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Observations from CGI

By Susan Carey Dempsey on September 24, 2008No Comment

In the opening plenary session of this year’s CGI, former President Bill Clinton had a couple of opportunities to remark on some of the underlying philosophies that play into his brokering of a historic number of commitments. "This is a big deal," he said of the importance of collaboration, in a phrase he’s likely to repeat throughout the next few days. Announcing one of the first commitments, a $15 million collaboration between the Novo Foundation and the government of Liberia that will involve several donor investors, he underscored the value of coordination. Speaking to donors, he cautioned that "if you don’t coordinate, you won’t spend money as effectively, and undermine your investments." Instead, he urged, investments should leverage NGO’s and "harmonize their effectiveness."

Clinton underscored another favorite point when introducing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Lance Armstrong to talk about their commitment to use Armstrong’s return to cycling to raise awareness of cancer prevention. Acknowledging that there are, unfortunately, many true victims of major disasters, such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and other catastrophes the world has experienced in the past year, he made the point that "it’s better if the smallest possible number of those people think of themselves as victims. A large part of what we do is to empower people to change their circumstances, to seize their own destiny." Pointing to Lance Armstrong, who won  seven Tours de France after facing the challenge of cancer, Clinton said, "he’s a walking advertisement that it works."

A strong underlying concept Clinton frequently asserts is the effect of educating young women, especially in countries emerging from conflict, "the Girl Effect." He pointed out that one of the key factors that can impact global warming is population growth, but efforts to control that growth run into moral, religious and cultural debates. The one path that avoids those issues is education of young women, so that girls have the opportunity to learn and to earn a living. A commitment announced by the Nike Foundation, the World Bank and the government of Liberia will provide $5 million over 3 years for this country of  3.4 million people to train young women for specific jobs. "You will see a breathtaking increase," he said, "in all the positive sociological indicators" in Liberia as a result.

Clinton used that example to make another point which he has often stressed to the donor community, that by creating successful models in small populations, with measurable results, these results can then be replicated in larger areas."This is important in Liberia," he said, "but we need it everywhere."

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