Bill Clinton Named U.N. Envoy To Haiti

Clinton and Ban Ki-moon in Haiti i i

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former President Bill Clinton visit a Port-au-Prince slum in March 2009. Ban has named Clinton the U.N.'s envoy to Haiti. Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images
Clinton and Ban Ki-moon in Haiti

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former President Bill Clinton visit a Port-au-Prince slum in March 2009. Ban has named Clinton the U.N.'s envoy to Haiti.

Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday named former President Bill Clinton as the United Nations special envoy to Haiti. The choice confers official status on an unusual collaboration between the two men to help the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere get on its feet.

Ban and Clinton visited Haiti together in March, surprising many observers with an unusually upbeat assessment of the Caribbean nation's prospects for economic recovery. After decades of political turmoil, economic collapse and environmental disaster, many analysts considered Haiti's problems to be virtually unsolvable.

The already appalling situation got worse last year, when hyperinflated food and fuel prices triggered riots in Haitian cities and tropical storms and hurricanes slammed into the island, killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands of people.

But Ban and Clinton have pointed to two factors they say could be the foundation of Haiti's revival: a 9,000-member U.N. peacekeeping mission that has brought relative stability to the country, and a U.S. law that allows many Haitian-made goods to enter the U.S. duty free for the next nine years.

It is hoped that the free pass to export goods to the U.S. and Haiti's pool of cheap labor would attract foreign companies to build factories there, creating jobs in a country that has more than 60 percent unemployment.

Clinton's foundation has been active in Haiti for years, working on issues such as health care, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and restoring the environment.

Clinton has been involved with Haiti since his first term as president, when he used the threat of force to pressure military coup leaders into restoring ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

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