May 19th, 2010
04:21 PM ET
13 years ago

Sean Penn testifies on Haiti before Senate panel

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Actor Sean Penn attended a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill."](CNN) - Sean Penn could have been walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. Instead, he was under the Dome in Washington on Wednesday to testify on Haiti.

Penn's newest film, spy thriller "Fair Game," will debut Thursday at Cannes, but the day before, the Oscar-winning actor was seated before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as witness to an emergency.

"I come here today in the hope that we will address with bold clarity the razor's edge upon which Haiti lies," he said.

He called on lawmakers to demand transparency as the island nation moves forward in recovering from the massive earthquake that struck January 12.

"In an emergency, donors offer money and expect it to be spent helping people," Penn said. "I hope we are here today to encourage just that."

Penn, who founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, has been living in a tent in Port-au-Prince, helping manage one of the devastated capital's largest camps for the displaced.

The actor turned aid worker testified with experts and policymakers Wednesday before a committee headed by Democratic Sen. John Kerry, co-sponsor of a bill that would authorize $3.5 billion to help rebuild Haiti over the next five years.

About $10 billion in aid was pledged for Haiti over the next 10 years at a donors conference in March. Kerry said donor nations "must now follow through and deliver the funds they have promised in a coordinated manner, and Haiti must work to improve its capacity to absorb the aid it receives."

Former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios offered a scathing assessment of the challenges that lie ahead in rebuilding what he called a "failed state."

He compared Haiti's devastation and massive death toll of more than 200,000 to that of Chile, which suffered a stronger quake in late February but was not as badly affected.

Natsios warned that U.S. programs must help end Haiti's dysfunctional cycle by improving governance and fostering economic growth.

"I think the worst thing we can do is be nice about this and live in a Disney World assessment of what we are dealing with," Natsios said. "We are dealing with one of the worst-governed countries in the world."

Filed under: Haiti
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Diogenes

    If he donated $15M, hey that is just one film you have way more than enough money and drafted hundreds of other hollywooders and sports overpayed stars he would not have to beg for the USA to charge up another donation

    May 19, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I wonder what is going on with Pres. Clinton and Bush's efforts in Haiti.

    May 19, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but

    Did pizza guy show up with a double cheese and sausage while Senator Hand was questioning him? Have a nice day!

    May 19, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. Rickster

    lol....only the dumbocrats care what Sean Penn has to say about anything. What a doofus.

    May 19, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  5. Amie Wolff

    Hey Mr. Penn...while I'm struggling just to put healthy food on the table for my two children (wanted more but couldn't afford them) why don't YOU send money to help Haiti?

    DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT speak to my representatives as you ARE NOT
    speaking for me or other hard-working Americans who pay our taxes and DO NOT want money sent to Haiti (or anywhere else for that matter) because we need infrastructure built RIGHT HERE IN OUR COUNTRY!!

    I'm not a global citizen like you, Mr. Penn. I'm an American so I don't appreciate you getting a special audience to speak with our leaders about a country to which we are not beholden to.

    STFU Mr. Penn and go home and take care of your own family, sir.

    May 19, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. pnaut

    Quite a bit of projecting there folks, remain calm Ms. Wolff Sean Penn will not hurt you!

    May 19, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  7. In the West

    Put a lid on it Amie. I AM a hard working American (two jobs, almost certainly more hrs/wk than you) and I'm glad Penn is doing this. I'll be happy to donate again. We are at our best as a people when we can help other who are less fortunate. You just sound like a selfish troll.

    May 19, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. allhappy

    What has happened to all the aid, already given.I believe enough money has already been given to make every Haitian a millionaire, why are they still in need, who has that money now

    May 19, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  9. Wake UP

    Sean Penn is an admitted communist. We've given billions of dollars to Haiti. We need to help Americans in needs. There are kids being killed on the way to school in Chicago. We have families being foreclosed on, and AMERICA IS BROKE!

    May 19, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  10. Dar

    Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the United States rushed in to help – with money, medicine, and manpower. To date, we've already given over $179 million in humanitarian aid... but Barack Obama has just ordered all U.S. installations to take down their American flags, lest we be seen as an "occupying army" rather than "international partners."

    It is patently appalling that a president of the United States would consider our flag to be a symbol of militaristic takeovers and colonialism, especially when serving (to a greater degree than any other nation on Earth) a humanitarian purpose.

    No other country giving aid in Haiti has lowered its flag. But then again, no other country has a leader who is offended by their own flag.

    And we are supposed to give more to a country that wanted our flag down???? I think not.
    and for Odumbo to agree, SHAME ON YOU
    I love my flag and very proud of it, by no means would I have let this happen. no way no how.
    What is happening to our great nation.

    May 19, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  11. Dustin

    It's funny that the conservative movement has no problem spending money to destroy countries that oppose the US, but all the problem in the world with spending money helping those countries that support the US.

    Watch the movie Charlie Wilson's War and maybe then you'll understand why we MUST invest to rebuild countries like Haiti, especially when they are so close to home. If we don't then our enemies will. This is an unfortunately common theme in our history.

    May 19, 2010 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  12. Over It

    so tired of ignorant, angry "conservatives" blabbing their mouths with nothing to say but soundbites they gather from Fox News. Maybe spend less time listening to ex alcoholic, almost high school drop out, Glen Beck. He puts on a great educational show. Make up sh-t!

    May 19, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  13. Linda

    I think it is very noble of Sean Penn to be doing what he is but (there's always a but) haved you looked around the country he calls home. It ain't so rosy out there. There are parts of the country that suffer from poverty, homelessness, hunger, no appropriate and necessary medical treatment and all that is in his backyard. Shouldn't the focus be put on creating a STRONG AMERICA before creating a strong Haiti. When will there be a telethon for those falling down in this country? And please don't get me started to all to those service people who put themselves in harm's way each and every day protecting freedom abroad and they are losing their homes in the mighty U.S.A. I think it might be more appropriate to clean our own back yard first.

    May 19, 2010 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  14. Rick McDaniel

    Try getting help elsewhere, Mr. Penn. The US is not only broke, we are mortgaged to our armpits.

    May 19, 2010 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  15. The World

    Dear Sean nobody cares what you think you are a washed up bad actor that knows nothing. Please go back in your house and dream of your favorite two people Castro and the clown from Venezuela!!!

    May 19, 2010 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  16. Eric in Denver

    Dear Sean please shut your mouth you are and always have been completely irrelevant.

    May 19, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |