President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton Address the Opening Plenary Session of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global InitiativeSeptember 22, 2009
New York, N.Y. - This afternoon, President Barack Obama joined President Bill Clinton to open the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, bringing together leaders from the political, corporate, and civil sectors to develop and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing problems.
"This week, even as we gather at the United Nations to discuss what governments can do to confront the challenges of our time, even as we're joined tonight by so many presidents and prime ministers - this Global Initiative reminds us what we can do as individuals: that you don't have to hold public office to be a public servant," President Obama said, adding: "That's the beauty of service - anyone can do it and everyone should try."
President Clinton announced that more than 60 current and former heads of state, 500 business leaders, and 400 leaders from nongovernmental and philanthropic organizations will be attending the meeting, representing 84 countries.
"In the midst of a global financial crisis, I don't think it's a coincidence that more people are attending this meeting than ever before," President Clinton said. "Since 2005, it has become clear that CGI has found an effective model for addressing challenges around the world. Our members have made more than 1,400 commitments affecting more than 200 million people around the world. Because of their efforts, more than 10 million children have access to a better education, 48 million people have better health care, and more than 12 people million have safe drinking water. But there is still work to be done."
After making his opening remarks, President Clinton moderated a panel discussion featuring Michelle Bachelet, president of the Republic of Chile, Mike Duke, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Muhtar Kent, chairman of the board and CEO of Coca-Cola, and Kevin Rudd, prime minister of the Commonwealth of Australia. The panel set the stage for the discussion over next three days, much of which will center around four global challenges: economic empowerment, education, global health, and energy and climate change. The meeting will have a particular focus on harnessing innovation, strengthening infrastructure, building human capital, and financing an equitable future to find solutions that cut across all of these challenges.
President Clinton also announced the first two commitments of this year's meeting and gave a progress report on an ongoing commitment:
Water.org commits to bringing safe drinking water and sanitation to a minimum of 50,000 people in Haiti over the next three years. It will enhance awareness of good hygiene practices among local communities, and focus on integrating sustainable water resources management into community practices. Water.org<http://Water.org> co-founders Matt Damon and Gary White joined President Clinton on-stage to announce the commitment.
Coca-Cola commits to alleviating poverty by increasing opportunities for women in the Coca-Cola distribution network in Africa. In partnership with the Academy for Educational Development, and with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Coca-Cola will work to identify strategies for overcoming barriers to women's participation, particularly skills development and access to finance.
Global Give Back Circle's founder, Linda Lockhart, appeared on stage with three young women who have benefited from the organization's previous commitment. Global Give Back Circle committed to helping adolescent girls in Kenya achieve financial and societal independence with the help of mentors, the local community, and financial partners. Already, 35 high school graduating seniors have been accepted to Universities across Kenya.
About the Clinton Global Initiative
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) brings together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. Since 2005, CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 100 current and former heads of state, 10 of the last 16 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the most effective nongovernmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. These CGI members have made more than 1,400 commitments valued at $46 billion, which have improved the lives of more than 200 million people in more than 170 countries.