Two weeks ago I was pleased to visit New York and the 10th Annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative held in the Sheraton hotel, in mid-town Manhattan.
The event, organised by the Bill, Hilary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is a gathering of international leaders dedicated to developing innovative solutions to some of the world’s pressing challenges. And it brings together current and former Heads of State, Government representatives, Nobel Peace Prize winners, hundreds of leaders in the business and non profit sectors, and civic society.
Each year that I have attended, I have felt enriched, energised and uplifted by the collegial sense of addressing global problems, and this year was no different.
The thinking behind the CGI is that members make a ‘Commitment to Action’ which amounts to a new, specific and measurable plan that addresses a shared concern. The focus is on actions rather than words.
And at this Annual meeting 100 new ‘Commitments to Action’ were made.
When fully funded and implemented the Clinton Global Initiative estimate that these commitments will create or fill more than 40,000 jobs, provide nearly $3.6 million in new capital for green initiatives; and mobilise more than $215 million of new capital to be invested or loaned to small or medium sized businesses.
I was especially struck by contributions from many of the participants. Not least the Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt. She spoke of her country’s commitments towards developing green economies and how a small country like Denmark has been transformed into a world leader in this field. Her motto is ‘Confronting climate change is good economics’.
Graca Machel, a Mozambican politician, humanitarian and widow of Nelson Mandela and Samora Machel, former Mozambican President was awarded a special Citizen award and spoke very eloquently on the importance of equality for girls and women worldwide. She spoke on crucial issues facing Africa and its future and specifically on the implications of taking action against child marriage, and of valuing girls in the same way as we value boys.
Also worth mentioning was the live video call the conference made with the International Space Station and the NASA astronauts based there. President Bill Clinton and Astronaut Cady Coleman, from the conference spoke to the NASA astronauts – an American, a German and a Russian, based in outer space. The imagery and banter was exciting and fascinating. They spoke about how astronauts from different countries work together to undertake the pioneering research and went on to predict that earthlings would leave the solar system at some point! RG would like to be on that trip. Hard to fathom alright, but I suppose never say never!
Some of the other stories from this planet were harrowing but the commitment of activists, particularly from the developing world was inspirational and moving. Women organising women against poverty. Humanitarians providing clean water. A child under 5 years of age dies every twenty one seconds from contaminated water. Mohammad Yunus on building social businesses. Great work.
It also puts some of our own difficulties in context.
On this visit I also took the opportunity to meet with many friends of Ireland and others to discuss the political process here. Some of these included President Clinton, Congressman Richie Neale and Tony Blair, as well as some friends from Irish America.
I stressed the need for the two governments to fulfil their obligations and for the Irish Government especially, as a co-equal guarantor of the Good Friday and other agreements, to assert itself to promote progress and for the White House to encourage this.
One thing is for sure our friends in Irish America are very focussed on this. So is Sinn Féin.