The 2006 Clinton Global Initiative Meeting may be over, but I haven't begun to advise you readers about all the conversations that took place over the past three days. It's been exhausting, yet exhilarating. I am reminded of the days when William Jefferson Clinton was presiding over a nation that the people of the globe looked up to with hope that it would become a better world with expanded human rights - with the help of America. I am reminded of a day when world leaders worked in good faith partnership with America.
9/11 didn't undo America. I don't believe it ever could. But foreign policy mistakes have been made - before and after 9/11 - but they've been especially glaring errors on the messy road we've taken since we began an unjust war that has caused already desperate people in places like Iraq to feel more despairing; more abandoned. A war on terror will never be won as long as we remain on the same road.
I heard and saw a lot of different people speaking this week. Many of them were world leaders. I heard many perspectives, and through the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of those perspectives with you - through the lens of poverty alleviation, global health issues, religious and ethnic reconciliation, and energy/climate change.
If there's any message that I think most people got (and gave back through astoundingly generous economic commitments), it would be "don't lose hope, and don't sit and do nothing. You may be the leader for whom someone in this world is crying out. You're not alone - none of us are alone. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said this week, anyone who can say they are totally self-sufficient is admitting that they're sub-human. We were not created to go this alone.
I heard about compassion, justice, and love this week. And I know it wasn't just lip service. It was visceral. It didn't make perfect economic sense, but it made common sense when it comes to having decent values in a free and, compared to many other parts of the developing world, a very wealthy society. It came from caring. It was presented and handled with great respect and honor. The next time you bash a corporation, check to see if, how, and to what extent they are dealing with social responsibility issues. We're all going to be paying attention to the corporations who do nothing. Government cannot save the world on its own. It's going to take all of us in our own way.
I really think the participants and leaders of the CGI meeting are onto something that's going to help all of us understand that we must go beyond ourselves..if we are to survive together, we will have to transcend toward a thriving, healthy, safe, and secure world that we can be proud of leaving behind for the children of this world. I'm talking about all the world, not just our own corner of it. Our family - the family of man temporarily sharing this earth - depends upon this sense of shared responsibility.
CGI: Senator Clinton's Panel on Women and the Power of Economic Opportunity
This morning, Senator Hillary Clinton joined a group of panelists to discuss the desires, challenges, and lessons of women and the global struggle for equal rights. The feminization of poverty hurts more than women. Lifting the sights and health of our children can only be successful when we focus upon their mothers. In many nations, women have limited (if any) access to: health care, equality under the law, and political power. The goal should be to reproduce the best practices of business and government in democratic and industrialized countries for the benefit of women in developing nations.
Panelist Reema Nanavaty began by saying that it's not charity that women are seeking, it is instead meaningful and gainful work. They want to feed their families and educate their children. They want assets and access to markets and capital. They need health care. She talked about the challenge of existing socio-economic structures and power and political structures.
UNICEF's Ann Veneman, who once worked for the Agriculture Department for the Bush Department said that women do 60% of the work in this world, make 5% of the income, and own only 1% of the property. Modern seed and new markets (through fair international trade) would help to increase production in women's farm fields and new technologies would get them the health care they so badly need. She bemoaned the breakdown of the Doha development agenda. She believes that education is paramount to raising women to a greater economic, political, and legal status in their respective societies. Rwanda is an example of good progress for women who currently hold 48% of political seats.
Citicorp's Ajay Banga was the only man on the panel. Commenting about gender and human rights, he reminded the audience that this is not solely a woman's issue. He offered ideas in which a major corporation such as Citicorp could make commitments that would provide progress on this issue:
- Philanthropy - Encouraging employee volunteerism - Microfinancing for sustainability and scalability. Large corporations can assist smaller institutions to to secure loans to enable them to facilitate microfinancing. - Efforts to insure women
Mr. Banga said that a challenge was public trust. If major corporations can partner with others, it may assist with credibility. Simply put, many people don't trust big corporations.
CARE's Dr. Helene Gayle brought up an important point about boys and how they are educated to think about the women in their respective cultures. She said that society and culture are vulnerability factors for diseases like HIV/AIDS just as much as their biology. 80% of farmers in Africa are women and they aren't getting access to markets.
There has been a backlash in many developing nations when progress attempts have been made. Governments and existing socio-economic power structures in some developing nations are threatened by these new ideas. There are several ways to deal with this backlash.
- Community-based: making governments and policymakers accountable - Civic Education: bringing women into association. Involve men in a new understanding of progressive changes, alleviate conflicts within the home, anti-violence laws. - Multinational corporate institutions can be key to alleviating poverty. Simply reaching people can be very expensive and government alone has not been effective in achieving global progress. Business can help to build partnerships; help to make developing nations market-ready. - Alleviating private to public challenges: Sheer statistics are easily researchable in countries like the United States, but there is no such ease or access to such information in the developing world. - Establishing appropriate framework: With no framework for action, sustainability, or acountability, scalability, you may risk a domino effect that can set a system back 20 years in a very short time. - Publicity/Media: to provide education and awareness on the issues - Investing in small institutions and groups for efficiency of sysytems and processes - Advocating for policy changes
It was an issue so interesting to me that I sat in on the actual live conference while, unbeknownst to me, my fellow bloggers were being ushered from the press area into a room with secret service to meet Senator Clinton directly after the panel. Needless to say, I am disappointed to that it was not possible for me to join the group, but it was certainly great to hear former President Clinton give thanks to bloggers in his closing comments today.
Sir Richard Branson Commits $3 billion Virgin Profits to Tackle Global Warming
Sir Richard Branson just after the announcement about his company's $3 billion commitment All photos by Jude Nagurney Camwell
Breaking News: At the Clinton Global Initiative Meeting this morning, Sir Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin group has just commited profits from the Virgin group to focus on tackling issues related to Global Warming for estimated value of $3 billion over the next ten years. Yes, that was three billion dollars. Developing environmentally friendly airline fuel is one of Sir Branson's hopes. Investing in new fuels and getting away from fossil fuels is the only way he believes we'll beat global warming.
From a press release:
Branson announced an estimated $3 billion commitment toward bio-fuel initiatives. Over the next ten years, Virgin Group will invest all future profits from its airline and train businesses into renewable energy initiatives both within the company, as well as further investments in new bio-fuel R&D, production, distribution and other projects to tackle emissions related to global warming.
"We know that there's a lot of work to do around the world, and a lot of good to do in fundamentally different ways," said President Clinton. "That's why it's hard to overstate the importance of individuals taking action in whatever way they can. I'd like to thank Richard Branson for joining more than 100 individuals and organizations that have committed to change. Richard's commitment is groundbreaking not only because of the price tag - which is phenomenal - but also because of the statement that he is making: Clean energy is good for the world and it's good for business."
"We have to limit our dependence on fossil fuels," said Branson. "We hope that this contribution will help in some small way to enable our children to enjoy this beautiful world."
There was a great panel discussion this morning in the Ballroom of the midtown Sheraton that was mediated by Fareed Zakaria. The panel included Queen Rania Al-Abdullah from the Royal Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The topic was Managing Divesity in a Globalized World. (more to follow)
Panel session at this morning's CGI meeting in Manhattan
Managing Diversity in a Globalized World
"The only thing that counts is faith working through love." - Galatians 5:6b
I wish that everyone had been able to see and hear the Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak to the meeting participants this morning. He is a bright light in an often too-dark world. He leads by inspiring others with a hope they might not otherwise be able to see with their own mind's eye. When asked by Mr. Zakaria about the Pope's recet comments which had incendiary consequences among Muslims, the Archbishop commented that he believed that Pope Benedict XVI probably wishes he hadn't said what he did and that he's made the attempt to publicly apologize in good faith, which is sometimes a difficult task for anyone - even himself.
We are a global family and we won't win a war "on terror" as long as we create conditions or allow conditions where people are desperate. We'll survive only together. Free only together. Safe and secure only together. There's no such thing as 'totally self-sufficient.' In fact, to be 'totally self-sufficient' is sub-human.
He stressed that the propagation of murder is never a part of any faith of which he knows. Compassion, justice, love, and charity are the fundamentals of faith that must not be suffocated. We need to hold on to that and underscore the fact that religion, in and of itself, is morally neutral - neither "good" nor "bad. He used the analogy of religion to the knife. You could use a knife to cut bread and you could use that same knife to stab someone in the gut. We in the West tend to put the words "Muslim" and "terrorist" togther easily, but we hesitate to use the IRA or those responsible for the Holocaust as "Christian terrorists." (This got a round of applause from the audience). President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan went on to mention that he believes that citizens in the West do not have a good understanding of Muslim societies and beliefs and that it would serve the world well for Westerners to be enlightened. He wonders if Western citizens realize that Muslims were killed and mosques were destroyed by the same terrorists long before 9/11 occurred. Thinking back to how we are a gobal family, President Karzai reminded the audience that hate was being preached in some mosques in Afghanistan before 9/11 and the West didn't pay attention, likely because the West wasn't directly affected - and he believes that was wrong. Judging from their hearty applause, the audience agreed.
Mr. Zakaria gave Archbishop Tutu the last word. He asked "Are you optimistic in light of what so many call the clash of civilizations? Re you hopeful?" His answer? "Absolutely." He described the UN Alliance of Civilizations, of which he is a leader, as a "most diverse bunch of creatures."
The Archbishop Desmond Tutu joyously speaks of hope to the audience of CGI participants
Have you ever heard of river blindness? An annual vaccine is necessary to prevent the blindness, and the expense can be very great. Vaccines can prevent this disease which affects people in developing nations, but business and governments need to partner to come up with solutions to cure the diseases that our children will likely (and thankfully) never be forced to encounter. In this morning's workshop session on Global Health, former President Jimmy Carter joined a panel mediated by George Stephanopoulos and came to the agreement that there has been a serious impact of diseases due to a great level of neglect in the countries where help is needed most. A new hookworm vaccine could be mass produced iexpensively, but it is not a popular shareholder interest. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has endowed $18 million toward manufacting and distributing the hookworm vaccine. We can't rely on them forever (Stephanpoulos joked, "Well, at least for a long time.") It was agreed that more players are needed.
The problem of multiple diseases being tackled one at a time can cause double-efforts, unnecessary costs and delays. Integrated service deliveries have been more successful, and we must invest in an integrated system where poor communities can recieve quality and comprehensive health services.
New technologies for diseases? Pesident Carter pulled no punches about pitching for funding for his own project. The Carter Center is gearing toward an idea in which their plan runs in harmony with the health ministry in Ethiopia coordinating mosquito-repellent bed nets ($5 each) which will prevent multiple diseases. By August 2007 the Carter Center hopes to have every endangered Ethiopian safe from malaria and other diseases. Some very poor nations have no idea that help even exists for their needy citizens.
Questions were asked of the panel and participants and they were given thirty minutes to discuss the issue and come up with some answers - and perhaps more questions. Drugs (rapid impacy package moral obligation to maximize use of the drugs.
One Question: What incentives would help business to be interested and effective in the prevention and treatment of tropical diseases?
Advanced purchasing commitents to produce more life-saving drugs should be encouraged. Delivery and infrastructire for health care can be improved and a good start would be making the most out of existing infrastructure for the distribution of new drugs. Ideas were discussed among panelists about foundations, with funding from business and other sources in the private sector, pushing for concentrating on the eradication of one disease - concentrating on one may speed the eradication.
Donna Shalala joined President Carter to present commitments. One commitment was from Victoria Hale of One World Health. Ms. Hale made a commitment of $27.4 million over 5 years to be used to eradicate (black fever) visceral leishmaniasis - the second greatest kiler afer malaria in Ethiopia and other poor nations). Pierre LeFarvre of the World Diabetes Foundation will assist young citizens in Capetown Africa. He's made a commitment for a school-based intervention for ages 10-13 to treat Type 2 diabetes. Over the next 3-4 years, he has committed about a million dollars.
Al Gore Speaks on "Building a Sustainable Future" Panel
Former VP Al Gore called for a new great generation with a moral cause to solve the global warming/climate change crisis.
On a stage at the Sheraton in midtown, in front of Mr. Clinton, Tom Golisano, Colin Powell and hundreds of representatives from the business, donor and non-profit community, Mr. Gore delivered an impassioned speech that brought the audience to its feet and had people chattering about what a great President he would have made -- and maybe could still make.
"This crisis is the by far the most dangerous we have ever faced in the entire history of human civilization but it also provides the greatest opportunity," he said with increasing volume. "We are coming together as a Global civilization in our lifetime we have to get our act together and this climate crisis, may, I believe, does, gives us the opportunity to rise, to gain the moral authority and gain the vision not to become the self-destructive, selfish generation, but to become the next greatest generation."
Clinton then made sure that Gore stood next to Branson when the billionaire announced his donation to the whole crowd. Gore, conspicuously elated as he signed his name with Clinton onto the pledge, said that it was "like the old days."
Over $7.3 billion dollars committed at Clinton Global Initiative Meeting
President Clinton delivered the closing address of the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) this morning and anounced that the 2006 meeting had secured over 7.3 billion dollars. He also thanked the bloggers who spread the news of the meeting results throughout the globe via the internet.
Blogger Ted Widmer said something with which I agree. I wish that I had six or eight blogging hands and could be in multiple places at one time. Ted writes:
Events are now outrunning any single writer's ability to describe them. Part of the genius of CGI is that its loose, democratic organization mirrors its overall philosophy. In other words, there are hundreds of small conversations taking place in hallways and business centers and coffee lounges across the hotel. A lot of this activity is spontaneous, and designed to be. But in other ways, it's organized down to the nanosecond. No detail is too small - cardboard coffee holders that suggest little acts of environmentalism, for example (suitably chastened, I decide to protect the environment a little more by not even using one).
Because one blogger could never cover all of the vibrant conversations taking place here at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, here are some links to other blogs about the meeting: