It was a busy week here in New York, and I'm still trying to process the dozens of sessions that were webcast from (or in conjunction with) the UN Millennium Development Summit and the sixth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.
For many, CGI and the MDG campaign epitomize everything that's wrong with international development as practiced by rich donor governments and their NGO partners: an addiction to grand schemes; an over-reliance on technocrats; and an unwillingness or inability to address some of the most important contributing factors (agricultural subsidies, resource exploitation, corruption) to global poverty.
I'm not an aid expert. But I found myself (as I have in the past) inspired by much of what I saw and heard this week in New York. Yes, the UN, which was established by charter in 1945, is showing its age. At the same time, one has to be impressed by a new generation of activist-geeks who want to open-up and energize the MDG campaign with social media. And sure, there are all sorts of agendas in play at a CGI meeting. But as Bill Clinton reminded those in attendance (and all of us watching on the Web), the folks making commitments, taking time out from busy schedules, and/or flying halfway around the globe to be part of a panel don't have to be there; they want to be there.
So without further adieu, here are three of my favorite sessions from this year's CGI meeting:
In the first clip, NPR's Adam Davidson moderates an "historic" conversation featuring three of the leading voices in the world of microfinance: Vikram Akula, founder and chairperson of SKS Microfinance Ltd., India's largest and the world's fastest-growing microfinance institution; Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and chief executive offficer of Women’s World Banking; and Noble Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus, founder and managing director of the prototypical microfinance institution, Grameen Bank.
In the second clip, Jose Maria Figueres, the former president of Costa Rica, talks with Virgin Group founder Richard Branson (who at the 2006 CGI meeting committed all profits from Virgin's transportation divisions to the develoment of alternative fuel sources) and the dynamic Christiana Figueres (no relation), recently appointed head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, about energy, climate change, and the post-Copenhagen prospects for addressing "the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced."
And in the third clip, former President Clinton moderates a special session on recovery efforts in Haiti after first doing a brilliant job of framing the daunting task at hand. (Be sure to catch hip hop star and Haitian presidential hopeful Wyclef Jean's brief turn on stage with René Préval, the man he hoped to unseat, at the beginning of the clip.)
You can access webcasts of all of this year's CGI sessions here. And if you've got a favorite of your own -- from CGI or the Millennium Summit -- let us know in the comments section below.
-- Mitch Nauffts