Bill Clinton Urges Aid Groups to Foster a Self-Sufficient Haiti

Former President Bill Clinton has urged aid groups serving Haiti in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake to help rebuild the country's government and foster a self-sufficient nation, the Associated Press reports.

With a critical UN donors' conference approaching, at which Haitian officials are expected to ask for $11.5 billion to rebuild, Clinton asked aid groups to allocate 10 percent of their spending in Haiti to government salaries and employee training to help the nation's agencies rebuild their decimated staffs. Clinton, the UN special envoy to Haiti, also urged aid groups to hire local staffers, consult with local authorities, focus efforts outside the capital of Port-au-Prince, and structure efforts around the government's plan, which is being finalized. Groups should make sure that the money they spend builds communities and infrastructure and creates local jobs, he said.

In addition, the former U.S. president urged groups to participate in an online registry and make their expenditures transparent, warning that unless they take action to move refugees to higher ground, as many as forty thousand people could be killed if there are heavy rains.

Haitian leaders have expressed frustration that billions of dollars in aid have bypassed the government and gone to UN agencies and foreign NGOs, which operate independently and do not always coordinate with local authorities.

According to Habitat for Humanity International senior vice president Liz Blake, aid groups are willing to work with Clinton, though the actions he has called for will be a challenge. "Working yourself out of a job — which is working to strengthen the government of Haiti so that the support and work of a nonprofit is no longer needed — isn't a standard practice," she said. "[But] all of us want to do what we can to support the Haitian people and work with the Haitian government, and do so even if we have to suspend our disbelief."

Samantha Gross. "Clinton Asks Groups to Make Haiti Self-Sufficient." Associated Press 03/25/2010.