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Clinton Global Initiative Seeking New Anti-Poverty Plans

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Peter Fedynsky
— The Clinton Global Initiative or CGI is seeking new designs to help battle poverty and disease around the world, with a special emphasis on new ideas and approaches that will help women and children.  

The world’s urban population is expected to double in the next 20 to 25 years, which means an additional 2.5 billion people living in cities.  That prediction was shared at CGI Monday by Joan Clos, undersecretary general and executive director of UN-HABITAT.  He said the explosive growth will happen in the world’s poorest areas.

Clos added that women are likely to suffer most, because most have no title to property.  

“We cannot allow and give proper leverage capacity to families and to women if they don’t have titles," said Clos. "The question of access to titles by women, as you said, it’s very clear: only one percent of the titles [on] earth [are] owned by [a] woman.”

Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, said most women in poor countries have no access to credit and saving programs, nor do they have the right to inherit property.  Granting such rights, he said, would help improve women's lives.

“If a girl doesn’t have a basic shelter in which to live, she’s not going to stay healthy, she won’t have a chance to go to school even if a school’s available, and then she won’t have the chance for a livelihood.  If there aren’t inheritance rights, she’s vulnerable, she’s physically vulnerable," said Reckford.

CGI also examined how health care and education programs can be designed as holistic systems for children, particularly in a newborn’s first 1,000 days. Carolyn Miles, who is CEO of Save the Children, said improper nutrition during that critical period of physical development is known to cause permanent brain damage.  This not only harms affected children, but reduces a nation’s economy by two to three percent.

“So this issue of early nutrition is not just an issue of ‘it’s the right thing to do and of course we should make sure that kids have the right food to eat.’ It’s an economic issue," said Miles.

The president of the Republic of Malawi, Joyce Banda, took note of the connection between proper nutrition and the well-being of Africa as a whole.

“Africa has to make a choice [about] what kind of generation they want in the future.  Because a lot will depend on how we take care of our children in the first 1,000 days," said Banda.

This year’s CGI theme, Designing for Impact, also examined how mud brick, one of the world’s most common building materials, can be used to build more homes.  Another specific topic was improved design of kitchens, because many die in them of smoke asphyxiation because of a lack of proper ventilation.

The CGI wraps up Tuesday with scheduled appearances by an array of current and former political leaders, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, both U.S. presidential candidates, and the presidents of Mexico and Egypt.

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