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Clinton Global Initiative 2012 - Monday a.m.

September 24, 2012

Cgi_logoPhilanTopic is at the Sheraton in midtown Manhattan this morning to cover the eighth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. (Watch the livestream here.) The theme of this year's meeting is "Designing for Impact" -- how can we design our world to create more opportunity and more equality? And how might we design our lives, our environments, and global systems in order to impact the many enormous challenges at hand.

The meeting opened yesterday with a session moderated by CGI founding chair and former President Bill Clinton that featured Michael Duke, president/CEO of Wal-Mart Stores; Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan; Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations; and Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group. (Watch the video here.)

Things really got rolling this morning, however, with a powerful speech ("Designing Diplomacy for the 21st Century") by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- who was welcomed by CGI attendees as if she were a rockstar (or once-and-future presidential candidate). In it, Secretary Clinton shared a three-part framework for U.S. diplomacy and development assistance in "a time of great change." My scribbled notes don't do her talk justice (you can watch the livestream here), but here's the gist of what she said:

-- In a time of enormous technological, demographic, political, and geopolitical change, the goal of U.S. development assistance is "to help solve problems and support opportunities around the world."

-- In the 1960s, official development aid from donor countries to developing countries represented 70% of capital flows into those countries; today, it's 13% -- relatively insignificant compared to trade, business investment, and remitttances.

-- The U.S. aid budget has increased in real-dollar terms over that period -- but represents a much smaller share of aid to developing countries overall.

Against this backdrop, the U.S. State Department has three objectives going forward with respect to development assistance. As Clinton put it:

1) We want to move from direct aid to investment. The political and geopolitical landscape has changed, needs have changed, assistance needs to be rethought. We need to be intentional and strategic. We need to focus on and promote public-private partnerships ("You cannot do development in today's world without partnering with the private sector"). We need to recognize that many of yesterday's laggards are today's rising stars (in the last decade, six of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world have been in Africa). We need to be rigorous and demonstrate results.

2) We need to encourage "country ownership." That means building capacity within developing countries so they are able to set their own priorities, develop plans to achieve those priorities, execute on those plans, and, increasingly, fund those plans. And it means ownership by "the whole country" -- men and women. The surest path out of poverty for developing countries is educating and empowering women and girls.

3) We need to put ourselves out of business. The State Department looks forward to the day when public-sector assistance is replaced by private-sector investment. ("I'm always surprised when people are surprised to hear that.") Before we get there, however, State (and others) need to expand the number of partners with which it works; the days of government working through large international NGOs only are over. Elites around the world also have to recognize that they need to pay their fair share of taxes and support critical investments in public education and infrastructure. And donor governments around the world need to step up their efforts to combat corruption, which as much as anything is responsible for stifling innovation and smothering human aspiration in too many countries.

In closing, Clinton reminded those in attendance that "freedom and dinity are more important than food and water." And she urged everyone in the room "to stand together to resist the forces of extremism and violence and stand firm for peaceful transitions to democracy in North Africa and the Middle East." (Watch her complete remarks here.)

Back with more in a bit...

-- Mitch Nauffts

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