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20 September 2010 - Haiti - Reconstruction of the University Hospital of Port-au-Prince - Speech and interview with RFI by Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

Hotel Intercontinental, New York


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to express how happy I am to sign this agreement with Mrs. Hillary Clinton and Prime Minister Bellerive.

I would like to make two comments.

Firstly, following this huge disaster, a great deal of effort was made and these efforts have to be coordinated: "action plan." Without coordination I think that we will be very disappointed. It’s therefore excellent that this coordination between the three of us focuses on the university hospital, a training hospital.

Secondly, some of you are saying that the reconstruction of Haiti is proceeding slowly, very slowly. And everyone is surprised that with all the money raised there hasn’t been any particularly visible progress. It’s because they don’t have an appreciation of the enormity of the disaster and of the need to change many things and in particular to reflect on things, to talk about urban development, to talk about renewal, to follow a model that is different from the old model; that’s why new structures are being proposed. That’s what the Prime Minister is doing and it’s also what President Préval is doing. And so that all takes time. A lot of money has been raised and a lot of effort has been made, but that is not immediately visible.

Finally, specifically with respect to public health: public health is not a vague notion, it’s a very broad notion, with a broad view, a political view, of things, which will make it possible to treat or prevent the diseases of every Haitian, individually. I am very happy to work alongside Mrs. Clinton on this university hospital, but it will lack one thing. Even though we decided that we would bear the costs for the construction, equipment, and operation of the hospital, it lacks a public health program and, above all, a health insurance system. Creating an efficient hospital, better than before I hope, with modern equipment means nothing if the most underprivileged do not have access to this hospital and if, furthermore, all Haitians do not have access to this hospital. We must continue to work, as Prime Minister Bellerive knows, on access to healthcare, to health insurance. I am happy that we have started to do this and I hope that this wonderful instrument that we are going to build for all Haitians will enable each and every one of them to receive care.

Thank you./.

Interview with RFI (Franck Weil-Rabaud)

Q: Mr. Bernard Kouchner, you are preparing to go to Haiti next weekend. What will be the purpose of this visit and is France going to announce new investments to help with the reconstruction of this country which was devastated by an earthquake?

France pledged huge investments amounting to €326, and the international community is due to allocate hundreds and hundreds of millions to projects. Haiti should not be rebuilt exactly as it was, we need to be inventive and imaginative and work with the Haitians. Of course this will take time; things are getting a little better but not a lot. Progress is slow, that’s clear. Today, together with Mrs. Clinton and Prime Minister Bellerive, we signed an agreement to finance the university hospital and I will lay the first stone of this hospital on Saturday in Port-au-Prince. But a hospital doesn’t function like a hospital straight away. Staff must be trained, and some of them unfortunately are no longer with us, and then the equipment needs to arrive and then, above all, - and this would be the very symbol of the success of the initiatives - a health insurance system must be implemented so that the most underprivileged, the impoverished, can be treated by this hospital. But as you know this is a long process; we shouldn’t be too impatient. This was a major disaster and we can’t rebuild everything overnight. There are people who are unemployed; we must create jobs. There are people who must move home, go and live somewhere else and this takes time; a whole culture must be changed.

Q: Beyond Haiti, the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals is taking place this week in New York; it’s clear that these objectives are very difficult to achieve, that public aid is undoubtedly not enough, do you feel that there is a willingness to use alternative financing to try and achieve these objectives or do you think that the idea of achieving these objectives by 2015 is wishful thinking?

Quite honestly I’m not sure about 2015, but you are completely right, public aid will not be enough. We must first of all convince people about the objectives we are pursuing, i.e. innovative financing and in particular the tax, or in any event the contribution if the word tax evokes fear, on capital movements i.e. on all financial transactions. We are working on this, I have been personally doing so for 20 years, progress has been made. The Leading Group met today, the document is ready for tomorrow. President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke strongly about this at the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals and stated that we would not achieve them if we don’t move forward on this. I believe that it will work. President Sarkozy said this morning that it will be difficult but we may be able to launch an initiative in several countries without waiting for all of them to approve it. In any case, this is what all of the NGOs want. As you know there was a group of 60 countries led by France; Japan now holds the presidency. There is a text, but there are plenty of those and there are plenty of reports. Everyone agrees that there should be minimal financing. I would like there to be a contribution on financial transactions. So, you send €1000, you handle €1000 from one end of France to the other, or from one end of the world to the other and that will cost €0.05 - you won’t see it. A small 5 centime coin compared to €1000 - that’s what needs to happen if we want the Third World to develop.

Q: New York is also a major diplomatic stage, where the Israeli-Palestinian is obviously being mentioned. You were disappointed by the absence of a European representative at the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian talks in Washington. Is Europe destined to be just a donor?

I hope not. Europe allows itself to some extent be just a donor. Yes, obviously we were disappointed by that. We are the leading aid donor: €1 billion per year. I think that deserves a place at the table and I am disappointed by the absence of a European representative, everyone was disappointed that Mr. Medvedev wasn’t there; the Russians cooperated fully with respect to this issue, as did the Arab countries. We are disappointed that it happened like this but, nevertheless, we very much hope that these direct talks will lead to something, i.e. to a Palestinian State.

Q: Last question: Following the debate that took place in Europe on France’s handling of the Roma population, have you sensed any hostility towards France here in New York during your meetings with your foreign counterparts? Do you have the impression that France’s image in this affair has been tarnished?

No, I didn’t sense any hostility. I provided explanations because there were demands for explanations. There was a very friendly and open meeting between Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy this morning. I was present and I assure you there wasn’t any trace at all of this fictitious disagreement. I am not saying that there isn’t any disagreement about the Roma - there is - but there isn’t one between Germany and France.

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