[Bruce R. Lindsey, chairman of the board of the Clinton Foundation, sent a nine-page letter to ABC News in response to questions and a request to interview former President Bill Clinton on the subject of the Foundation’s work in Haiti. Below are excerpts from that letter. The related ABC News reports are available HERE and HERE.]
Thank you for your interest in our efforts to help Haiti. As you may know, President Clinton has been asked to serve Haiti in several ways and the Clinton Foundation has also worked in Haiti for many years, since before the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country.
It’s important to understand and appreciate the different roles that each has played in Haiti, always at the request of the Haitian Government. For example, the Clinton Foundation was not involved in the decision-making, funding, or construction of the projects you’ve asked us about, though your questions presume we were.
Therefore, before you consider our answers to your specific questions below, we want to make sure you have the appropriate background:
- Following four hurricanes that hit Haiti in 2008, President Clinton was asked by the Secretary General of the United Nations in March 2009 to serve as Special Envoy to Haiti to help the country recover and promote economic development – similar to the role he served after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
- Shortly after the devastating earthquake in January 2010, President Obama asked President Clinton and President Bush to establish the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund to lead fundraising for relief efforts – similar to the Bush-Clinton tsunami and Katrina funds in 2005.
- In the spring of 2010, at the request of the Haitian government, President Clinton was also appointed to serve as the Co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) with the sitting Prime Minister.
- These roles and responsibilities are in addition to the work of the Clinton Foundation and the separate efforts by members of the Clinton Global Initiative, including numerous commitments as a response to President Clinton’s call to action to CGI members to address the pressing challenges Haiti faced in the aftermath of four devastating hurricanes.
As a philanthropic organization, the Clinton Foundation's work in Haiti has only one goal: to help the people of Haiti. The Clinton Foundation has been working on the ground since 2009, and there is a wealth of publicly available information and news coverage about our projects and the results of our direct work.
In fact, as we normally do at the Clinton Global Initiative, we held an open press session with President Clinton about Haiti at the final CGI Annual Meeting two weeks ago. This session focused on how lessons from helping Haiti so far can be used as learning tools for the more than 300 companies, nonprofits, multilateral organizations, and government entities that work with the CGI Haiti Action Network to address current challenges in the country in a comprehensive way. For example, to provide quality education in Haiti, it is also vital to consider public health, infrastructure, and job creation during project planning and implementation. In fact, CGI Haiti Action Network members are currently mobilizing aid and support for Haiti as Hurricane Matthew impacts the country, with the Foundation directing donors to these partners providing emergency relief services. As you can tell, we take our efforts in Haiti seriously. Given there were plenty of opportunities to do a thoughtful analysis of what has worked and what hasn't over the last six years, and the fact that our work is non-partisan and non-political, we find the focus and timing of this story interesting.
Background on the IHRC
After the earthquake, the Haitian Government established the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) as the official planning body for the recovery efforts, due in part to the loss of 17% of Haiti’s government workforce as a result of the disaster.
At the request of Haiti’s President Préval, President Clinton co-chaired the IHRC with the Haitian Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive. Governed by a board of directors that included members from Haiti’s legislative and judicial branches, the Haitian private sector and trade unions as well as representatives from donor governments and multilateral organizations, the IHRC was responsible for reviewing, analyzing, and approving projects that aligned with the Government of Haiti's action plan for recovery.
The IHRC did not receive or manage donor funds except for basic office operations. All donor funds were directed to the Haiti Recovery Fund (HRF), a separate fund hosted and administered directly by the World Bank, with support from Inter-American Development Bank and United Nations. Again, the Clinton Foundation was not the recipient of, did not manage, direct or disperse any of these funds.
According to the IHRC, it approved more than 70 projects, the majority of which focused on housing, health, and shelter. Of the approved projects, 44 projects had moved beyond the funding and design stages to contracting, implementation, or completed phases within the first 18 months of the IHRC’s existence. These projects included upgrades and service provisions to earthquake a affected Port-au-Prince neighborhoods; debris removal; loan guarantees to encourage the development of more formal small- and medium-sized enterprises; and education projects contributing to the Government of Haiti’s ongoing effort to reform the Haitian education sector.
Other projects approved by the IHRC – which have made a remarkable difference in Haiti – include a teaching hospital opened in 2013 in Mirebalais that serves 185,000 Haitians; and housing upgrades in Port-au-Price that helped clear debris, repair houses, and helped close to 350,000 Haitians. While Caracol was one of the 70 projects the IHRC approved while President Clinton served as co-chair, the Clinton Foundation was not involved with this decision or implementation of the project.
After President Michel Martelly took office in 2011, he disbanded the IHRC. President Clinton expressed his concerns with this approach, particularly because the IHRC had worked to ensure a donor process with high levels of transparency and accountability, similar to what his United Nations office had done after the 2004 tsunami. These transparency and accountability measures at the IHRC were being administered through a Performance and Anti-Corruption Office staffed by an experienced team from the international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
After the Haitian government disbanded the IHRC, President Martelly asked President Clinton to continue the Clinton Foundation’s specific programs that supported economic revitalization programs critical to the country’s long-term recovery.
The Clinton Foundation in Haiti
The Clinton Foundation’s efforts have focused on supporting Haitian entrepreneurs, small businesses, and farming cooperatives in five priority sectors: agriculture, energy, environment, artisanship/manufacturing, and tourism. By developing a broad network of local partners, engaging international companies and investors, and identifying new opportunities for investment throughout the country, the Foundation has since then worked to strengthen local businesses and organizations, which has promoted job creation, livelihood improvement, and economic growth. Projects the Clinton Foundation is directly involved with are listed below.
Yes, frustration with the recovery is to be expected. No recovery is fast enough—that is especially true in a place like Haiti that has been the poorest country in the hemisphere facing incredible challenges. Combined with the fact that Haiti has been marred by political gridlock (as you know, they didn't have a head of state for weeks this year and the interim government has stayed months past its official mandate); and many in the international community have lessened their engagement or even turned their back on the country. But to claim that the mobilization, implementation or prioritization of billions of dollars, the vast majority of which were pledged by countries directly to the Haitian government, somehow falls under the purview of President Clinton or the Clinton Foundation is not only false, it has no basis in fact.”
[Regarding ABC News questions about Caracol, Mr. Lindsey wrote:]
[Caracol], like more than 70 reconstruction and recovery projects at the time, was approved by the IHRC in a process designed to meet specific needs identified by the Haitian Government. In fact, in 2009, before the earthquake, the Government of Haiti had developed an economic plan created in conjunction with Oxford Professor Paul Collier, who is one of the world’s foremost experts on economic development in developing countries. The Government of Haiti’s National Action Plan included a commitment to create centers of economic development outside of Port-au-Prince to spur economic growth and bring jobs to Haiti’s underserved regions. This priority was reinforced in the Post Disaster Needs Assessment after the earthquake. The Caracol project was submitted to the IHRC as part of this priority to spur development outside of Port-au-Prince. For more information on why Caracoal was presented is a question for the organizations that were involved in conceptualizing and developing the project, which include the Haitian government, the IDB and the State Department. Again, the Clinton Foundation did not have a role in building the Caracol Industrial Park and has never invested any funds into the park.
We did not engage in any discussions or help with the financing through the IDB or any other entity. Furthermore, we weren’t part of any discussions related to Gap or Walmart. Since 2009, the Clinton Foundation has helped facilitate investments in Haiti that create jobs and lift incomes in a wide array of sectors – including agriculture, artisan products, manufacturing, and tourism. Within that scope, the Foundation helped identify potential tenants, including Haitian companies, for the park. We also, to the extent possible, helped make the case for responsible foreign investment in Haiti after the earthquake.
...[T]he Government of Haiti’s goal was to generate economic development, which Haiti desperately needed, especially outside of Port-au-Prince. As the Haitian government reported earlier this year, Caracol is expected to be the location with the largest number of private sector workers in Haiti. Caracol has created almost 10,000 jobs, is generating nearly $100 million a year in export and domestic trade outputs and has attracted investment from companies around the world as well as three Haitian companies. While it is difficult to judge the ultimate success of a major economic development project in just a couple of years, we understand that the park is expanding almost monthly. I’m sure you have seen this, but the State Department issued a report on its progress in January 2016, and this video in March illustrating progress on the park.
[Regarding ABC News questions about the email correspondence between Foundation officials and State Department officials, Mr. Lindsey wrote:]
Thank you for providing the emails to review. According to published reports, the markings on the emails you provided indicate they are from a batch of emails requested by the RNC. Therefore, we assume you will include in your story, as other new organizations have done, that these emails were provided to ABC by the RNC. These e-mails also cover a significant amount of work over a very short period of time, just four days after the massive earthquake.
To answer your question, no special treatment was expected or given. These e-mails were sent to pass on to the U.S. Government and U.N. the hundreds of incoming offers for help for those entities to handle as they deemed appropriate. This was a time of dire need, and we mobilized our network and wanted to make sure that any help offered was put to good use. Many had been involved in disaster response before, in New Orleans after Katrina or after the tsunami, and again sought to help. The alternative would have been to do nothing to mobilize resources.
[Regarding ABC News questions about the Port-au-Prince Marriott which the Foundation website says it “facilitated,” and which was built by Denis O’Brien, the chairman of a Haitian telecom firm Digicel, who is a friend of President Clinton’s who has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Foundation, Mr. Lindsey wrote:]
...The Clinton Foundation did not provide or direct any financial support for the Marriott hotel. This was an investment that Marriott and Digicel made. Separately, the Digicel Foundation made a CGI commitment to build 150 schools across the country, which they reported progress on, here: https://www.clintonfoundation.org/clinton-globalinitiative/commitments/building-80-new-schools-haiti. As you may know, a Commitment to Action is a plan for addressing a significant global challenge. Commitments are not donations to the Clinton Foundation, and are not funded or implemented by CGI, but rather by the commitment-making organization.
Once Marriott and Digicel decided to build the hotel, we did encourage them and local organizations to ensure that Haitians were hired to staff the hotel, Haitian artisans were employed to decorate the hotel and that Haitian small businesses and farming cooperatives would have the opportunity to provide goods and services to the hotel.
This is an area of priority for us – the Foundation directly works on programs that are having a significant impact in terms of employing Haitians and improving livelihoods – from helping moringa and peanut farmers improve their yields and productivity through better markets and tools; improving the environment through planting of trees and green energy projects; and supporting literacy and job skills training for over 2,000 women.
List of Haiti Activities
In the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake, the Clinton Foundation helped mobilize resources to respond to the disaster, deploying over $30 million in relief support, including cash and in-kind donations such as trucks, solar lights, and clothing. The Clinton Foundation disbursed every dollar of that aid and did not take one cent in overhead. From the Clinton Foundation Haiti Fund, grants were provided to:
- ACTED, to support emergency assistance as well as to provide and deploy over 1,000 shelter and first-aid kits
- CARE, for the distribution of much needed food and water to survivors
- Concern Worldwide USA, to provide food, water, shelter, and medicine to survivors
- Food and Agriculture Organization, for the immediate purchase of seeds and fertilizer in and for Haiti
- Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), for operational support, and to support earthquake recovery programs as prioritized by the Haitian government
- International Organization for Migration, to support the coordination and delivery of emergency shelters
- International Rescue Committee, for medical care, clean water, and emergency sanitation for survivors
- J/P Haitian Relief Organization, to provide bridge funding for the Petionville Club Camp to enable J/P HRO to continue to manage a camp of 55,000 displaced people, provide medical services, and support a rubble clearing project
- Médecins du Monde, for the distribution of medicine
- Médecins sans Frontières, to provide surgery and basic medical care to as many patients as possible
- Oxfam, to provide more than 10 tons of water, sanitation, and health and shelter equipment
- Partners In Health, to provide medical care and supplies as well as bring urgently needed medical expertise to Haiti
- Save the Children USA, for immediate needs such as shelter, health, water, sanitation, and child protection; and, as conditions allowed, the restoration of education for children
- UNICEF, to provide adequate sanitation, safe water, and basic health care for survivors
- We Advance, to fund training programs for women in camps for internally displaced people and poor communities in Port-au-Prince
- World Food Programme, to distribute high-energy biscuits as well as airlift food from WFP emergency hubs
Since the immediate recovery, the Foundation works on the ground in Haiti to support economic development as well as to connect the international community to projects and opportunity for investment through the Foundation and CGI’s Haiti Action Network. The Clinton Foundation works with both Haitian and international partners to facilitate and implement the projects below.
Some of the areas of focus include:
- Artisans: The artisans and crafts sector is stronger and employing more people than before the earthquake thanks to the talents of local artists and entrepreneurs and the efforts of our U.S. partners, especially Donna Karan’s Urban Zen, and West Elm, to open new markets and design products for them.
- Agriculture: We are supporting farming cooperatives to increase yields, reforest land and raise income. For example, the Haitian Coffee Academy is providing agricultural extension services, quality seedlings, and basic and financial literacy training to over 350 farming families in the Thiotte area. The Smallholder Farmers Alliance, one of our partners, works with over 2,000 smallholder farmers. The smallholder farmers we work with are revitalizing traditional crops such as sisal, castor, peanuts, and limes, and these projects and investments will improve incomes and opportunities for Haitians living in often neglected and underserved parts of the country.
- Environment: Over 5 million trees have been planted, and more than 400 KW of clean energy projects have been installed. Further, projects have supported the development of inexpensive Haitian designed and made clean cook stoves as well as charcoal substitute briquettes in an effort to reduce deforestation and charcoal production.
- Schools: Digicel alone has built over 170 schools in all ten departments of the country which are now serving more than 50,000 students. The Foundation has also worked with a diverse group of organizations to build and solarize schools in challenging urban settings, such as Cite Soleil, as well as underserved rural communities like the Lake Azeui region.
- Health: Supported by commitments from CGI members, medical facilities like the Partners in Health teaching hospital in Mirebalais, the Bernard Mevs and St. Damian hospitals in Port-au-Prince are providing first class medical care for tens of thousands of Haitians. We are also working with Haitian non-profit organizations like GHESKIO to help underserved communities gain access to first class medical care including the construction of Haiti’s first permanent cholera treatment center.
- Tourism: We facilitated and supported investments in the tourism sector, including hotels to revitalize the tourism industry in Haiti, and help create new jobs and training, which provides Haitians with important transferrable skills. The Marriott serves as an economic anchor that is currently working with more than 10 Haitian small businesses and farming cooperatives that are supplying items like coffee, fruits and vegetables and soaps to the hotel. The hotel also employees 165 people almost all of whom are Haitian and has been decorated with artwork exclusively designed and made by Haitian artisans.
We have also supported entrepreneurs like Shelley Clay and Dr. Valentin Abe to grow their businesses. In four years, Shelley’s business, Papillion Enterprise, has grown from less than 100 employees and approximately $150,000 in annual revenues when we first started working with her, including a Foundation investment of $150,000, to now over 300 employees and over $1.2 million a year in revenues. She also provides free day care, bank accounts and health insurance for her employees, almost all of whom have never had these benefits before. Dr. Abe’s solar-powered tilapia farming operations have dramatically increased incomes and protein availability and he is providing jobs and needed services to fisherman and their families in rural communities.