Clinton initiative garners pledges to help combat global ills

Summit collects $1.25 billion in money, programs to target poverty, conflict, corruption, global warming

September 18, 2005|By COX NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK - Bill Clinton's summit of world leaders, tycoons and nonprofit groups collected the equivalent of $1.25 billion in pledges for money and programs intended to combat global problems, the former president said yesterday.

Participants at the Clinton Global Initiative in Manhattan this weekend were expected to commit in writing to at least one real action in one of four areas: reducing poverty, resolving religious conflicts, fighting global warming and reducing government corruption in poor nations.

"All of us have an unprecedented amount of power to solve problems, save lives and help people see the future," Clinton said.

Clinton, who brought leaders and entrepreneurs on stage and told them to "sign on the dotted line," said he will report on their progress, and those whose promises fall short will not be invited back.

Many commitments were not donations of money, but were programs or services expected to give aid or generate funds to help in one of the four areas.

A large chunk of the total came from Swiss Reinsurance Co., the world's second-largest reinsurance company, which said it would create an investment fund to back European clean-energy projects. The fund's estimated value will be more than $300 million, according to the firm, which has expressed concern that global warming will worsen natural disasters.

Coca-Cola Co. pledged that 2 percent of the electricity used by its 25 North American manufacturing plants making soda syrup and bottled water would come from renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines.

The company had already planned the expansion of an existing program and felt the Clinton event was the right place to make the announcement, said Bryan Jacob, Coca-Cola's environmental technologies manager.

While some of the 190 commitments were planned before the conference, many, including the $300 million clean-energy fund, came out of discussions at the initiative, said Clinton spokesman Jay Carson.

"It was all committed because of the event," he said.

Large commitments also included $100 million from the foundation of Scottish retail entrepreneur and philanthropist Tom Hunter. The money, spread over 10 years, is intended to support African economic development.

Those attending the conference, which brought about 800 people to a New York hotel, included British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and King Abdullah II of Jordan. Others ranged from Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons to celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio.

For heads of state, the Clinton initiative counted their presence at the event and public service work as a commitment and didn't require them to sign a pledge, Carson said.

However, the prime minister of the island nation of Mauritius committed to host a conference on poverty next year.

More commitments were expected in coming weeks.

At the conference yesterday, Clinton reunited with his former vice president, Al Gore, who spoke on a panel about global warming.

"Hurricane Katrina was preceded by clear warnings," Gore said. "There are clear warnings now about the impact of global warming, and they are not being heeded."

Later, Clinton interviewed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the world's challenges.

Annan, having just completed the 60th U.N. General Assembly and its world summit, said his greatest disappointment was the failure to craft an agreement to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.

"We all keep saying that is the most serious threat we face and terrorists may get their hands on a dirty bomb, and yet we could not get an agreement," Annan said. "There has to be willingness on the part of the nuclear powers to take disarmament seriously."

Clinton, who has been restrained in criticism of U.S. policies since he left office, said his administration pursued nonproliferation, and "I would like it if my country would resume the effort to reduce the number of nuclear weapons we have."

Commitments received by late yesterday included efforts to provide clean water and sanitation in several African nations and a $1.5 million program to provide 24,000 bicycles in Sri Lanka for the poor and those affected by the tsunami.

One pledge from the group City Year involved an effort to bring 50 volunteers to help with rebuilding in the Louisiana areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

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