Clinton-Led Conference Addresses Global Issues

The Clinton Global Initiative — named for and led by the former president — has hosted two annual conferences. Business, media and political leaders from around the world met to focus on issues that, this year, included poverty alleviation, global health, religious and ethnic conflict, and climate change.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

This is NEWS & NOTES, and I'm Farai Chideya.

The Clinton Global Initiative, named for and led by our former president, has hosted two annual conferences. Business media and political leaders from around the world meet to focus on issues that this year included poverty alleviation, global health, religious and ethnic conflict and climate change.

NPR's special Africa correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault described her participation in the conference.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Okay. This is my second year of participating. It's the second year of the conference. And, you know, because of my interest in poverty I was asked to serve on the Poverty Alleviation Task Force. It was a huge gathering with some of the most impressive people.

Bishop Desmond Tutu practically stole the show. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was there. Richard Branson pledged $3 billion to help in global warming. It was, you know, and some of the most impressive people actually came because they're committed to some of the themes of the conference.

Mine, poverty alleviation, looked at globalization where the premise is that, you know, globalization is the free movement of people and capital and ideas. But billions of people around the world are not benefiting. They survive on less than $2 a day.

And so to look at how you harness some of this capital with some fresh ideas to eradicate poverty, and that was the focus of two concurrent panels of mine that ran with CEOs in the room who were able to put in questions as the panelists spoke. Mine was about using technology to get ahead.

And, again, the premise there was that it's important to recognize that poor people are not poor because they want to be. And so they want to look at things that help the poor help themselves.

So we looked at new technologies that help people. There was one young woman, Kristin Peterson, who is the founder of an organization called Inveneo. And she has come up with a project that provides solar-powered Internet access to remote villages in Uganda. And that has implications for the rest of the continent.

These computers are charged by solar cells and bicycle generators. And the implications of this are great. I mean people in remote areas with farms can, you know, tap into the market to see if their prices are competitive. There all kinds of ways that - co-ops are being formed between villages to improve buying power and share resources.

I mean this has resulted already in Uganda in substantial income and increases for people there. And it has great implications for not only aid distribution but for, you know, alerting people when natural disasters occur. Then there were - even democracy itself, you know, where people can be in touch with other people about their interests and about whether or not the politicians are serving them or serving themselves.

There were others like an eBay initiative which allows people to get small loans. They even have a kiosk in the Starbucks and San Francisco stores, you know, the micro-financing thing. Then there was another one emphasizing long-distance learning. Another one emphasizing how you can take things like small pumps that can be used without any power other than muscle power to get clean water. Machines that make building blocks and presses that extract cooking oil from seeds. That's from a program called Kick Start.

Anyway, these things were all discussed in front of people who have the means to make this happen on a global scale.

CHIDEYA: Charlayne Hunter-Gault, thank you so much.

HUNTER-GAULT: Thank you, Farai.

CHIDEYA: Charlayne Hunter-Gault is NPR's special Africa correspondent.

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