up with programs – social protection programs to assist them in the plight of a better life.
So I want to take this opportunity and the platform to thank also President Clinton for all the dedication and hard work and visits, and tripping in helicopters into the different parts to showcase what Haiti has that’s good, and to show that Haiti can be in the headlines for good things, not only bad things. And President Clinton has been a champion for that, and you, Madam Secretary, have also been on the forefront of promoting Haiti, and we thank you for that.
MS. NULAND: We’ll take three today. We’ll start with CBS, Cami McCormick.
QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. I wanted to ask you about the violence today in Aleppo in Syria. It’s been described as combat, fierce fighting. This no longer seems to be just a case of the regime oppressing civilians. It seems to be all-out war. What realistically can be done at this moment to stop the fighting and bring about a political solution? Is that even possible right now considering the conditions there?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, we are well aware that the pace of events is accelerating inside Syria. Over the weekend, one of the opposition’s military leaders announced that they would be engaged in all out – an all-out effort to take over Aleppo, which, as you know, is the second largest city in Syria.
So what we are trying to do with our likeminded friends is to continue pressuring the regime, continue pushing for humanitarian relief, because the flow of refugees is increasing. We obviously would have preferred doing all of this under a UN umbrella. Unfortunately, those who are still supporting Assad undermined Security Council action. Russia and China exercised their third double veto. And so we are working outside of the UN Security Council to send a clear message of support for the opposition. We are, as I’ve announced before, providing nonlethal assistance. We have every reason to believe this will be important in terms of communication, principally, but also medical support. We are also sending a very clear message about the international community’s rejection of any effort by the Assad regime to use chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.
And we have to work closely with the opposition because more and more territory is being taken, and it will eventually result in a safe haven inside Syria, which will then provide a base for further actions by the opposition. And so the opposition has to be prepared. They have to start working on interim governing entities. They have to commit to protecting the rights of all Syrians – every group of Syrians. They have to set up humanitarian response efforts that we can also support. They’ve got to safeguard the chemical and biological weapons that we know the Syrian regime has.
And there’s a lot to be done, so we’re working across many of these important pillars of a transition that is inevitable. It would be better if it happened sooner – both because fewer people would die or be injured, but also because it would perhaps prevent sectarian retribution and other kinds of breakdown in stability.
So I think it’s important to look at these day-after issues, and that’s what we are trying to do. And we want to see a democratic, peaceful, pluralistic Syria and have that country demonstrate a commitment to that kind of future, but we know we have some hard times ahead of us.
MS. NULAND: Next question from the Haitian side. Flory Anne Isaac, TNH.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good morning, Madam Secretary, Mr. Prime Minister. My question is mainly directed to my fellow citizens. My question is regarding a very important issue for them, namely the temporary protection status – TPS. I was wondering if you have any good news to announce in that regard. Do you have any good news to announce to my fellow citizens on this measure taken by the Obama Administration?
And secondly, Madam Secretary, I have question for you. You have visited more than 100 countries in the course of your time as Secretary of State. Does that make you a new person, and what lessons have you drawn from all that travel?
PRIME MINISTER LAMOTHE: In that – the TP --
SECRETARY CLINTON: The TPS. Yeah, yeah.
PRIME MINISTER LAMOTHE: The TPS.
SECRETARY CLINTON: As you know, we granted TPS; we are watching this very closely. It is a matter that the Obama Administration takes very seriously. There’s no new news to report, but there is a very vigorous effort that we are engaged in to ensure that the Haitian people are not put at a disadvantage going forward. But that is still in the process of being worked through. As you know, I don’t get the final decision on this. That’s elsewhere in our government. But we are well-aware of the burdens that any other decision at this time would pose.
With respect to your question, which is really an intriguing one that I haven’t been able to think enough about, I have been very honored to represent the United States now in so many places around the world. And what I see and what I hope to convey is how in many ways there is an opportunity for progress for people that has not been readily available before. We know so much more about what works, and we have learned many lessons.
I was telling the Prime Minister that there are countries that have been through terrible experiences – Rwanda, for example – that are now making good domestic decisions to help their people. And the fight against corruption is a universal fight. The fight for greater employment and economic opportunity is a universal fight. The fight to improve government and services and to have the revenues obtained in an honest way is a universal challenge.
So much of what Haiti is doing now I know can work, because I have seen that. And as the Prime Minister kindly said, my husband and I have a very big place in our hearts for Haiti and we want to see Haiti succeed. But what it comes down to is good leadership and responsible citizenship. First, you have to have good leaders who are leading in the right way, who represent the will of their people, who are prepared to make difficult decisions. But then you also have to have responsible citizens who understand change is hard – it does not happen overnight – and who are prepared to do their part.
So I’ve seen successes and failures, and I am very optimistic that Haiti is in the success category.
Do you want to add anything, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER LAMOTHE: We are committed to doing the right thing. Haiti’s government in the past have made a lot of bad decisions as well about governance that created a situation where Haiti depends on international assistance for just about everything. Today, we’re making decisions away from that. We are building our capacity to collect our own revenues, increase the tax revenues, increase the custom duty revenue, decrease spending on energy subsidies to increase, again, government revenues. So we are focusing on the revenue side, and the government is putting together a comprehensive energy policy that will give electricity throughout the island and distribution of the electricity to everybody, just like what happened in the phone system, where 20 years ago it was very difficult to get a telephone line. Today, over 5 million Haitians have a phone. Businesses have increased, and doing business has been easier because of that. Today is the same case for the energy. We are dedicated and we are committed to providing electricity all over the country and prepaid meters so that everybody has access to the electricity.
And of course, we are thinking of the voiceless, those that don’t have the opportunity to ever speak, the most vulnerable ones, in a very aggressive anti-poverty strategy that currently we have a program that’s called Dear Little Mother that affects 100,000 – that positively impacts 100,000 moms in Haiti in a conditional cash transfer, so they get a cash transfer every month so long as their child is and remains in school. And after six months, the child graduates but the child has to be vaccinated to stay in the program. So it (inaudible) good behavior and child attendance in school.
We are also working on social protection programs like school canteens. We are trying to increase working with AID to increase the number of children that are getting a meal every day. So basic policies but that go a long way into assisting those who need it the most.
MS. NULAND: Last one today. Arshad Mohammed from Reuters.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, another question on Syria. In your remarks at the Holocaust Museum this morning, you said that the Administration is now doing more to assist the opposition. You mentioned just now communications and medical assistance. What exactly additionally are you doing? Does it include the provision of intelligence? Does it include helping them mount attacks or defend themselves?
Secondly, you said that it would be unfortunate if Assad and his circle were to conclude that this is an existential struggle. From the outside, it certainly does look like a life-and-death struggle. What exactly did you mean by that? I suppose one possibility might be that you want to send a signal to the Sunni majority that if they prevail, they should not engage in sectarian violence afterwards; there shouldn’t be score settling. I suppose another possibility is you’re trying to signal to Assad and his inner circle there’s still a way out of this for them. But what exactly were you thinking of with that remark?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, those are two good options, Arshad. I would associate myself with your comments. I think that we do believe that it is not too late for the Assad regime to commence with planning for a transition, to find a way that ends the violence by beginning the kind of serious discussions that have not occurred to date. We think it’s very important that the opposition fighters, as they get better organized and expand their presence more broadly, send a message that this is for the benefit of all Syrians, not for any group, not engage in any reprisals and retribution that could lead to even greater violence than currently is taking place.
We think it’s important to better coordinate the work that is going on in the region, especially with the increasing refugee flows, and we are intently focused on that, working with Jordan and Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq; making it clear to all of those who are helping to see an end to this conflict that everybody needs to express the same views about what we want to see next; that no one should be seeking advantage to the detriment of anyone else inside of Syria.
So when I say that – we obviously spent a good amount of time working to find a way that Russia and China could move forward with us in the Security Council. That is on the far backburner right now. So when I say we are doing more, we have moved our efforts into other arenas and with other partners. We still would like to see the Security Council act because we think it would be to the – certainly, to the benefit of the people of Syria, but also to the credit of the Security Council. But if that’s not in the cards for the foreseeable future, then we will intensify our efforts with the Arab League, with the neighbors, with the Friends of Syria, with the justice and accountability unit we’re starting, with the UN Commission of Inquiry, with the Sanctions Working Group, with all the other elements that are not affected by the failure to act in the Security Council, and that’s what we’re doing.
QUESTION: Does that include intelligence or military assistance of any sort, even if nonlethal?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are certainly providing communications that we know is going to people within Syria so that they can be better organized to protect themselves against the continuing assault of their own government.
Thank you all.