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by Amma Bonsou

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) has earned an international reputation for its commitment to finding tangible solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges. Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the event provides a platform for world leaders and members of the private and public sectors to interact and pledge resources to tackle specific socioeconomic issues.

This year, the CGI Annual Meeting took place in New York City starting on September 20th 2011. The participants addressed a myriad of issues like climate change, effective disaster preparedness and the problem of child brides.

During the special session on disaster preparedness, Valerie Amos the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, explained that when a natural disaster hits, it is important for donors to support the work of established and experienced organizations to help deal with the crisis be it a food crisis, flooding or drought. The panel acknowledged that whilst some countries are better prepared than others to deal with natural disasters, real success has also been achieved by partnering with private corporations. In New Orleans for example, the St. Bernard project is working with Toyota to reconstruct homes in Wards that have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The collaboration has improved the efficacy in reconstructing homes by 30%.

In Haiti, Fonkoze USA is working to rehabilitate Haiti by providing access to microfinance to over 56,000 women. Through effective partnership with CGI sponsor Swiss Re, Fonkoze was able to subdue the impact of torrential rains that hit Haiti in May 2011 by extending money to the microentrepreneurs within two weeks of the disaster. This rapid response helped the women get back on their feet and contribute to the growth of their economy again. Results like these have encouraged participants to renew their commitment to share resources inorder to assist resource poor areas.

Another priority of the 2011 CGI meeting was the launch of a new global partnership to end child marriages. The initiative called Girls not Brides is a concerted effort by the Ford Foundation, The Elders, The Nike Foundation and the Novo Foundation to reverse a global tradition where girls under the age of 18 are forced into marriages. These organizations have pledged to raise US$3 million to establish facilities and to seed activities to end child marriage in priority countries such as Ethiopia and India. They have also committed to create a network of donors to support programs to end child marriage worldwide. Archbishop Desmond Tutu emphasized that the alarming increase of child brides negatively impacts gender equality, maternal health and poverty but there is a desperate need to intervene to give the young girls a better future. World Bank statistics indicate when a girl in the developing world receives seven years of education, she marries four years later, and she has 2.2 fewer children. Moreover, girls completing secondary school in Kenya would add US$27billion to the economy over their lifetimes. These compelling figures have galvanized the CGI to provide resources that will improve the conditions in the affected regions.

Whether it is responding to global disasters or repressive social practices, the CGI’s success can be attributed to their commitment to work with grassroot organizations and community leaders to implement change. Their strategy has led to significant results. Over 50 million children have received access to educational programs. More than 10 million people have better access to capital and financial services and clean energy has been generated to power 400,000 homes. These accomplishments underscore the relevance of the Clinton Global Initiative because it creates a unique platform to change ideas into action.

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