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Clinton Foundation Millennium Network: The Next Generation for Global Change

By Tom Watson on August 1, 2007No Comment

Clinton Foundation Millennium Network: The Next Generation for Global Change
By Maria Nardell and Josh Moore, 8/1/07

Blue lights burned through the haze of smoke machines, and the crowd of aspiring world-changers found themselves caught up in the music and the message.  Above the strains of the band, Grammy Award winner John Legend sang a fittingly plaintive lyric: “I can’t stop questioning…why so much suffering?”
Held in New York City’s Roseland Ballroom, a music venue with capacity of 3,500, last night’s Clinton Foundation event was a reception, concert, and fundraiser for the recently launched Millennium Network, a project of the Clinton Foundation aimed at engaging the under-40 generation in philanthropy.

Too often philanthropy is thought of as the addendum to a successful career, the domain of those who have achieved material success and now want to make a difference in the world as well.  Yet, as President Clinton commented in his address, philanthropy is not just for people “like Bill Gates and me.”  Young people “who have more tomorrows than yesterdays” should have the “opportunity to be a global citizens” as well.

The impressive turnout last night, filling the Roseland Ballroom and including guests such as Tiki Barber and Walter Mosley, is a testament to the desire of these leaders to address the challenges of global interdependence- not in ten years, not in twenty years, but now.

Award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright is one example of someone who has taken the initiative to have an immediate impact on global problems at a relatively young age.  After seeing Cry Freetown, a 2000 documentary film depicting the victims of a civil war in Sierra Leone, Wright was inspired to learn more about issues in Africa.  His first trip to Sierra Leone was in 2001, and since then, he has been to the country 12 times, concentrating on sustainable development.

Speaking to the Millennium Network crowd of young people, Wright declared that “we must recognize our part in creating some of these conditions in the developing world.”  Moreover, he pointed out, “instability [in Africa] creates instability everywhere,” a theme of universality that President Clinton would echo later in the evening.

Much of the Clinton Foundation’s work, including the aspects of the Foundation’s work that the Millennium Network supports, is in the international development sector, including HIV/AIDS, climate change, water and sanitation programs.  President Clinton summed up the three main worldwide issues that the Foundation and its international partners seek to address: inequality, instability, and lack of sustainability in using global resources. 

One new international partner of the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) is UNITAID.  Established in 2006, UNITAID increases access to high-quality drugs for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis by creating an international drug purchasing facility that provides sustainable financing, driving prices down.  Initiated by the French government and funded in part by a small passenger tax on airline tickets in France, UNITAID selected CHAI to be an implementing partner and will provide CHAI with $70 million in 2007 to lower drug prices and deliver the medicines to over 100,000 people in 40 countries.

Yet UNITAID is just one of the Clinton Foundation’s many global partners, and while the theme of the evening focused primarily on the organization’s international work, President Clinton also discussed some of the Foundation’s other initiatives.  Speaking to the problem of profound inequality in the United States, he described how the burden of obesity and related disorders falls heavily on the poor and on minorities, illustrating a case of adult-onset diabetes recently found in a 9-year-old boy in Harlem.  He also highlighted the importance of environmental and economic sustainability, suggesting that 100,000 jobs in New York City alone could be created through the “greening” of the city.

These plans, although less well known, are part of the Clinton Climate Initiative, Clinton Economic Opportunity Initiative (CEO) and Alliance for a Healthier Generation, all of which benefited from funds raised at last night’s event.

The New York-based Urban Enterprise Initiative (UEI), a cornerstone of the CEO, is a defining example of how the city’s Millennium Network members can support the Foundation.  Staffed with volunteers, since 2002 the initiative has provided more than 65,000 hours of pro bono technical assistance to New York City small business owners and entrepreneurs.  Through its volunteer network and partnerships with New York University’s Stern School of Business, the National Black MBA Association, and Booz Allen Hamilton, the UEI aims to stimulate economic growth by providing training in key business skills.

Through programs such as UEI and the Millennium Network, young people have greater opportunity and, as Clinton states, “greater responsibility to move our common enterprise forward than any previous generation of young people.”  Through the energy of this generation, he adds “None of these problems are beyond the reach of our common endeavor.”

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