Said Andrea Taylor, Microsoft’s director of community affairs for North America, “Being a CGI delegate is a chance to network and ‘mind share.’ You see friends and sometimes, you get a good idea that you can follow up on later.”
To launch the event, President Clinton took the stage with four panelists: Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, President Tarja Halonen of Finland, the CEO of Proctor & Gamble Bob McDonald and Eric Schmidt, the chairman and CEO of Google, Inc. Together, they discussed how corporations, governments, non-profits, foundations and other stakeholders can collaborate to empower the poor, improve access to education and health care, develop alternative sources of energy, and create a cleaner environment.
After lunch, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took the stage with a new initiative, designed to do all of those things. The Secretary of State announced a new Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves to ensure that 100 million households around the world adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.
It seems like such a simple issue. Everyone cooks dinner. But Secretary Clinton’s statistics were both shocking and dramatic.
- Three billion people gather around open fires or stoves in poorly ventilated homes each day.
- A toxic mix of burning wood and smoke fills the air along with the lungs of women and children in those homes.
- Two million people die each year from the smoke that comes from dirty stoves.
- Removing the carbon dioxide and methane that these stoves emit will also help improve the climate change problem.
“The United States has committed $50 million over five years to the cookstoves project,” Secretary Clinton said, and both corporate and NGO partners have raised another $10 million. Mrs. Clinton said organizers hope to raise another $250 million. “We’re in the 21st century,” said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, “but cooking in many places is not that different today than it was centuries ago. This is an issue that’s about poverty and the underserved.”
Empowering women and girls was the theme of the afternoon. After her announcement, Secretary Clinton departed to resume a hectic round of bilateral meetings with heads of state in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
But the CGI audience members watched the premiere of “The Girl Effect: The Clock is Ticking,” a moving video about the risks to 600 million adolescent girls around the world.
President Sirleaf said the lives of women and girls in Liberia are improving, thanks to the passage and enforcement of tough, new rape laws. Rape is now a non-bailable offense in Liberia and special courts have been set up by the Ministry of Justice to deal with domestic violence.
Mr. Kent described a major effort by Coca-Cola to create 20,000 micro-entrepreneurs in West Africa, more than half of them women. The initiative grew out of last year’s CGI, Kent said. His company provides access to finance, business skills training, mentors along with a network of peers, technology and land. The entrepreneurs – in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and three other countries in West Africa – have created “micro distribution centers” for Coca-Cola products. Kent said the goal is to take this proven “best practice” around the world and train 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020. Coca-Cola issued a press release shortly after Mr. Kent’s appearance.
President Sirleaf urged Kent to make sure that Liberia gets its share of of the Coca-Cola effort. And that’s progress is made at the Clinton Global Initiative – one leader learning from and collaborating with another, hour by hour.