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Speeches & Transcripts

Media Opportunity: World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick at the UN Haiti Donors' Conference

March 31, 2010

World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick UN Haiti Donors’ Conference New York, United States


MR. ZOELLICK:  [In progress]--in there, but my key point was that this is an opportunity to go from tragedy to trying to do something very differently, and the key to this is to be able to combine capable Haitian ownership with an effective donor partnership.

Now, to really do this effectively, we're going to need budget support to help the Haitian government. But to make this easier for the various donor countries, the Bank will be serving as the fiscal agent for the trust fund, multidonor trust fund, that we've helped set up with the other international agencies so as to try to assure stronger fiduciary controls, accounting assurance that the money will go through the Haitian government and the Haitian plan will end up where it's supposed to go.

I suggested, to complement that, that we draw from our experience with Aceh - with some additional efforts in terms of the governance and anticorruption.

But the fundamental need to do it differently this way is what we've seen in other locations, is that if countries simply fragment their aid, do feel-good projects, have something that carries the flag, it doesn't have the benefit and, moreover, it puts an added tax on poor countries, and, in this case, a country that has very limited capacity. So this is the critical need, if people want to do things differently, to try to use this structure.

I also emphasized, as President Clinton did, the fundamental need to focus fast on the question of temporary shelter out of some of the areas that are going to be vulnerable for flooding or else we're going to have another disaster on our hands.

And I also emphasized the critical need for private sector support – excuse me - because if we're going to make this sustainable, we have to create jobs.  And in terms of creating jobs, there is a lot of possibility through the HOPE II Textile Act the United States has passed. There are about 20,000 jobs that are still in practice, but we can do more in agriculture, we can do more in tourism, we can do more in the small- and medium-size enterprise sector.

Transcript – Media Opportunity: President Robert B. Zoellick at the Haiti Donors’ Conference

And finally, what I suggested is to hold everybody's feet to the fire so we're accountable to the people of Haiti and the world that we have a 6-month review of this process, about the time of the U.N. General Assembly, to see what we're doing right and see what hasn't been done right, and try to make sure that we're on track. So...

MODERATOR: We have time for one question, if there is any question?

No questions?

MR. ROTH [CNN]: You addressed this before, but how do you prevent--many critics [sound distortion]--that's not my part. Many critics say the money is at risk for never doing any good and disappearing. But how do you--what do you tell the American people and the people around the world who are very skeptical about any big changes?

MR. ZOELLICK: Well, what we've seen in other locations is that if we mobilize all the funds through one trust fund, then we can put in fiduciary controls, we can put in accounting controls. What we did in Aceh  was have a special investigative unit. We had special requirements in terms of the transparency and the follow-up. We had a special audit system. When things did go wrong, it was promptly publicized.  There were requirements for asset declarations, not only for the President and the Ministers, as are in effect today, but everybody who got their hands on the money in the process.

So, this is always going to be a question of managing risk, but if you want to try to manage the risks of helping Haiti, you need to be able to work through a relatively weak Haitian government and a Haitian plan. That means pooling the money, and that means using that pool to put in the best and highest standard fiduciary controls that you can. And we've seen it work elsewhere, so it should work here.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Thank you all of you.