UNITED NATIONS, April 9 -- Former president Bill Clinton will spend at least two years in his new role as the top U.N. envoy promoting recovery in tsunami-hit countries and demanding accountability for the unprecedented billions of dollars donated by countries and individuals, his deputy said.
Erskine B. Bowles said Clinton will also push for the construction of better homes, schools and hospitals in areas devastated by the killer waves and the adoption of new measures to warn against disasters and ensure quick action by governments when they occur.
Clinton's goal is to work for the tsunami victims he met on his first trip to the region in February as a U.S. envoy with former president George H.W. Bush and make sure "we leave these people better off than they were before this horrendous event occurred," Bowles said.
Bowles, who was Clinton's chief of staff at the White House from 1996 to 1998 and is now the United Nations' deputy special envoy for tsunami recovery, traveled to Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives in March for a firsthand view of the devastation while the former president was recovering from surgery.
Clinton is scheduled to make his first public appearance as a U.N. envoy Wednesday.
He is to meet with Secretary General Kofi Annan for the first time since his appointment was announced on Feb. 1, and they will hold a news conference, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced Friday.
Bowles said the former president plans a week-long trip to tsunami-hit countries on the Indian Ocean, probably in late May, and will go through Europe, where he plans to meet the heads of some nongovernmental organizations that have major roles in the recovery efforts.
The Dec. 26 earthquake off Indonesia spawned a tsunami that traveled across the Indian Ocean and killed at least 126,000 people in Indonesia, almost all of them in Aceh, and 48,000 in 10 other countries.
While there are no official figures, Bowles said, countries pledged $5.8 billion after the tsunami, and media reports indicate that more than $1.5 billion has been raised in the private sector, from organizations and individuals.
But reports range from $7 billion to $12 billion, he said.
While a tremendous amount has been accomplished in three months, he said there have been mistakes: supplies held up at ports, duplicated services, lack of coordination, and temporary housing built with uncured lumber that will buckle.
Bowles said he is worried about people growing restless because their home situations have not been settled and money has not been released.
"We just can't build back the same poverty that was there before. . . . That means better schools, better hospitals, better infrastructure" and more solidly constructed homes, he said.