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Clinton Global Initiative Brings in Over $1 Billion in Pledges

by Marinka Peschmann, Special to Canada Free Press
Monday, September 19, 2005

New York - The Clinton Global Initiative wrapped up on Saturday bringing in over $1.25 billion in pledges. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Chris Tucker, Barbra Streisand, Leonardo DiCaprio, astronaut John Glenn, and Mark Rich’s ex-wife, song writer, Denise Rich, participated among the “global leaders” who joined former President Bill Clinton to combat “some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

The former President told the packed ballroom on the first day of his three-day “nonpartisan” conference this is “more than business as usual.” Issues on the CGI’s docket include reducing poverty, religion, fighting diseases, and combating environmental issues. Bill Clinton's premise is simple. If commitments aren't honoured, the participant is not invited back.

The conference opened with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair and the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with the former President in an informal Oprah-esqe atmosphere seated comfortably in chrome rimmed white leather chairs atop a stark white stage. Decorating the modern background was an enlarged Clinton Global Initiative logo with four blue simple streaks, incompletely ringed by a row of gold stars hanging next to four shelved plants. Wearing multiple hats, acting as host, moderator and commentator, the former President, lead the “plenary session,” in a lively and vast sweeping talk billed as “Perspectives of the Global Challenges of Our Time.”

During the “economics of the Gaza withdrawal” subject former President Clinton suggested creating an “insurance policy against terror” to encourage private investors to spend in the region. After the 1993 Oslo Accord was signed, “As soon as the first terrorist bomb went off,” he explained; all the private investors he'd encouraged to rebuild the war torn economy pulled out their financing.

Prime Minister Blair believes what will make a difference “is the enterprise of people.”

Secretary Rice sees new “hope and opportunity” since Israel's recent withdrawal from Gaza and said this is “is a job not just for governments but for the private sector.”

When President Clinton shifted the dialogue to Free Trade, King Abdullah told the participants how Jordan's trade jumped to “$1 billion” from approximately “$13 to $14 million” with the passing of a Free Trade agreement between Jordan and the United States. “50% of the Middle East is under 18,” said his Majesty, emphasizing the importance for immediate job creation in the region.

“If we're serious about tackling global poverty,” said Prime Minister Blair, the upcoming Doha Round multilateral trade negotiations in Hong Kong will be a “big” test.  “It’s a test we better pass.”  Secretary Rice sees trade as a “vehicle for development.”

The panelists answered former President Clinton's questions and topics bounced from solar power, where former President Clinton said, since he added solar panels to the Clinton library in Arkansas, he's cut his energy bill down by “one-third,” and touched on climate change, then veered to the advantage of nuclear energy and the risk of nonproliferation. China's robust economy, plus agriculture was also broached.

The subject of terror and the July 7th London bombings killing over 50 people also swept across the stage. Prime Minister Blair paid “tribute to the mainstream Muslims in London while King Abdullah insisted, “We cannot let terrorists convince us we are enemies.” The panel agreed the purpose of “terrorism is to divide us.”

Hurricane Katrina was never far from the CGI’s talks. Both Senator Hillary Clinton and General Wesley Clark encouraged an immediate Climate Change policy, while in a separate session, Former Vice President Al Gore warned the participates, “We face a global emergency and a deepening climatic crisis that requires us to act.”

The United Nations “works in large part better than it used to because of this man,” Bill Clinton told the crowd on the last day when he welcomed “his friend” Kofi Annan on stage. The UN Secretary-General received the first standing ovation of the event and “looks forward to working with the Clinton Global Initiative.” “We didn't get everything we wanted,” Annan said, referring to the Draft Outcome approved at the 60th General Assembly across town, but “I deliberately set the bar very high.”

Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Human Resources Minister Belinda Stronach were among the crowd.

Marinka Peschmann is a freelance writer whose first book collaboration, the best-selling The Kid Stays In The Picture; was made into a documentary. She's contributed to several books and stories ranging from showbiz and celebrities to true crime and politics.

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