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Friday, October 5, 2012

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON, AND FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH ON THE RECOVERY AND REBUILDING EFFORT IN HAITI


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning, everybody. In times of great challenge in our country and around the world, Americans have always come together to lend a hand and to serve others and to do what's right. That's what the American people have been doing in recent days with their extraordinary generosity and contributions to the Haitian people.

At this moment, we're moving forward with one of the largest relief efforts in our history -- to save lives and to deliver relief that averts an even larger catastrophe. The two leaders with me today will ensure that this is matched by a historic effort that extends beyond our government, because America has no greater resource than the strength and the compassion of the American people.

We just met in the Oval Office -- an office they both know well. And I'm pleased that President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton have agreed to lead a major fundraising effort for relief: the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. On behalf of the American people, I want to thank both of you for returning to service and leading this urgent mission.

This is a model that works. After the terrible tsunami in Asia, President Bush turned to President Clinton and the first President Bush to lead a similar fund. That effort raised substantial resources for the victims of that disaster -- money that helped save lives, deliver aid, and rebuild communities. And that's exactly what the people of Haiti desperately need right now.

Every day that goes by, we learn more about the horrifying scope of this catastrophe -- destruction and suffering that defies comprehension. Entire communities buried under mountains of concrete. Families sleeping in the streets. Injured desperate for care. Many thousands feared dead. That's why thousands of American personnel -- civilian and military -- are on the scene working to distribute clean drinking water and food and medicine, and thousands of tons of emergency food supplies are arriving every day.

It will be difficult. It is an enormous challenge to distribute this aid quickly and safely in a place that has suffered such destruction. That's what we're focused on now -- working closely with our partners: the Haitian government, the United Nations, and many organizations and nations -- friends from Argentina and France, from Dominican Republic and Brazil, and countries all around the world.

And Secretary Hillary Clinton will be in Haiti today to meet with President Préval and continue our close coordination with his government. But we also know that our longer-term effort will not be measured in days and weeks; it will be measured in months and even years. And that's why it's so important to enlist and sustain the support of the American people. That's why it's so important to have a point of coordination for all the support that extends beyond our government.

Here at home, Presidents Bush and Clinton will help the American people to do their part, because responding to a disaster must be the work of all of us. Indeed, those wrenching scenes of devastation remind us not only of our common humanity but also of our common responsibilities. This time of suffering can and must be a time of compassion.

As the scope of the destruction became apparent, I spoke to each of these gentlemen, and they each asked the same simple question: How can I help? In the days ahead they'll be asking everyone what they can do -- individuals, corporations, NGOs, and institutions. And I urge everyone who wants to help to visit www.clintonbushhaitifund.org.

We're fortunate to have the service of these two leaders. President Bush led America's response to the Asian tsunami, aid and relief that prevented even greater loss of life in the months after that disaster. And his administration's efforts to fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa treated more than 10 million men, women, and children.

As President, Bill Clinton helped restore democracy in Haiti. As a private citizen, he has helped to save the lives of millions of people around the world. And as the United Nations special envoy to Haiti, he understands intimately the daily struggles and needs of the Haitian people.

And by coming together in this way, these two leaders send an unmistakable message to the people of Haiti and to the people of the world: In these difficult hours, America stands united. We stand united with the people of Haiti, who have shown such incredible resilience, and we will help them to recover and to rebuild.

Yesterday we witnessed a small but remarkable display of that determination -- some of you may have seen it -- Haitians with little more than the clothes on their back marched peacefully through a ruined neighborhood, and despite all their loss and all their suffering they sang songs of faith and songs of hope.

These are the people we're called upon to help. Those are the hopes that we're committed to answering. That's why the three of us are standing together today. And with that, I would invite each President to say a few words. I'm going to start with President Bush.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I join President Obama in expressing my sympathy for the people of Haiti. I commend the President for his swift and timely response to the disaster. I am so pleased to answer the call to work alongside President Clinton to mobilize the compassion of the American people.

Like most Americans, Laura and I have been following the television coverage from Haiti. Our hearts are broken when we see the scenes of little children struggling without a mom or a dad, or the bodies in the streets or the physical damage of the earthquake.

The challenges down there are immense, but there's a lot of devoted people leading the relief effort, from government personnel who deployed into the disaster zone to the faith-based groups that have made Haiti a calling.

The most effective way for Americans to help the people of Haiti is to contribute money. That money will go to organizations on the ground and will be -- who will be able to effectively spend it. I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water -- just send your cash. One of the things that the President and I will do is to make sure your money is spent wisely. As President Obama said, you can look us up on clintonbushhaitifund.org.

The Haitian people have got a tough journey, yet it's amazing how terrible tragedies can bring out the best of the human spirit. We've all seen that firsthand when American citizens responded to the tsunami or to Katrina or to the earthquake in Pakistan. And President Clinton and I are going to work to tap that same spirit of giving to help our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean.

Toward the end of my presidency, Laura made a trip down to Haiti to look at the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief programs down there. I remember clearly her coming back and telling me about the energy and optimism of the people of Haiti. There's just an unbelievable spirit amongst the Haitian people. And while that earthquake destroyed a lot, it didn't destroy their spirit.

So the people of Haiti will recovery and rebuild, and as they do they know they'll have a friend in the United States of America. Mr. President, thank you for giving me the chance to serve.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: First, I want to thank President Obama for asking President Bush and me to do this, and for what I believe has been a truly extraordinary response on the part of the American government. Because I've been working down there for nearly a year as the U.N. special envoy, I've been in constant touch with our people through the U.N. on the ground, and you know we lost a lot of our people there -- the largest loss of life in the history of the United Nations on a single day. The United States has been there from the beginning. The military has been great. The response by the State Department and AID has been great. I just can't say enough about it. And the people in Haiti know it, and I'm grateful.

Secondly, I'd like to thank President Bush for agreeing to do this, and for the concern he showed for Haiti. Before this happened, my foundation worked with the PEPFAR people on the AIDS problems in Haiti and I saw how good they were and what they did and how many lives they saved.

Finally, let me say that -- I don't have to read the Web site because they did -- but I want to say something about this. Right now all we need to do is get food and medicine and water and a secure place for them to be. But when we start the rebuilding effort, we want to do what I did with the President's father in the tsunami area. We want to be a place where people can know their money will be well spent; where we will ensure the ongoing integrity of the process.

And we want to stay with this over the long run. My job with the U.N. basically is not at all in conflict with this because I'm sort of the outside guy. My job is to work with the donor nations, the international agencies, the business people around the world to try to get them to invest there, the nongovernmental organizations, the Haitian diaspora community.

I believe before this earthquake Haiti had the best chance in my lifetime to escape its history -- a history that Hillary and I have shared a tiny part of. I still believe that. The Haitians want to just amend their development plan to take account of what's happened in Port-au-Prince and west, figure out what they got to do about that, and then go back to implementing it. But it's going to take a lot of help and a long time.

So I'm just grateful that President Bush wants to help, and I've already figured out how I can get him to do some things that he didn't sign on for. (Laughter.)

Again, I have no words to say what I feel like. When you -- I was in those hotels that collapsed. I had meals with people who are dead. The cathedral church that Hillary and I sat in 34 years ago is a total rubble. But what these men have said is true: It is still one of the most remarkable, unique places I have ever been. And they can escape their history and build a better future if we do our part. And President Obama, thank you for giving us a chance to do a little of that.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, these gentlemen are going to do an extraordinary job, but really what they're going to be doing is just tapping into the incredible generosity, the ingenuity, the can-do spirit of the American people in helping our neighbors in need. So I want to thank each of them not only for being here today but what I know is going to be an extraordinary effort.

I want to make sure that everybody got that Web site one more time. Obviously we're just standing it up, but it will immediately give people a means to contact our offices -- www.clintonbushhaitifund.org.

And I just want to amplify one thing that was said. We were talking in the back. In any extraordinary catastrophe like this, the first several weeks are just going to involve getting immediate relief on the ground. And there are going to be some tough days over the next several days. People are still trying to figure out how to organize themselves. There's going to be fear, anxiety, a sense of desperation in some cases.

I've been in contact with President Préval. I've been talking to the folks on the ground. We are going to be making slow and steady progress, and the key now is to -- for everybody in Haiti to understand that there is going to be sustained help on the way.

But what these gentlemen are going to be able to do is when the news media starts seeing its attention drift to other things but there's still enormous needs on the ground, these two gentlemen of extraordinary stature I think are going to be able to help ensure that these efforts are sustained. And that's why it's so important and that's why I'm so grateful that they agreed to do it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund


That's what former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both asked as the devastating impact of the earthquake in Haiti became clear.  This question brought them to a place they both know well, the Oval Office. There they met with President Obama and agreed to lead a major fundraising effort for relief: the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

In the Rose Garden just after the meeting, President Bush touched on the work that's already being done and the best way for Americans to help:

The challenges down there are immense, but there's a lot of devoted people leading the relief effort, from government personnel who deployed into the disaster zone to the faith-based groups that have made Haiti a calling.

The most effective way for Americans to help the people of Haiti is to contribute money. That money will go to organizations on the ground and will be -- who will be able to effectively spend it. I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water -- just send your cash. One of the things that the President and I will do is to make sure your money is spent wisely. As President Obama said, you can look us up on clintonbushhaitifund.org.

President Clinton reaffirmed his optimism for Haiti's future, despite this enormous challenge for the country:

I believe before this earthquake Haiti had the best chance in my lifetime to escape its history -- a history that Hillary and I have shared a tiny part of. I still believe that. The Haitians want to just amend their development plan to take account of what's happened in Port-au-Prince and west, figure out what they got to do about that, and then go back to implementing it. But it's going to take a lot of help and a long time.

President Obama summed up the importance of the sustained attention and support the two former Presidents will champion:

In any extraordinary catastrophe like this, the first several weeks are just going to involve getting immediate relief on the ground. And there are going to be some tough days over the next several days. People are still trying to figure out how to organize themselves. There's going to be fear, anxiety, a sense of desperation in some cases.

I've been in contact with President Préval. I've been talking to the folks on the ground. We are going to be making slow and steady progress, and the key now is to -- for everybody in Haiti to understand that there is going to be sustained help on the way.

But what these gentlemen are going to be able to do is when the news media starts seeing its attention drift to other things but there's still enormous needs on the ground, these two gentlemen of extraordinary stature I think are going to be able to help ensure that these efforts are sustained. And that's why it's so important and that's why I'm so grateful that they agreed to do it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Clinton Bush Haiti Fund Grants Connect Haitians with Resources to Thrive


The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund Continues to Help Connect Haitians with Resources to Thrive

Grants Totaling $1.1M Reach Out to Artisans, Microentrepreneurs, and Students
WASHINGTON, DC – The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund today announced three grants that will connect Haitian artisans, microentrepreneurs, and students with resources for economic growth. The grants, totaling $1.1 million, will help provide Haitians with access to jobs and networks to help “build back better.”

HAND/EYE:

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund’s $535,876 grant to the HAND/EYE Fund will connect artists throughout Haiti to US and global markets, further invigorating the Haitian artisan sector. HAND/EYE will create the Artisan Business Network to provide artisan groups with product development and communication tools to effectively and efficiently design and export their work.

In July, Martha Stewart and fashion designer Rachel Roy joined Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren in a business visit to several artisan communities. HAND/EYE is now working with Macy’s on the retailer’s order for the fall, and the Artisan Business Network will employ more artisans as business with Haiti expands. The newly formed Network will also help generate and facilitate new orders with other retailers, such as Anthropologie.

“Our relationships in Haiti demonstrate how retail can change the world,” explains Lundgren. “With a little planning and a little effort, we can open up opportunities for people largely excluded from global commerce. The resulting income has a profound impact for artisan families and a ripple effect in their communities.”

FINCA Haiti:

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund also announces a project with microfinance institution FINCA International (the Foundation for International Community Assistance). This $358,000 grant will help bolster the lending ability of its affiliate, FINCA Haiti. FINCA Haiti’s loans, which average just $300, provide access to credit for Haitians who are too poor to borrow from other lenders.

FINCA specializes in village banking, which brings small groups of community members together as a financial support group. These village banks are predominantly made up of women, and give individuals newfound borrowing ability. “For more than two decades, FINCA has stood by the impoverished women of Haiti, helping them start, or expand, small businesses, and provide a better life for their families,” says FINCA president and CEO Rupert Scofield. “This grant from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund will strengthen FINCA Haiti’s loan portfolio, help us greatly expand our outreach, and help secure the program’s long-term sustainability.”

Inveneo:

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund made a second grant of $259,000 to Inveneo, a communications technology NGO that is building computer labs in 40 rural Haitian schools. The Haiti Connected Schools program will use solar panels to power computer labs and bring rural broadband connectivity to schools in areas without reliable access to electricity. Working with local installers and sourcing equipment domestically, the Connected Schools program will cultivate business and employment opportunities for Haitian solar providers and IT technicians. This project complements the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund’s first project with Inveneo to train IT professionals and bring high speed data connections to rural regions in Haiti.

These three new grants from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund will help provide Haitians with fresh and innovative resources to nurture economic growth. “When Haitian men and women have access to the networks and funding to build their enterprises and communities, they are able to more fully participate in the national and international economy,” Clinton Bush Haiti Fund board member and former Secretary of Labor, Alexis Herman says. “There is immense business potential in Haiti, and these grants will help tap into that potential.”

About HAND/EYE

The HAND/EYE Fund is a 501(c)(3) created in 2010 to connect artisan groups to US markets. It supports skilled artisans through grants to artisan cooperatives around the world. Its leaders are respected for their commitment to artisans and strong, personal relationships across US markets.

About FINCA International and FINCA Haiti

FINCA International is a 501(c)(3) that began in 1985, and whose mission is to provide financial services to the world’s lowest-income entrepreneurs so they can create jobs, build assets, and improve their standard of living. Active in 21 countries across the globe, and currently serving more than 850,000 borrowers (70% of whom are women), FINCA specializes in a form of lending called village banking, which provides microcredit through neighborhood cooperatives. FINCA Haiti, an affiliate of FINCA International, was established in 1989. It serves the working poor in Haiti, primarily those who operate in the commerce, service, and agricultural sectors.

About Inveneo

Inveneo is a 501(c)(3) social enterprise whose mission is to connect and empower rural and underserved communities in the developing world with information and communications technologies. Since 2006, Inveneo and its partners have delivered innovative solutions to more than 1,500,000 people in over 500 communities in 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, nurturing and supporting local talent. Their Haiti program is an accelerated version of this model, as demand for the broadband service to-date has outpaced the supply of Haitian IT experts.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Interview with Clinton Bush Haiti Fund CEO Gary Edson - October 2011

"Remember, we’re working to support the Haitian people’s efforts to support their country, so any success that’s realized isn’t ours – it’s theirs. It’s one of the reasons these presidential funds have a relatively short half-life – we’re not meant to be in Haiti forever – we’re meant to get in, be a catalyst, build Haitian capacity and get out. And let the Haitians take charge and ownership of their own rebuilding. It’s about a change in the whole development paradigm of Haiti – from donor and aid-driven development, which tends to generate dependency, and create moral hazard, to private sector-driven development which empowers people and is truly sustainable."

Monday, October 1, 2012

Haiti Can Be Rich Again


HAITI wasn’t always the “poorest nation in the Western hemisphere,” though it’s almost impossible to read about the country today without coming across that phrase. In the two years since the earthquake that devastated it, Haiti has experienced political conflict and its first ever cholera epidemic; hundreds of thousands of the displaced are still living in makeshift tents strewn like dusty flags by the sides of highways. It is easy to forget that, for most of the 19th century, Haiti was a site of agricultural innovation, productivity and economic success.

In the wake of the earthquake, many have talked about the need to lay foundations for a better future. To do that, Haiti should look to the past, and the system of small farms and the decentralized economy that once provided Haitians with dignity, autonomy and wealth.

The slave revolution that ended with Haiti’s creation in 1804 led to what the sociologist Jean Casimir dubbed a “counter-plantation” system. As slaves, the islanders had harvested and processed sugar cane, but fed themselves by cultivating their own tiny gardens, for which they developed sophisticated techniques of inter-cropping — a kind of sustainable agriculture that involved planting a variety of crops close together. Once free, Haitians drew on that knowledge to raise livestock and grow fruits, root vegetables and even coffee for export to the global market. In establishing their own small farms, they forestalled any possibility of a return to the large plantations that had defined the days of slavery.

This system of agricultural self-reliance provided a better quality of life than that of African descendants anywhere else in the Americas. The country attracted many immigrants, including thousands of African-Americans. And though the United States government didn’t officially recognize Haiti until 1862, American businessmen eagerly traded with the island nation.

Haiti’s economy was decentralized, organized around 11 largely autonomous regions, each with its own port. There was plenty of conflict in the country, largely over control of the central government, and heavy taxes on exports, as well as the power of foreign merchants, sapped the profits of farmers. Yet the regional economies thrived, and a decentralized political and military system assured many Haitians a great deal of control over their destiny.

In the 20th century, however, this system came under increasing pressure. Outsiders, along with many in the Haitian elite, saw small farms as a barrier to progress. When the United States occupied Haiti, from 1915 to 1934, it worked to centralize the economy in Port-au-Prince. It pushed through a re-writing of the Haitian Constitution to allow foreigners to own land, which the country’s founders had banned for fear of re-enslavement, and worked to replace small farms with large plantations owned by foreign corporations. Many farmers saw their land expropriated.

In the teens, when the countryside erupted in a revolt against the occupation and the use of forced labor to build roads, the United States created a newly centralized gendarmerie to suppress the insurrection. Violence and economic decline in the countryside forced many Haitians to flee to the cities or to plantations in neighboring Cuba and the Dominican Republic. In the years since, the countryside has continued to experience environmental and economic degradation as well as exodus, while the big cities, especially Port-au-Prince, have become overcrowded. Today, about half of Haiti’s food is imported.

The flow of ideas and money to Haiti that followed the earthquake provides an opportunity to restore the system of small farms that was a pillar of Haitian society after independence. Michel Martelly, Haiti’s new president, has talked of the need to decentralize the economy, and nongovernmental organizations have begun projects to help farmers. But far more can be done.

Municipal governments should construct properly equipped marketplaces for the women who sell rural produce. The Haitian state should develop trade policies aimed at protecting the agricultural sector, and take the lead in fixing roads and ports, confronting deforestation and improving systems of water management. Foreign organizations working in the country can help simply by making it a policy to buy food and other goods from local producers.

The return on the investment in the rural economy would be self-reliance, the alleviation of dangerous overcrowding in cities and, most important, a path toward ending Haiti’s now chronic problems of malnutrition and food insecurity. As Haitians look to rebuild in 2012, the best blueprints will come from their own proud and vibrant history.