Friday, September 26, 2008

Heat Wave 3

The Clinton Global Initiative ended today, unbowed by the U.S. economic crisis. Top attendees — which included some 45 global CEOs, 60 heads of state, scores of advocacy leaders, and even a few Hollywood entertainers—ended up pledging close to $8 billion for new projects that would improve the lives of some 158 million people around the world.

Some final highlights:

* British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke for a full 25 minutes (extemporaneously, without a teleprompter or cue cards), urging the construction of a "global civic society" and the increased use of the Internet and social media to fight for human rights. He also called on those assembled to innovate their 20th-century institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations to better tackle modern-day challenges of climate change, poverty, and global health and education gaps. Click here to see Clinton's introduction of Brown, followed by Brown's full remarks.

* Social media for social change got another nod at CGI when CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest, an initiative of the World Bank Group) pledged $10 million to create a mobile banking system for some 25 million people in 20 countries. CGAP CEO Elizabeth Littlefield called it a "mobile banking call to action." She said: "Millions of poor have been left out of the formal financial system; the brick-and-mortar branch bank system can only go so far." With cellphone service and a local shop handling the cash, she said, "mobile banking can reach every village and barrio in the developing world." Target countries include: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa, and Uganda.

*Rene Preval, President of the Republic of Haiti, issued a moving, eloquent appeal for fast help rebuilding his flooded nation, ravaged in late August by Hurricane Gustav. "It's sad to say that if there are no dead bodies on the [TV/computer] screen, public opinion becomes disinterested very quickly," he said. "Important work remains to be done." Haiti's infrastructure needs to be completely rebuilt—but not, he said, so it resembles what it was before. "We need to build back better," he said—to better withstand what is certain to be more hurricane activity in the region in coming years due to the affects of global warming. "More than 90 percent of the crops in Haiti have disappeared in this recent string of hurricanes," Preval told a panel on poverty, "and in six months, we will not have any food to give to the population." Fellow CGI attendees Matt Damon and former Canadian Ambassador Frank McKenna (chairman of the nonprofit; Wyclef Jean of Yele Haiti, and past CGI attendees Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were among those who pledged more aid to Haiti today. More is needed, Bill Clinton said.

"There is a misperception of assets and opportunities in the world and a misalignment of how we invest our time and money and (build) the kind of future we all say we want," Clinton said in closing remarks. "We need to close the gaps between what we feel and what we see, and between what we say and what we do." The first CGI-Asia meeting will be held in Hong Kong December 2-3 and a "youth CGI" will be held at the University of Texas at Austin in February.

(Photograph, Graffiti in Sydney, courtesy

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