Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Progess Report

SEPTEMBER 28, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna,
Matt Corley, Ali Frick, and Jeremy Richmond
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The Global Common Good

This week, as the international community gathered at the UN, "an alternate universe...set up shop across town." The third Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting brought together 1,200 people from 72 countries, including 52 current and former heads of state, to discuss poverty, education, energy and climate change, and global health. Last year's CGI meeting inspired 262 commitments from CGI members, valued at more than $7.3 billion and benefiting over 500 organizations that helped people in more than 100 countries. This year, donors had made more than 100 commitments in the first 24 hours of the meeting, with a total value of more than $4.75 billion, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. CGI also launched, a forum where people around the world can follow the discussions at CGI and make their own commitments to action. President Bill Clinton opened the conference by discussing what brought the participants together: "We actually believe we can do it. We believe we can make a difference."

A GLOBAL MARSHALL PLAN: In two years, work by the Clinton Foundation has "avoided or reduced 20,070,524 tons of greenhouse gas emissions." The work continued this year, with climate change garnering particular attention. Al Gore called for a global energy Marshall Plan. Prince Albert II of Monaco announced his commitment to work with the United Nations to support a post-Kyoto treaty addressing global warming and climate change. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson admitted that "it is impossible to solve this without engaging globally." But this week, as the U.N. met to discuss a post-Kyoto agreement, President Bush skipped the meetings. Instead, he organized a "major emitters meeting," which proposes only voluntary, "aspirational" emissions goals, and in effect undermining U.N. attempts at mandatory carbon caps. Among the many commitments made toward reducing climate change at this year's CGI conference, Wal-Mart committed to sell only concentrated liquid laundry detergents at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club by May 2008, saving "more than 400 million gallons of water, more than 95 million pounds of plastic resin and more than 125 million pounds of cardboard." Actor Brad Pitt pledged $5 million to build green housing for low-income residents in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and eight American utility companies "committed to investing $1 billion a year over three years to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 5 million tons a year -- the equivalent, they said, of taking about a million cars off the road." And Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) announced the development of a 300 megawatt solar power plant that will provide clean electricity to approximately 450,000 homes. To see all climate change commitments, click here.

POVERTY WORK FROM THE TOP DOWN: Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Gayle Smith hosted a discussion between various leaders of anti-poverty groups. Participants discussed their work in encouraging land ownership in Africa, investing $300 million into Liberia's private sector, and connecting impoverished people with low-cost, high-value technology such as solar-powered computers. CGI member Zaher Al Munajjed, chairman of Grameen-Jameel Pan-Arab Microfinance Limited, emphasized the importance of company policies that encourage charitable giving among their employees. "It is something that should be followed by the CEO, himself. He should care and follow it like he looks at his profit every quarter," said Al Munajjed. "It requires the leadership of the top man [or woman] and if it's not there, it will not work." The XL Results Foundation committed $1,000,000 to help train and support female leadership and entrepreneurship in India. To view all poverty alleviation commitments, click here.

EXPANDING ACCESS TO EDUCATION: For the first time, this year's CGI added the topic of education to its docket. Actress Angelina Jolie and former Clinton National Economic Adviser Gene Sperling announced the expansion of a partnership that would contribute $150 million in educational efforts to help teaching Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, launch Sesame Street Afghanistan, and expand the Healing Classrooms initiative for kids in Afghanistan and Darfur. Valentino Achak Deng, whose story of his flight from Sudan as a young man is chronicled in Dave Eggers' "What is the What," moved the audience with his personal story. "Today I have come to notice we as the people of the world have much in common than we even know. And we can only be able to learn that if we spread education to everyone in any corner of the world," he said. To support more children who lack access to schools, Teach for All, a partnership between Teach for America and Teach First, committed $6,000,000 in the first year to support school development in at least seven countries in Africa. To view all education commitments, click here.

PREVENTIVE CARE APPROACH TO GLOBAL HEALTH: In a session devoted to maternal and infant health, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg committed $1.2 billion from Norway to the cause. Center for American Progress fellow Thomas Kalil noted, "I think that's even more impressive when you consider that Norway has a population of 4.7 million. So for the United States to make a similar commitment would be $60 billion so that’s pretty significant." Former Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), who committed to engaging resources to reduce preventable diseases among young children, moderated a working group discussion on inexpensive, effective ways to improve health care across the world. Helen Gayle, the president and CEO of CARE, suggested midwife training. "It doesn't cost a lot to train a skilled birth attendant, $30, $50 to train somebody who could make a huge difference in impacting the lives of women who now die needlessly due to maternal mortality, hemorrhage, et cetera." To view all global health commitments, click here.T

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