By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 27, 2008
NEW YORK, Sept. 26 -- Former president Bill Clinton concluded his fourth annual philanthropy conference Friday by joining actor Matt Damon and rap artist Wyclef Jean in announcing about $100 million in recovery aid to hurricane-ravaged Haiti.
Capping the week-long Clinton Global Initiative that convened here amid a historic Wall Street collapse, Clinton issued a call for increasing the commitment of the world's wealthiest people to helping its most vulnerable.
"We cannot afford to walk away from this work," Clinton said. "Someday, meetings like this will be utterly irrelevant because people will behave in the way we try to behave as second nature."
The Haiti aid was one of the most significant announcements during a conference in which Clinton said hundreds of philanthropists, corporate chiefs and world leaders committed about $8 billion to initiatives that could affect 158 million people.
About 20 organizations came together in pledging a combined $100 million toward improving education, health care, nutrition and business opportunities in Haiti, a Caribbean nation devastated this summer by a succession of four hurricanes. Clinton, who took a personal interest in Haiti when he and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), honeymooned there, likened the country to the South Asian region laid to waste by the 2004 tsunami and said he would seek additional funds in coming weeks.
"The losses were so great in Haiti, but the talent and yearning for a better future is also great," Clinton said. "Our goal should be to build them back better than we did before the storm hit."
Jean, a Haitian native, said his foundation would provide thousands of meals for hungry families, microenterprise grants for businesses and seeds, fertilizer and training for farmers. Damon's ONEXONE foundation said it would raise at least $3 million for local nongovernmental organizations in Haiti.
Actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie did not attend the initiative but called Clinton on Friday morning and said they would help rebuild 12 schools in Haiti, as they have been doing in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina three years ago.
"All this materialized in one month, and it shows you what we can all do if we work together," Clinton said. "This is the beginning."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who made a surprise appearance at Clinton's conference, said the teetering global economy presents an opportunity to build a "truly global society."
"We have a world that is unsustainable; we have a world that is unsafe; and we have for many people a world that is unfair," Brown said. "The causes of the world require us to act together."