'Many Hands Lighten the Load'

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Clinton

Helping Haiti helps us all.

Haiti suffered the worst catastrophe in its history last week. Given all the nation has been through in the last 200 years, that is saying something.

We have all seen the heartbreaking scenes of hospitals collapsed, government buildings in rubble, people young and old lying injured or dead in the street, and a cloud of dust hanging over Port-au-Prince--a city I have cherished and visited many times since Hillary and I took our delayed honeymoon there in 1975. Haiti is a poor, tragically deforested nation, but it is rich in history, human potential, and human spirit. Haiti was the second nation in the New World to declare its independence, just after the United States. It did so despite greater adversity than we Americans faced--we had to deal with the British, but Haiti's founders at different times stared down the militaries of France, England, and Spain.

I am grateful they did. The central third of the United States--the Louisiana Purchase--became American when Napoleon decided to sell it to Thomas Jefferson, a decision he reached after concluding he could not defeat the brave people fighting in Haiti for their freedom. That territory includes my native state of Arkansas.

As president, I worked to end a violent military dictatorship and to restore Haiti's elected president. After leaving the White House, I continued to work in Haiti through my foundation, partnering with the government to increase treatment for and reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

After a series of hurricanes battered the coast of Haiti in 2008, I made a call to action at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative for commitments to help rebuild the country. CGI members responded by pledging more than $100 million for efforts that included providing immediate disaster relief and rebuilding damaged bridges.

In June 2009, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked me to become the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, a role I was honored to accept. I've traveled to the region a number of times to encourage investment and spur job creation, and to increase nongovernmental activity and aid from governments and multilateral organizations. We had made a good start in rebuilding after the storms, and in addressing disease, political unrest, and deforestation, largely because of the Haitian government's commitment to implement its comprehensive plan for sustainable development and because of the unprecedented interest in the country's progress on the part of neighbors, the Haitian diaspora, and thousands of NGOs. …