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Bill Clinton donor summit spotlights Haiti, Pakistan

The former president hopes his philanthropic "summit" will push governments to fulfill promises of billions of dollars in reconstruction. More than 1,000 people including President Barack Obama and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will attend.
/ Source: Reuters

Former President Bill Clinton hopes that pledges to help quake-devastated Haiti at his philanthropic "summit" this week will push governments to fulfill promises of billions of dollars in reconstruction.

Clinton, who is the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, will hold a special session on the recovery of the impoverished Caribbean nation with Haitian President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive at the Clinton Global Initiative.

More than 1,000 people including heads of state like U.S. President Barack Obama, business leaders including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, humanitarians and celebrities will attend the meeting in New York, starting Tuesday.

Putting a spotlight on Haiti "might help shake loose some of the donor commitments from the governments," Clinton told Reuters in an interview.

"There is a lot of money that has been promised to Haiti, but not much has been given. Almost all that has been given has been for the emergency phase. Now we're into rebuilding ... but we need the donors to come up with the money," he said.

In March, international donors pledged more than $5 billion over two years to rebuild Haiti after a January 12 quake killed up to 300,000 people, devastated the country's economy and infrastructure and left more than a million people homeless.

"How fast we can move depends in large measure on whether these commitments will be honored that have been made, but I'm hopeful," said Clinton.

He hoped the latest meeting would also produce pledges to help Pakistan cope with massive floods that have destroyed agricultural land and livestock, displaced millions of people, and caused damage the government has estimated at $43 billion.

"They didn't get the response that Haiti got partly because of donor fatigue and partly because there's apprehension in our part of the world about whether the money could be effectively spent," he said.

Some Pakistanis have grown angry with their government's sluggish response, and are turning to Islamist charities, some tied to militants. The United States worries that the battle against such militants may have been made more difficult as Pakistan struggles with an economic meltdown and public fury.

When Clinton's initiative began, corporations tended to show up and write checks to fund humanitarian programs. Now many see their philanthropy in terms of investment opportunities.

In the past five years, there have been more than 1,700 commitments worth $57 billion that the group says has improved the lives of 220 million people in more than 170 countries.

Clinton said he would hold a session on the Middle East with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli President Shimon Peres, focusing on "what happens if there is a peace agreement, how can you make the peace take hold."

"The last thing I am trying to do is get back into the negotiations, I feel quite comfortable with the people that are handling it for our country," said Clinton, who pursued peace in the Middle East as U.S. president. This month, his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, hosted the first direct talks between the countries in nearly two years.

The Clinton Global Initiative was found to be the most popular summit for chief executives in 2009, according to a study by public relations firm Weber Shandwick. Attendees pay $20,000 to be there and the rules state that if participants do not make or fail to keep a commitment they are not allowed to return.

Clinton said he would continue his philanthropic summit for as long as it was relevant.