Values: The Global Common Good

This week, as the international community gathered at the UN, "an alternate universe...set up shop across town." The third Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting brought together 1,200 people from 72 countries, including 52 current and former heads of state, to discuss poverty, education, energy and climate change, and global health.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna,
Matt Corley, Ali Frick, and Jeremy Richmond
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The Global Common Good

This week, as the international community gathered at the UN, “an alternate universe…set up shop across town.” The third Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting brought together 1,200 people from 72 countries, including 52 current and former heads of state, to discuss poverty, education, energy and climate change, and global health. Last year’s CGI meeting inspired 262 commitments from CGI members, valued at more than $7.3 billion and benefiting over 500 organizations that helped people in more than 100 countries. This year, donors had made more than 100 commitments in the first 24 hours of the meeting, with a total value of more than $4.75 billion, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. CGI also launched, a forum where people around the world can follow the discussions at CGI and make their own commitments to action. President Bill Clinton opened the conference by discussing what brought the participants together: “We actually believe we can do it. We believe we can make a difference.

A GLOBAL MARSHALL PLAN: In two years, work by the Clinton Foundation has “avoided or reduced 20,070,524 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.” The work continued this year, with climate change garnering particular attention. Al Gore called for a global energy Marshall Plan. Prince Albert II of Monaco announced his commitment to work with the United Nations to support a post-Kyoto treaty addressing global warming and climate change. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson admitted that “it is impossible to solve this without engaging globally.” But this week, as the U.N. met to discuss a post-Kyoto agreement, President Bush skipped the meetings. Instead, he organized a “major emitters meeting,” which proposes only voluntary, “aspirational” emissions goals, and in effect undermining U.N. attempts at mandatory carbon caps. Among the many commitments made toward reducing climate change at this year’s CGI conference, Wal-Mart committed to sell only concentrated liquid laundry detergents at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club by May 2008, saving “more than 400 million gallons of water, more than 95 million pounds of plastic resin and more than 125 million pounds of cardboard.” Actor Brad Pitt pledged $5 million to build green housing for low-income residents in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and eight American utility companies “committed to investing $1 billion a year over three years to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 5 million tons a year — the equivalent, they said, of taking about a million cars off the road.” And Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) announced the development of a 300 megawatt solar power plant that will provide clean electricity to approximately 450,000 homes. To see all climate change commitments, click here.

POVERTY WORK FROM THE TOP DOWN: Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Gayle Smith hosted a discussion between various leaders of anti-poverty groups. Participants discussed their work in encouraging land ownership in Africa, investing $300 million into Liberia’s private sector, and connecting impoverished people with low-cost, high-value technology such as solar-powered computers. CGI member Zaher Al Munajjed, chairman of Grameen-Jameel Pan-Arab Microfinance Limited, emphasized the importance of company policies that encourage charitable giving among their employees. “It is something that should be followed by the CEO, himself. He should care and follow it like he looks at his profit every quarter,” said Al Munajjed. “It requires the leadership of the top man [or woman] and if it’s not there, it will not work.” The XL Results Foundation committed $1,000,000 to help train and support female leadership and entrepreneurship in India. To view all poverty alleviation commitments, click here.

EXPANDING ACCESS TO EDUCATION: For the first time, this year’s CGI added the topic of education to its docket. Actress Angelina Jolie and former Clinton National Economic Adviser Gene Sperling announced the expansion of a partnership that would contribute $150 million in educational efforts to help teaching Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, launch Sesame Street Afghanistan, and expand the Healing Classrooms initiative for kids in Afghanistan and Darfur. Valentino Achak Deng, whose story of his flight from Sudan as a young man is chronicled in Dave Eggers’ “What is the What,” moved the audience with his personal story. “Today I have come to notice we as the people of the world have much in common than we even know. And we can only be able to learn that if we spread education to everyone in any corner of the world,” he said. To support more children who lack access to schools, Teach for All, a partnership between Teach for America and Teach First, committed $6,000,000 in the first year to support school development in at least seven countries in Africa. To view all education commitments, click here.

PREVENTIVE CARE APPROACH TO GLOBAL HEALTH: In a session devoted to maternal and infant health, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg committed $1.2 billion from Norway to the cause. Center for American Progress fellow Thomas Kalil noted, “I think that’s even more impressive when you consider that Norway has a population of 4.7 million. So for the United States to make a similar commitment would be $60 billion so that’s pretty significant.” Former Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), who committed to engaging resources to reduce preventable diseases among young children, moderated a working group discussion on inexpensive, effective ways to improve health care across the world. Helen Gayle, the president and CEO of CARE, suggested midwife training. “It doesn’t cost a lot to train a skilled birth attendant, $30, $50 to train somebody who could make a huge difference in impacting the lives of women who now die needlessly due to maternal mortality, hemorrhage, et cetera.” To view all global health commitments, click here.


RADICAL RIGHT — LIMBAUGH SAYS TROOPS WHO OPPOSE THE IRAQ WAR ARE ‘PHONY SOLDIERS’: This week, right wing radio host Rush Limbaugh referred to American service members who favor withdrawing from Iraq as “phony soldiers.” While discussing and disparaging war critics, a caller to Limbaugh’s show, who identified himself as an active-duty soldier, said that anti-war activists “never talk to real soldiers” to support their position, to which Limbaugh responded “phony soldiers.” In response, Iraq war vet Jon Soltz wrote that Limbaugh’s comments are directed at the majority of troops on the ground in Iraq” because they do not back the President’s failed policy. On Sept. 20, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced a non-binding resolution that stated that the Senate would condemn any effort to attack the honor and integrity” of “all members of the United States Armed Forces.” Seventy-two senators voted for that amendment. Similarly, 341 members of the House recently passed a companion resolution to that of Cornyn’s. For all the members of Congress who rushed to make political hay over an empty resolution, the spotlight is on them. Will they now enforce their “sense of the Senate” and condemn Rush Limbaugh?

CONGRESS — SEN. JIM BUNNING REVEALED AS SENATOR BEHIND SECRET HOLD ON PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS BILL: Last week, the Progress Report noted that an anonymous senator had placed a hold on a bill that would restore public access to Presidential records, which President Bush had sealed indefinitely with an executive order in 2001. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) was originally suspected of being the senator behind the secret hold until a member of his staff contacted the Progress Report to “state for the record that” Sen. Coburn is not holding this bill related to presidential records.” With Coburn out of the running, the mystery of who was attempting to block public access to Presidential records continued. But now, the Sunlight Foundation has revealed that the senatorial hand behind the secret hold is Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY). “Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY)…has an objection to moving forward with HR 1255, the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007. … whether or not he has had the hold all along, Senator Bunning has been forced to take responsibility for the objection.” Tell Bunning to let the bill come to a vote HERE.

ELECTION — PARTISAN BALLOT INITIATIVE IN CALIFORNIA ‘VIRTUALLY DEAD’:  The LA Times reported yesterday that a controversial ballot initiative strongly backed by conservatives in California “to change the winner-take-all electoral vote allocation to one by congressional district is virtually dead with the resignation of key supporters, internal disputes and a lack of funds.” The New York Times noted that if the initiative had passed and “California abandons its winner-take-all rule while red states like Texas do not, it will be hard for a Democratic nominee to assemble an Electoral College majority, even if he or she wins a sizable majority of the popular vote. That appears to be just what the backers of the California idea have in mind.” It was later revealed that the backers of the initiative had “contributed nearly $4.5 million to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that made unsubstantiated but damaging attacks on Kerry three years ago.” News of the initiative’s demise was greeted with optimistic, but cautious comments from political strategists. “‘We want to to make sure this is not the Freddy Krueger of initiatives,’ said one consultant today, ‘that comes back to life. We’ll continue to monitor it.'”


The decision by the four leading frontrunners for the GOP presidential nomination to skip last night’s debate that focused on issues related to people of color elicited outrage from the rest of the field. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he was “embarrassed,” and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) said the absence of the leading candidates was a “disgrace.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected a U.S. Senate proposal calling for the partitioning of Iraq. “Iraqis are eager for Iraq’s unity. … Dividing Iraq is a problem and a decision like that would be a catastrophe,” he said.

One of members of the Jena 6 — Mychal Bell — “was released on bail on Thursday, a week after the case drew thousands of protesters to the small town in the central part of the state.” The Jena district attorney announced that “he would not seek to maintain adult charges against the teenager.”

An initial State Department report on a Sept. 16 shootout in Baghdad involving Blackwater USA says the private security contractors were “ambushed near the traffic circle and returned fire before fleeing the scene,” a depiction of events that contradicts Iraqi findings. Separately, State has confirmed that Blackwater personnel have been involved in 56 shootings while guarding U.S. officials this past year.

The State Department said yesterday that “the first American oil contract in Iraq,” between the Hunt Oil Company and the Kurdistan Regional Government,” is counterproductive towards the U.S. goal of “strengthening the country’s central government.”

“Fourteen “high-value” terrorism suspects who were transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from secret CIA prisons last year have been formally offered the right to request lawyers, a move that could allow them to join other detainees in challenging their status as enemy combatants in a U.S. appellate court.”

“It’s a lonely U.S. Senate for Larry Craig, whose uncertain status has upset his social and political standing in the clubby chamber.” McClatchy newspapers observed Craig’s interactions with his colleagues: “[He] mostly moved stiffly through their ranks without engaging much in the easy jocularity and bipartisan banter that go on throughout the day.”

And finally: Scooter Libby’s prison pseudonym lives on. In the season premiere of NBC’s My Name Is Earl last night, the show opened with Earl talking about his life in prison. He then mentioned that for the next two years, he’d be known as inmate 28301-016 — the same number that the Bureau of Prisons issued to “Scooter” Libby.

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