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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With Michele Kelemen of NPR


Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Montreal, Canada
January 25, 2010

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QUESTION: So, you have this meeting coming up in March. What do you expect to have by then? Do you want to have that mechanism in place, some overarching thing in place? And what numbers are you looking at for commitments, then?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Michele, we are trying to do this in a very careful way, sequencing steps that are necessary before we move to the next step.

So, for example, the World Bank, the United Nations, the U.S., we're doing needs assessments in Haiti. The UN and the World Bank will have their assessment, we hope, by the conference. Obviously, we're going to time the conference to make sure we have that needs assessment. We are starting to do a lot of technical planning. There will be some technical conferences that will look at how we quickly move on some of these very big demands in health and education, security, and the like, and we will be working, in the lead-up to the conference, to try to decide on how we will organize ourselves. I am looking at all kinds of models as to what has worked in other settings, what hasn't worked. What can we learn from even successful models?

Most people think that the international response following the tsunami was quite successful, but there are some lessons to be learned from that. We are really trying to do this in a practical way. So let's figure out what we need to do, let's have a plan to figure out how we can get everybody on board. Let's set up kind of an executive mechanism to actually execute with accountability, transparency, benchmarks, results. And there seems to be a great willingness on the part of everyone to actually do that and then, by the conference in New York, be able to present how we intend to proceed.

QUESTION: But 10 years? I mean, do you see people ready to make that sort of commitment?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I do. And I think it's not up to any one country, or one organization. And right now we don't know how much money will be needed.

But just step back a minute and think about all the money that was going into Haiti before the earthquake. Our government gave a lot of money to Haiti. If we were to aggregate all of the charitable contributions and work from NGOs, from churches and other religious organizations, it's a big number. My goal is that we will be better organized and focused, so that we can get more results from what we were putting in in the past, and then see what additional gaps exist.

I think that if you look at, say, Rwanda, terrible human catastrophe. It didn't affect the physical infrastructure, but when more than 800,000 people are murdered in a genocide, who would have thought that Rwanda would now be seeing economic increases in their GDP and be viewed as a real success story?

Or take Indonesia after the tsunami. The hardest hit part of Indonesia was Aceh. There was an insurrection going on in Aceh. It was a devastating blow when the tsunami came in and took tens of thousands of people and destroyed for miles into the land what was there. Now, it's really come back. It is, what, five years since the tsunami? There is still work to be done.

But I think with the proper planning, and with relentless execution, we can see progress. But I'm not going to sugar-coat it. It's going to be a very challenging time, because the Haitian Government knows it has to change. The prime minister was very clear about that in his remarks in our meeting: the people's mindsets about education and the importance of choosing it, participating in democracy, all of those attitudes that they know they have to have a positive view towards.

So, I think we are going to see a good effort. And, ultimately, it's up to the Haitian people. But there is a great willingness by the international community to help.

QUESTION: And you talk about partnering, rather than being a patron of Haiti, or a patronage. How do you do that, when the government was decimated in this, with this earthquake?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have, I think, some positive work to build on. Because when I became Secretary of State, I talked with President Obama about the need to have a concerted effort, with respect to Haiti. He agreed, gave me the go-ahead. I put my chief of staff in charge. So, for the past year, we have been working closely with the current Haitian Government. We know them, they know us. We had plans already in place to follow through on agriculture, energy, security, and the like.

When I went down to see President Preval a week ago Saturday, we talked, of course, about the immediate crisis, and everything that had to be done to get supplies in and deal with the airport and the port, and so much else. But he very clearly said, "But we cannot lose all the work we have done. We need to take that work and make it better, and build on it."

So, we come into this period of crisis with some very solid thinking that has already been done. We can't just take what we had and slap it on to where we go next. We have to be thoughtful about what might need to change or be amplified. But I think we are in a good position to work with the Haitian Government.

QUESTION: But even getting the government back on its feet, I mean the U.S., I guess, is offering some space, some work space?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are. We are offering some space, we are offering communications ability, we are offering security. And we have been, ever since the earthquake. The Haitian Government is pulling itself together, coming up with its own ideas, taking the work that we had done for this past year off the shelf, looking at it. So I think we are going to be in a very positive position, working with the rest of the international community, to get prepared for the donors conference in New York.

QUESTION: You turn your attention later this week to some other very long-term development needs in Afghanistan, in Yemen. What are you hoping to get out of that conference in London? I mean, more commitments?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, these are not donor conferences. They are planning and implementation conferences. The meeting on Yemen isn't really even a conference, it's a meeting of countries that have been involved in Yemen, have a commitment to Yemen. They are coming together to discuss security and development. One without the other doesn't work. We will be making clear to the representatives of the Government of Yemen what we expect and how we intend to work with them.

With Afghanistan, it certainly is farther advanced. We already have a lot of commitments for not just military assets, but a lot of development work. President Karzai will be there. He is coming with some very good plans that he has been working on with his new government. So I think you will see what they say at conferences are deliverables, in other words, really tangible commitments coming out of the conference by many different parties who will attend.

QUESTION: One of the things he is talking about is this reconciliation with some Taliban, trying to divide the insurgency, as David Miliband put it recently. What does the U.S. think about that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we believe that ultimately, in any conflict, there has to be a political resolution. And we support the Government of Afghanistan as it is taking steps. We are obviously concerned about specific actions. We want to have a thorough understanding of everything that President Karzai is planning. We want to know the conditions.

There are two end states that are being discussed. One is called reintegration, which has done a lot on the battlefield. Our military did this in Iraq, they will do it again in Afghanistan with the same kind of approach, because a lot of the people who are foot soldiers for the Taliban are there because they get paid, or there because they were essentially volunteered up by their village elders. They have no other real alternatives, so we want to help the Government of Afghanistan provide that alternative.

Then there is reconciliation, which is the longer term political agenda, which would really look at seeing whether or not any level of leadership of the Taliban would be willing to re-enter the political system inside Afghanistan, eschewing violence, turning away from al-Qaida, basically determining to compete peacefully inside of the society.

It's way too soon to tell whether we can expect any positive developments, but it is an important part of our overall strategy.

QUESTION: And something you will be hearing about from Karzai.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I will. I will.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for your time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to talk to you, as always.

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PRN: 2010/T20-5



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