Clinton Global Initiative

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Chelsea Clinton champions youth engagement and women’s rights | 

Chelsea Clinton leads a plenary discussion at CGI.
Chelsea Clinton leads a plenary discussion at CGI 2013.
CGI

(New York) – Chelsea Clinton recognizes that being the daughter of a former US President and former Secretary State pushes her onto the American political stage.

It is an opportunity rather than a burden for Clinton. In a conversation with a small group of bloggers on the Sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative last week, she described her interest in women’s rights, national service and youth engagement.

CGI used to host a separate track for women and girls. The idea was to raise the issues concerning the group, but the foundation came to realize that it was not a separate issue. Rather, women and girls are a part of all aspects of development.

“All of our work must have implications for girls and women and for the gender gap,” she said.

The organization now advises its members to consider how they are going to reach women and girls, as well as other marginalized groups, when developing their pledges. The change is working, she said. Nearly two-thirds of all commitments this year included women and girls in their plans. That is up from half last year. Continue reading

Any innovations at the big conferences this week? “Not really.” | 

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CGI

As you probably heard, this week New York City played host to word leaders at the United Nations, celebrities and businessmen at the Clinton Global Initiative, as well as young techies passionate about development at the Social Good conference.

Lucky for you, Humanosphere’s man on the East Coast, Tom Murphy, was there to see all the action firsthand. Despite the stuffy press rooms and being herded like cattle with other reporters into side alleys, Tom still managed to get some facetime with big names, like microfinance luminary Mohammed Yunus and Chelsea Clinton.

So, what got done? Did Bill Clinton, whose handlers have attracted criticism in the press as of late, facilitate ground-breaking new pledges to better the world? Did Mashable’s Social Good conference generate smart ideas for how to use technology in the fight against poverty?

The answer in the headline is a bit of a spoiler, but it’s really more complicated than that. Tune in below to hear Tom spill the beans – the good, the bad, and the jokes.

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Navigating the dynamics of power and security at Clinton Global Initiative | 

The press at work at CGI.
The press at work at CGI.

To interview Chelsea Clinton alongside a small group of bloggers we were directed to meet in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel, home to the Clinton Global Initiative.

Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard waited for a elevator to take her ostensibly up to her room, while Population Services International head Karl Hofmann awaited for a meeting and Grameen Bank founder Mohammad Yunus exited to travel to more meetings.

The main entrance for the Sheraton is along 7th avenue. People are allowed to freely enter and leave through the automatically rotating giant doors, unless they are carrying bags. CGI staff stand alongside the rails directing people carrying bags to an x-ray machine and personal search. Once cleared they are allowed to enter the crowded lobby flanked by an overcrowded Starbucks cafe and a lounge area converted into a pop-up television recording pit.
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Law & Order: Poverty alleviation unit | 

Gary Haugen
Gary Haugen

(New York) – Movement inside of the Sheraton Hotel, location of the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, came to a standstill as President Obama exited the building.

Press and meeting attendees left at once, flooding the lobby of the hotel. A swarm formed in front of the elevators as people tried to predict which door would open first and ensure that they would board to head upward.

I made it up to the fifth floor when the elevator behind me arrived at the lobby. After being cleared by the Clinton Foundation volunteer gatekeepers, wearing white shirts and adorned in CGI branded scarves or ties, I was escorted to one of the conference rooms.

Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission (IJM), jumped up to greet me as I apologized for my tardiness. He offered his forgiveness with a flash of his gap-toothed smile. A former Department of Justice lawyer, Haugen wears his grey hair in a flat-top style that taunts gravity’s pull.

He led the UN investigation following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The research and his human rights work led to the founding of the International Justice Mission (IJM) in 1997. He discovered that violence is one of the core problems related to poverty.

“The thing you notice is this massive level of violence against the poor in the developing world and the way it undermines their development and opportunity to get out of poverty,” he explains. Continue reading

At Clinton Global Initiative: Landless women at root of many problems | 

I’ve been reporting this week on the United Nations’ declared support (however vague) for expanding the global health agenda to go beyond the traditional focus on infectious diseases like AIDS, TB, measles or malaria and include non-contagious, chronic disease like cancer or heart disease.

Across town, the Clinton Global Initiative was also in New York City this week and has been exploring how to fight hunger, poverty, unemployment, gender discrimination as well as disease.

One organization from Seattle in attendance here at this high-caliber, invitation-only event, Landesa, is dealing with all these at the same time.

“Land rights are at the root of many of these problems,” said Tim Hanstad, president and CEO of the non-profit organization (formerly known as RDI, Rural Development Institute) which works to help poor people around the world obtain legal ownership of their land.

Tom Paulson

Seattle film-maker Stan Emert talks with Landesa CEO Tim Hanstad at Clinton Global Initiative

Did I mention that the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) is pretty high-faluting? Only select folks are invited. People like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Obama, Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi — and actually quite a few people representing organizations from Seattle such as PATH, Microsoft and a creative nerd working on a literacy device.

Media are allowed in, within limits. I got kicked out of a room (where I was interviewing physician-activist Paul Farmer) because I had inadvertently left the media quarantine area. For more on what it’s like to be a journalist at CGI, read this hilarious piece by the Wall Street Journal’s Ralph Gardner Jr.

But I digress. The point is it’s a high honor to be invited to attend the CGI event. It is also often a sign that your issue — aimed at creating a social good — is rising up on the political and philanthropic radar screen.

Hanstad’s been to this luminous event before, but he said there’s no question the issue of land rights for the poor is gaining more recognition. Part of this, he said, is due to the so-called “land grab” going on in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. See this Oxfam spoof video for one view.

“It’s hard to get precise numbers on what’s happening out there, but it’s clearly huge,” Hanstad said. Continue reading

5 reasons to pay attention to a badly named meeting at the UN | 

Flickr, Ashitakka

Next week, in New York City, the United Nations is holding a big meeting that could affect the future of global health.

If all the gab actually translates into policy changes and action, it could redefine global health in a fairly significant way.

In an apparent attempt to scare off normal people from paying any attention, it’s called the UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (aka NCDs). I’ll be there, joining a group of journalists granted fellowships to attend from the UN Foundation (which got money for this from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).

A lot’s going on next week in New York — the UN General Assembly (to which it has been reported Iranian President Ahmadinejad will be bringing gifts this year as well as his usual rants), the Clinton Global Initiative, a new media confab called the Social Good Summit and the poorly named meeting on global health focused on this poorly named category of diseases.

But don’t let the words, or acronyms, fool you. The NCDs are big killers, much bigger than that virus in the current blockbuster movie Contagion could ever hope to be. Continue reading

Former Microsoftie offers “Talking Book” solution to global illiteracy | 

Literacy Bridge

Talking Book

It can be difficult to make lasting gains in the ongoing effort to fight disease, improve health, boost a poor farming community’s output or sustain most humanitarian efforts if none or few in the community can read.

“Fighting disease or knowing how to improve agricultural productivity often involves long-term behavior change,” said Cliff Schmidt, founder of a Seattle-based organization called Literacy Bridge. Many humanitarian projects turn out to be unsustainable, Schmidt says, simply because those most in need cannot read or follow written instructions.

Words, it turns out, can be just as important as vaccines, drugs or better seeds when it comes to helping the world’s poorest. Schmidt has created a device to get these valuable words out to the world’s poorest. It’s called the Talking Book.

Literacy Bridge

Kids in Ghana trying out the Talking Book

Today is International Literacy Day, which the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) notes is perhaps hardly not cause for much celebration since nearly a billion people on the planet still remain illiterate.

Here’s a story out of Zimbabwe, published today by ONE, about the transformative power of literacy and another report on the educational needs in Haiti by Seattle-based journalist Peter Constantini based on his recent visit to the troubled island nation.

But I digress. This is mostly a story about Schmidt, a former Microsoft super-geek (I can say that. I know him and he has a degree in cognitive science and artificial intelligence from MIT) who years ago had an idea.

Schmidt started drifting away from his tech job at Microsoft many years ago, doing volunteer work for humanitarian organizations like CARE and RESULTS. In 2007, he went along with some UW students on an international studies project to Ghana. Schmidt also talked about his extracurricular poverty interests with Microsoft colleague Arthur Tao, who shared his interests.

To make a long story short (here’s a longer version I wrote for the Seattle PI in 2008), Schmidt recognized that literacy was critical to almost every kind of effort aimed at helping get people out of poverty. And he wanted to put his tech talents and brainpower to work on finding a solution.

Thus, Talking Book — a fairly inexpensive ($35, with plans to cut that in half), portable and durable talking computer that can be easily programmed to “speak” in local languages, instructing mothers on safe childbirth, telling farmers how to improve their crop productivity and so on. It can also answer some questions in an interactive fashion.

Here’s Schmidt’s pitch:

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