At a session at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City yesterday, moderated by Devex, he made it clear that the network will outlive the annual meeting, for which this is the last year. He was so clear, in fact, that he pointed out the Network’s next meeting in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince will be held Dec. 14 at 8 a.m.
The Haiti Action Network, one of four CGI action networks, resulted from a 2008 call to action by former President Bill Clinton, whose interest in and commitment to the country has continued ever since he and his wife, Hillary Clinton, traveled there for their honeymoon. While the network was launched in response to four hurricanes, its efforts intensified following the devastating 2010 earthquake and continued even as Haiti was no longer in the headlines.
More recently, the initiative has shifted to focus on creating livelihoods and boosting investment in the country. Many of its members are from the private sector. O’Brien, for example, is also the founder and chair of the mobile network provider Digicel.
“I don’t know they would have agreed to start if they had known all these years later they’d still be standing on the stage, but none of them are sorry they made the journey,” Bill Clinton said, asking CGI members who have made commitments to Haiti to take the stage early on in the opening plenary yesterday.
Of the 127 commitments that have been made in the network’s eight-year existence, 68 have been completed, and 38 are ongoing, while six are unresponsive, three are stalled, and 12 are unfulfilled, according to CGI.
Delivering on commitments
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At the Haiti session yesterday, CGI members broke down how their commitments have positively impacted the lives of 1.4 million people, through areas like improved access to health services, training and education programs, and empowerment initiatives for girls and women.
In the panel discussion “What We Know Now: Applying Lessons Learned to Advance Haiti’s Future,” representatives from organizations including Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods and Haiti & Education Leadership Program expanded on the challenges and opportunities in several of these fields.
Also among those who took the stage on Monday was fashion designer Donna Karan, who discussed a vocational artisan center in Port-au-Prince that resulted from her 2013 CGI commitment.
“We are not going to stop,” she said. “I don’t think anybody sitting in this room can stop. Because your heart belongs to Haiti. And certainly mine does.”
Dominic Macsorley, the CEO of Concern Worldwide, echoed that commitment. “The network introduced us to new ways of working and new ways of thinking,” demonstrating how the CGI model — which brings together individuals and organizations to catalyze action — will continue to influence the work of its members, he said.
Timberland, the apparel and footwear company, made a commitment to Haiti in 2010, the same year as the earthquake, to enable sustainable agroforestry. The project is now evolving from short term response to long term development. With more than 6 million trees planted, Timberland commissioned a report, released today, on the feasibility of smallholder farmer cotton. The company hopes to transition from funder to customer of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance in Haiti.
When Devex asked O’Brien what more is needed in Haiti, he emphasized the need for more partnerships, explaining that more than half of all Haiti Action Network commitments have been implemented with local partners. While the commitments of CGI members to the country will continue, he said, the ultimate goal is for the country to sustain itself.