Presidents, prime ministers, CEOs and religious leaders packed the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on Thursday, Bill Clinton’s third annual gathering to solve the "world’s most pressing challenges." Organizers touted a wide range of "commitments" made by attendees, from over $4 billion in underwriting for renewable energy from Standard Chartered Bank, to a $5 million donation for New Orleans housing by Brad Pitt. CGI announced it has elicited over 600 such commitments in its first two years. President Clinton likes to remind attendees that they will not be invited back if they don’t achieve their pledges.
For a gathering of the global elite, the conference is remarkably open and transparent. The panels and plenary speeches are available by webcast, the conference has an official blog, and the halls are dotted with credentialed bloggers. This afternoon, I’ve seen Matt Stoller, Dave Johnson, DailyKos diarist nyceve, Jessica Valenti and The Atlantic’s blogger Matt Yglesias. The conference is also encouraging regular citizens to make their own commitments at a new grassroots portal, MyCommitment.org.
CGI has always been scheduled to piggyback on the U.N. General Assembly meetings, ensuring that plenty of international elites are available to drop by the mid-town Sheraton. But this year, the conference is clearly a draw all by itself, especially among business leaders. Companies that made new commitments this week include Merck, Intel, Procter & Gamble, Dow and Google, which will cosponsor a $300 million award-program designed to motivate innovation to address CGI’s four priorities. "We’re delighted to make this long-term commitment in the areas of education, energy and climate change, poverty alleviation and global health," explained Peter Diamandis, who joined Clinton on stage to announce the project today, along with Google’s Larry Page and Arianna Huffington. It’s backed by the X-Prize Foundation, the non-profit that spent millions to incentivize the (odd) ambition of civilian space travel.
In a sense, though, providing capital to motivate good deeds perfectly embodies Clinton’s vision. He built CGI to convene an unusual arena where the rich and powerful are not judged solely by their wealth and power, but by their commitment to solving intractable global problems. Then Clinton tries to cajole, inspire and reward any attendee willing to give back.
UPDATE: If you’re hungry for more CGI stats, here’s an excerpt of President Clinton’s remarks today:
By the end of 2007, 34 million people will be targeted for treatment by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease Control’s rapid-impact packages, which can control these deadly diseases for just 50 cents per person per year.
More than a quarter of a million HIV-infected individuals have gottencomprehensive HIV care, more than 130,000 have initiated AIDS treatment with anti-retroviral therapy just as a result of Columbia’s commitment to expand its international center for AIDS care and treatment. $124,550,000 has been devoted to produce fortified foods to fight malnutrionin developing countries. 1.2 million patients through Chad, Sudan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have received emergency and primary care, including mental health services, throughout the International Medical Services in conflict-affected regions commitment.
Around the world, 8.8 million patients are receiving primary and emergency care. 850,000 children under 5 were reached in 25 countries with life-saving services. 40,000 women received maternal health services as a result of CGIcommitments. More than 120,000 infants have been vaccinated against Roto-virus, as a result of Merck’s commitment to provide free doses of roto-tech to every infant born in Nicaragua through 2009.
Over 270,000 micro-finance institutions have been provided with funding. As I said yesterday, permitting access to finance for about 3 million micro-entrepreneurs. As a result 11, 260,000 are expected to get increased access to sustainable incomes. More than 1,500 students in the United States and the Middle East joined in dialogue forums to address differences of faith, culture and nationality, to overcome stereotypes and animosity. Tens of thousands engaged in activities to lobby, raise awareness, and fundraise to stop the mass atrocities in Darfur.
And interestingly enough, to this point, more than 60% of all commitments have been made, not by individual NGOs, individual philanthropists, individual business people, but through new partnerships, through people who met here, and decided to work together. That’s the best indicator I have of what kinds of things that are going on here that would not have happened but for this meeting.