Bill Clinton named U.N. envoy to Haiti

Bill ClintonFormer President Bill Clinton, who has committed his philanthropic efforts to helping hurricane ravaged Haiti, has been named a special envoy to the Caribbean nation on behalf of the United Nations.

The honor comes two months after Clinton visited Haiti along with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in an effort to raise global attention to the country’s effort to rebuild following a year of natural disasters that wreaked havoc on the Haitian economy, its people and its already fragile landscape. The four back-to-back storms left almost 800 dead and created nearly $1 billion in damage.

Last month, foreign donors agreed to donate $324 million toward Haiti’s rebuilding efforts at a donors conference in Washington, where Clinton encouraged donors to not just donate money but to encourage investments. A few days later, his call to action was joined by that of his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She visited the country to emphasize President Barack Obama’s commitment to the country’s rebuilding efforts.

”It is an honor to accept the secretary general’s invitation to become special envoy to Haiti,” former President Clinton said in a statement to The Miami Herald. “Last year’s natural disasters took a great toll, but Haiti’s government and people have the determination and ability to `build back better,’ not just to repair the damage done but to lay the foundations for the long-term sustainable development that has eluded them for so long.”

Following his 24-hour visit to the country, Clinton told The Miami Herald he plans to use his Clinton Global Initiative, which brings together the world’s top business and government leaders every September, to talk about what he has seen and heard from students, laborers, government leaders and business people.

”I believe Haiti is better positioned to make progress for all its people than at any time since I first visited in 1978,” he said Monday. “It offers unique opportunities for public and private investment to improve health and education in ways that will be good for Haitians and all their partners in our interdependent world.”

The Clinton Foundation works in more than 44 countries, including Haiti, to address issues such as HIV/AIDS, climate change, sustainable economic development and childhood obesity. Overall, the Clinton Global Initiative has helped raise more than $46 billion and inspired more than 1,200 projects.

A U.N. official confirmed the appointment but declined to comment until Tuesday when the U.N. will make an official announcement. But those familiar with the appointment say it has been in the works for a while and that the goal is to keep the world spotlight on Haiti by having one of the world’s most recognizable faces and fundraisers involved in its rebuilding efforts.

Clinton previously served as U.N. special envoy for tsunami recovery following the 2004 tsunami, when he helped raise tens of millions of dollars. The U.N. currently has no special envoy for Haiti, and it is expected that Clinton will travel to Haiti at least four times a year.

He was only the second sitting U.S. president to have visited Haiti when he traveled there in 1995. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first in 1934.

(c) 2009, The Miami Herald. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.