At the World Economic Forum here in Davos, Switzerland, former U.S. President Bill Clinton led a session on Haiti. The audience here at the annual WEF is made up of world leaders, philanthropists, chief executives, NGOs and others.
After Clinton's appearance on the mainstage, Clinton met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for about 30 minutes. They talked mostly about Haiti.
As they left their meeting, I asked Clinton ho"w he felt about Canada's response to the disaster. Here's what he said:
"It has been unbelievable. First, the Canadian people are so generous. I’ll bet you on a per capita basis, they’re number one in the world now in helping Haiti. Probably because of the Prime Minister’s matching grant program but for whatever reason, the Canadians have all given money and all want to support it. You should be very proud of that. There is a big Haitian diaspora in Canada but this goes way beyond that. I’m very grateful."
Clinton paused for a handshake photo-op with Harper and then actually sought out the Canadian media contingent among the throng of reporters trying to get a word from Clinton. Here's my transcript:
CLINTON: Who — Where is the Canadian press?
REPORTERS: Right here! Right here! Over there!
CLINTON: (Turning to Harper) You want to say anything else about this?
PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER: As you know, Haiti is a big priority for us and we’re delighted with the work President Clinton is doing. And we talked about how we can partner even more as we go forward in the future. As the President has said, it’s day-to-day, week-to-week now but we’re starting to look at the long-term and that’s the focus we’re going to have going forward.
REPORTER: Are you guys concerned that, after the immediate rush to aid, that people are going to forget about Haiti and then in the years to come — I know it’s a commitment 10 years you’re talking about Prime Minister — but is there concern people will forget about Haiti in two years time?
HARPER: Well, for us, as you know, Haiti has been our number two foreign aid priority in the world, number one in the Americas. And that’s only going to get bigger in the future for us. I hope it’s true for everyone else.
CLINTON: I think it won’t happen — the United States and Canada have the biggest Haitian diaspora, along with France. We won’t forget. And I think if we organize this properly so that both the people in Haiti and the donors, from those that give five dollars to those that give five million, see that progress is being made and see that it’s being done in a transparent, open, accountable way, I think that this earthquake and how people have seen how brave the Haitians have been and what they’ve learned about Haiti — its culture, its history, its past — have captured the imagination of the whole world. I think it’s really the question is those of us in the middle of this have to stand and deliver. We have to do this right and I think if we do it right and progress is made then that commitment will stay there.