I heart CGD and apologies

First, the apology: I should have been blogging a lot more last week from the Clinton Global Initiative, but it turned out to be pretty much impossible in light of many work related obligations. I will say, though, that I was really glad to be involved only from afar with the logistics of this event (unlike my NY based Clinton Foundation colleagues) – so much work goes into the organization of a high-level conference such as this one, I was tired just looking at the small army of Clintonites running around for 3 solid days.

It was a really great experience – even though I sometimes felt a little out of place, a little bit like a “fly on the wall”, as the majority of those present are incredibly accomplished individuals from all sectors – NGOs, governments (although not enough Western reps in my sense), private sector, international institutions. They all gather for 3 days around Bill Clinton (seriously – they gather around him), and make promises to change the world. It’s pretty incredible. This year, members made 250 commitments, valued at $8 billion, to impact 158 million lives.

Those are some serious numbers.

One of the most positive aspects of this conference is that it allows attendees to mingle during pretty fascinating working sessions (the one on poverty alleviation chaired by Madeleine Albright was great for instance). It allows for views and perspectives to be confronted in interesting ways. Then, the fact that throughout the 3 days, commitments are made by the prestigious attendees, really enhances the quality of the gathering. If anything, this conference encourages meaningful cooperation between sectors, and the search for common solutions to common problems prevails over particular interests (at least in the short run – I am not that idealistic…)

While not my field of predilection, I highly recommend to reading/watching/listening to some of the sessions on climate change, particularly this one, which features John McCain and Barack Obama, among others – and, because he was such a great speaker, Al Gore’s comments in the opening plenary.
Or just watch the whole thing here.

In related news, Nancy Birdsall, the president of CGD, delivered some sharp remarks at the UN, highlighting the painful truth of highly inefficient and non-transparent official development aid:

“How ironic that the United Nations carefully assesses and reports on the progress of developing countries against the MDGs, but has no measures or indicators and no periodic official reports on the progress of the rich countries against their commitments to those goals!

“At the moment the only concrete measure of rich country commitment is the proportion of GDP dedicated to aid. Yet the quality of aid is on average so poor—because it is tied, fragmented, uncoordinated and unaligned with developing country programs and budgets, and almost entirely input-based instead of outcome-oriented—that the quantity from any one donor is a poor measure of even that donor’s own real contribution. And of course aid itself is only one measure of a rich country’s overall commitment to development and the war on poverty.”

It makes me wonder whether a case could be made that international development (not humanitarian efforts, which are different), should be undertaken by non-governmental actors (in

the broad sense of the expression). I’m not the biggest free market advocate out there, but something should be said about how much more efficient private sector efforts are in bringing about positive systemic change in the developing world.

Some photos of CGI:

Mayor Bloomberg, Lance Armstrong, WJC

The Queen of Jordan, Ellennnnnnn!!!, the chairman of Coca-Cola, Bono and Al Gore.

H.W. Bush and WJC

A pretty crappy shot of Gordon Brown

Here is Bono, spreading the good word – apparently, he’s been doing it elsewhere too.

Second Plenary – generating profits, jobs and equitable growth

Well, this morning’s plenary session was really pretty amazing – on stage, the Queen of Jordan, the President of Liberia, the Chairman of Coca Cola, Bono and Al Gore. All had some really interesting and inspiring stories to tell (save maybe for the chairman of Coke, who merely encouraged MNCs to continue investing and engaging in emerging markets). Al Gore pleaded with the youth to take part in acts of civil disobedience if the authorities weren’t changing course – his entire intervention, as well as that of Bono, was incredible.

Bono reminded us that we managed to find $700 billion last week to rescue Wall Street, but that we were having a hard time scrounging the $25 billion it would take to make a huge difference in the fight against AIDS, malaria and TB. While drawing this kind of comparison is a bit of a cheap shot (the stakes of non-intervention in Wall Street are different – and one could argue higher – than the stakes of saving the lives of children), the whole point of this first plenary (and I’d say of this entire conference) is to motivate and inspire those who have the ability to make things happen. I suppose that’s the reason that first session was entitled ” A Call to Action” and not “Deep Thoughts on Development Strategy”.

I unfortunately missed the working sessions, as I was called into some meetings for the Clinton Giustra Initiative, but now I’m back in the midst of it – another plenary is about to begin, and then, “A Conversation between Bill Gates and Bill Clinton about Giving”. Should be great.

William J Clinton opening remarks

2 of the 4 highlighted commitments in the opening plenary concern Liberia, and President Sirleaf just stepped on stage with the President of the Nike Foundation.

This is about one of my favorite initiatives, The Girl Effect, that I have written about before. They are committing $5 million over 3 years for programs that empower young women and open up economic opportunities for them. Clinton is telling all of us how important it is to insure that girls everywhere have greater access to opportunities….

Another commitment with Liberia is $15 million to help coordinate philanthropic efforts between charitable organizations and the Government – I wonder how The Niapele Project can get plugged into this…. But truly, what a great opportunity: harmonizing and coordinating development activities between NGOs, foundations, international organizations and the government is definitely incredibly necessary.

I hope that these high level commitments, made in a fancy ballroom in NYC, will translate into real positive change for Liberians.

Bloomberg and Lance Armstrong just stepped on stage – the Livestrong Foundation is going to launch an international awareness campaign to make cancer a health priority the world over.

Lance Armstrong is still wearing his yellow wristband, in case you were wondering. Apparently, the number 1 killing disease of young women in sub-saharan Africa is cervical cancer – this is probably the last cause I would have come up with. Interesting.

….more to come….

Live from the Clinton Global Initiative

Lucky, lucky me. I get to spend the next 3 day listening to the world’s most pre-eminent activits, front line figures in the fight against poverty. Right now, the Metropolitan Ballroom of the Sheraton in midtown Manhattan is slowly filling up with CEOs, diplomats, journalists, development experts and practicioners – and you can feel the buzz. The opening plenary is gathering a pretty inspirational group of speakers: Lance Armstrong, Bono, Al Gore…. among others. I’ll be taking diligent notes to share with all of you (hi Mom).