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Bill Clinton to Lead UN Haiti Aid Effort

  • Margaret Besheer

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked former U.S. President Bill Clinton to coordinate international aid efforts on Haiti. Mr. Ban said Wednesday that he hoped Mr. Clinton, who he appointed as his Special Envoy for Haiti last May, would rally international assistance for the earthquake-stricken country.

Mr. Ban said President Clinton would be responsible for mustering international support and aid from the public and private sectors.

"He will also try to provide strategic guidance for the United Nations involvement at the international level," said Ban Ki-moon. "This will be quite important."

Mr. Ban said he has also asked Mr. Clinton to closely coordinate with his Special Representative in Haiti, Edmond Mulet, and with relevant U.N. agencies - particularly the U.N. Development Fund - to better meet emergency needs on the ground.

The secretary-general said earlier, during a meeting with Mr. Clinton, that this effort would need "extraordinary leadership" and that he could not find any other, better-suited leader than Mr. Clinton.

The former U.S. president has a long relationship with the Caribbean nation, often saying it extends back decades to when he and his wife, Hillary, spent their honeymoon there.

Mr. Clinton said he would do the best he can. But he warned that the challenges are great.

"The trick is to get the Haitian people back where they can stop living from day-to-day and start living from week-to-week or month-to-month, and then start the long-term efforts," said Bill Clinton. "They, the leaders there, want to build a functioning, modern state for the first time. And I will do what I can to faithfully represent and work with all the agencies of the U.N. and help them get it done."

The United Nations says more than a million people are homeless in Haiti and that tents and tarpulins are in short supply, with the rainy season only a few weeks away. Food distribution is scaling up, with the World Food Program having reached nearly a million people in the last three weeks. The agency hopes to reach a million more before the end of this month.

Mr. Ban said Mr. Clinton is scheduled visit Haiti on Friday. He added that the former president will launch a revised appeal on February 17 for aid for Haiti for the rest of this year. The United Nations has already asked member states for $562 million to fund emergency needs for six months.

Mr. Clinton's revised appeal will come only a few weeks ahead of a scheduled U.S.-sponsored donors conference at U.N. headquarters. Mr. Ban said Mr. Clinton would play major roles in preparing for the meeting.