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Clinton Aid Program Brings $2.5 Billion in Pledges

Former President Bill Clinton says the Global Initiative he launched last year has resulted in aid pledges totaling $2.5 billion and commitments to programs targeting health and poverty in the developing world. At a news conference in New York Friday, Mr. Clinton said he is seeking a long-term commitment from the world's wealthy to help solve global challenges. The former president sees last year's initiative as a great start, and hopes to bring in even more pledges at a new session planned for September.

Last year's meeting in New York focused on the issues of poverty, democratic governance, religious and ethnic conflict, and human-induced climate change.

Participants included corporate, religious and political leaders from around the world, among them President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Everyone was asked to make a solid commitment of money and resources toward alleviating the problems caused by the four highlighted areas.

So far, nearly 300 commitments, valued at more than $2.5 billion have come out of last year's conference, and former President Clinton says, participants are definitely making good on their promises.

"We asked everybody to make a commitment," he said. "The size or scale of the commitment, whether it was a million or a thousand [dollars], or just time and experience, was not as important to me as that a commitment was made, and that the project was subject to evaluation. We would know, is it working or not? So, if it's not, we can stop and do something else, and if it is working, we can redouble our efforts."

Among the projects to come out of last year's Global Initiative is the expansion of two wellness centers at a border station in Malawi, through the joint efforts of the World Food Program (WFP) and TNT International, a global transportation company. The centers provide health advice and counseling to truck drivers who travel throughout southeast Africa, an area that has been ravaged by HIV/AIDS.

This year's Clinton Global Initiative will continue the focus on health, as well as the challenges of poverty, climate change and ethnic and religious conflict.

Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, whose country is home to six of the projects launched by last year's initiative, says issues of governance will also be discussed.

"Good governance remains, in some ways, the most critical ingredient for eliminating poverty, instability, violence," said Mr. Obasanjo. "With good governance, you can be assured of accountability, respect for the rule of law and human rights, transparency, sensitivity to the plight of the disadvantaged, and the consolidation of democracy."

Attendees at this year's Global Initiative conference in September are expected to include U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, French President Jacques Chirac, and MicroSoft Founder Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been heavily involved in the fight against Malaria and HIV in Africa. Former President Clinton says he expects the second gathering to be as successful as the first, but that he expects a long-term commitment.

"I want to do this for a decade," said Mr. Clinton. "If I can stay healthy, and all of you do not get bored, we will do this for 10 years. And we will keep asking only people who are willing to make commitments. We will keep working with those people. We have now a full-time 'CGI Commitments Team.' And we're working to try to make sure that all of the projects that are good, and where people have kept their commitments, are properly funded."

The 2006 Clinton Global Initiative will take place in New York this September.