Clinton's charm change tsunami pledges into cash?
NEW YORK - Former US President Bill Clinton has always been an inveterate
charmer with an ability to win friends and influence people. Even
during his days in the White House, he was known to be lively and
ebullient compared to his colourless vice president Al Gore who
was considered a bore.
contrasting personalities were best laid out by a stand-up comedian
who remarked jokingly that Clinton was such a politically seductive
guy that he will be quick to take you to bed -- only to have the
wooden Al Gore put you to sleep.
his sexual escapades both inside and outside the White House, Clinton
was given a standing ovation when he addressed the 191-member UN
General Assembly the very week his political enemies began a hearing
in Capitol Hill to impeach him.
week, he returned to the world body, this time as the UN Special
Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, an appointment made by Secretary-General
who has already visited some of the tsunami-affected countries,
including Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, was formally
introduced to the UN press corps by Annan, his new boss.
he was faced with the inevitable question about widespread rumours
that he is harbouring ambitions to take over Annan's job which is
mandated to end December 2006, Clinton was dexterously evasive.
did not provide either a positive or a negative answer, leaving
the lingering question up in the air. "I support the Secretary-General
we have. I like him, I admire him, I think he's doing a good job,"
for his own future plans, Clinton said: "I like the job I have.
So I'm going to do the job I've got. I am his (Annan's) employee.
It would be unseemly for me to be anything else right now."
would also be unseemly for a former US president to be the Secretary-General
taking orders from the US ambassador to the UN, and it would break
a longstanding tradition to have a Secretary-General from one of
the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council
-- in this case the United States.
Clinton's answer is in marked contrast to the response given by
former US Secretary of State Colin Powell who was rumoured to be
interested in the job of World Bank president. "I don't want
to be an employee of the World Bank in any capacity," he said.
that blunt answer, Powell's name was taken off the list of contenders
for the World Bank job, which eventually went to former US Deputy
Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz. Unlike Powell, Clinton was
less forthright in his answer.
big story, however, was not Clinton's evasive answer but rising
complaints that donors who pledged money for tsunami recovery are
painfully slow in honouring their commitments. When Annan was asked
about the sluggish flow of pledged aid to tsunami-affected countries,
he told reporters: "Pledges are good but cash is better."
unfortunately liquid cash is not forthcoming. So far, about $6.7
billion have been promised for tsunami relief by donor countries,
private individuals and corporations, of which about $5.8 billion
have been pledged by 92 governments.
generosity had never been recorded in the history of the United
Nations," says Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
of the $6.7 billion pledged, only about $2.5 billion have been "recorded
as committed or paid up." The problem, Egeland says, is to
convert pledges into cash commitments.
familiar refrain is that the pledges come in only when the world
media saturate newspapers and home television sets with the horrors
of the tragedies -- be it earthquakes, floods or hurricanes. But
no sooner TV cameras move out of the devastated areas, the tragedies
are quickly forgotten -- and the bucks stop there.
UN now wants to be more aggressive in following-up on pledges, and
issue periodic reports keeping a running tab on the cash flow, listing
who offered what, and who defaulted on their commitments. The shortfall
in anticipated resources can significantly hamper rebuilding efforts
in all of the tsunami-affected countries.
week, the New York Times reported that recovery has been exceedingly
slow in Aceh province in Indonesia, where nearly 126,000 died in
the tsunami disaster.
is little sign in Aceh of the billions of dollars in donations from
governments, aid organisations, civic groups and individual people
who reached out to help from around the world," the Times said.
Clinton doesn't think there is "donor fatigue". "We
don't know whether donor fatigue has set in, and whether commitments
aren't being kept, until we have national plans (of reconstruction).''
said there are "lots of NGOs that have enormous amounts of
money. I mean the Red Cross has got a staggering amount of money.
And you can't really expect them to spend it until there's a plan
on which they can spend it, where they can say, okay, this is where
I fit into this plan; this is where I belong and what I am going
besides Clinton, Annan told reporters: "I rely on him to make
sure that donors not only pledge but disburse the money needed for
recovery and reconstruction, and that it actually reaches the communities
who need it most." Let's stay tuned to see how Clinton's charm
offensive will work.