September 29, 2010; Source: Ghana Business News | Much of the news from the Clinton Global Initiative is reprinted news releases touting corporate and nonprofit commitments to the former president’s high profile philanthropic program. For example, this one touts Coke’s commitment to guarantee that half of its planned new “Micro Distribution Centers” would be run by woman. Coke said that this would “empower five million women entrepreneurs throughout its global business system.”
The Sacramento Bee largely reprints a release from Goodwill Industries that commits it to creating new stores and Job Connection Centers in Brazil and Mexico. Walmart used the CGI to announce its commitment to the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Clean by Design program aimed at reducing pollution from textile mills, pledging to work with Walmart’s Chinese textile suppliers.
Trying to popularize the drink yerba mate, Guayaki, based in Sebastopol, Calif., pledged to CGI to restore 40,000 acres of Atlantic rainforest in Southern Brazil and create 250 jobs for families in an indigenous Brazilian community. And the Avon Foundation for Women committed $520,000 to Partners in Health (PIH) for breast cancer detection in Haiti. The CGI website has links to commitments in several categories.
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What is clearly impressive is that Bill Clinton has recreated himself and generated a new narrative for his role and legacy. As President, given his self-inflicted wounds, he accomplished less than he might have. Now, however, he has carved out a galvanizing role for himself that has made his annual gathering in New York City the place for corporations and others to make their marks in philanthropic commitments to developing countries.
Even Hollywood stars Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher took to the CGI program dais to announce the commitment of their foundation (the DNA Foundation) to the Real Men campaign against child sex slavery. There’s almost an “anything goes” mentality reflected in the range of commitments announced at the program, Clinton thinks it’s all good so long as the commitments mobilize corporate capital and nonprofit energies to do things benefiting developing countries.
The CGI website prominently displays a quote from Newsweek: “Only the stone-hearted could fail to be inspired by the Clinton Global Initiative.” The President should be congratulated for putting his personal charisma and magnetism toward leveraging these philanthropic and corporate commitments. But we would love to see some solid analysis of what the CGI’s commitments add up to in light of the critiques of international aid and philanthropy offered by the likes of William Easterly, Thomas Dichter, Dambisa Moyo, and others. Maybe former President Clinton has come up with a mechanism that not only generates big time philanthropic commitments for the developing world, but one that responds to the aid critique? Or maybe not?—Rick Cohen