So, I'm here, and I'm impressed. This year's event has drawn more than 1,300 CGI members -- foreign ministers and heads of state, NGO officials, top business leaders, academics, social entrepreneurs, and more than a few Nobel laureates -- not to mention hundreds of members of the media and foreign press. (Great Britain, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, India, Spain, and Mexico are some of the countries represented.) Security is tight, and the CGI people do a fantastic job with the logistics.
The annual event -- this is the third -- is the flywheel of the CGI effort. It's where CGI members and global leaders from the public, private, and NGO sectors come to network as well as devise innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Those solutions take the form of CGI member "commitments to action" -- practical, effective problem-solving measures that can be taken now to address a specific need in one or more CGI areas of focus. Areas of focus change annually to address the most imperative global issues requiring attention. The areas of focus for 2007 are education, energy & climate change, global health, and poverty alleviation.
To kick off this year's event (and inspire those in attendance), former President Clinton announced four new commitments at the start of the opening plenary:
- Florida Power & Light will invest $2.4 billion in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the state. As part of the project, FP&L will build new solar power plants that are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by more than two million tons over five years, and will also provide smart meters to their customers along with an education program designed to help customers reduce their carbon footprint.
- The PNC Foundation, Blue Mountain Capital, TONIC, the Bridge Foundation, the Goldman Sachs Foundation, and Merrill Lynch are partnering in a $2 million commitment to fund eight airlifts to bring humanitarian relief to Darfur and Chad. The flights will be made available to partner organizations wanting to send essential supplies, with the first four flights completed by the end of the year and the second four to be completed by April 2008.
- The Scojo Foundation will spend $1.57 million to expand to ten additional countries its Scojo Reading Glass Microfranchises program, which trains entrepreneurs in developing countries to sell affordable reading glasses. The expanded program will enable an additional 3,000 entrepreneurs to develop new sources of income, providing 300,000 people with new glasses and other eyecare products.
- Partnering with President Ramos-Horta of Timor and the Peace and Democracy Foundation, Interpeace is investing $1.2 million to implement a nationwide program designed to enable the Timorese to become the architects of their own future by empowering them to identify the underlying drivers of the violence and unrest in their communities and to find ways of addressing them in a nonviolent and sustainable manner.
Subsequently, Clinton announced that the governments of Norway (represented here by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg) and the Netherlands (represented by Prime Minister Jan peter Balkenende) will commit $1 billion and $175 million, respectively, over ten years to launch a global advocacy campaign, "Deliver Now for Women and Children," to reduce maternal and child deaths in developing countries -- and, not coincidentally, to renew the developed world's commitment to the fourth and fifth Millennium Development Goals -- by 2015.
Clinton himself is the impressario of the whole thing, and his performance is a thing to behold. As a friend of mine who is a managing director at Goldman Sachs and is also attending the event said, he seems to know everything, know everyone, and to have been everywhere. When he was in office, people used to talk about Clinton's charisma, and sharing the stage with Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines; Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank; H. Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart; former Vice President Al Gore; and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- as Clinton did this morning at the opening plenary -- you definitely get a sense of what people are talking about. So, who cares if he hogged the mike a little; it's his mike (as Ronald Reagan might have said), and he's a big part of the reason why CGI works as well as it seems to.
Which leads me to a question I hope to get others to address before the event wraps up on Friday: Is it philanthropy? To be continued.
-- Mitch Nauffts