Commentary: A new chance for Haiti

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

The appointment of former President Bill Clinton as a special United Nations envoy to Haiti may be the best thing to happen to that impoverished Caribbean nation in years. With his star power and global influence, Mr. Clinton can attract support for worthy projects, just as he did for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami of December 2004.

Have no doubt – Haiti deserves urgent attention.

The recent drowning of Haitians in an immigrant-smuggling incident off Boynton Beach is an indication of the level of desperation that rules the lives of people in that country and compels them to risk all to seek a better life elsewhere.

Hit with four storms in less than 30 days last year, Haitians have barely begun to recover, but already the new storm season is upon them. Heavy rains this week caused some drownings and the evacuation of many residents from hapless Gonaives, where the worst of last year's rains wreaked havoc.

Mr. Clinton should begin by following up with donors who pledged $353 million recently in a conference sponsored by the Inter American Development Bank. Too often pledges are not delivered on time, or at all. Last year, donors promised to meet Haiti's $121 million request for post-hurricane assistance, but so far only $71 million has been funded.

Ultimately, however, Haitians have to demonstrate that they are able to help themselves. Most of the island's residents survive on less than $2 per day; they are doing well just to get from one day to the next.

Haiti's elite and its political class may have only this last chance to show that they can improve their own country in exchange for aid from abroad.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.