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.