The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) is holding its annual meeting (9/23-25) in New York with heads of state, business leaders, philanthropists and representatives from NGOs. Founded in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton, the Initiative’s goal is to find creative solutions to major problems
John Bryant, a founding member of the Clinton Global Initiative, said the meeting is about bringing people together to achieve measurable results.
“I don’t think the government alone can solve these problems anymore. I don’t think the private sector alone can solve these problems anymore. I don’t think philanthropy alone can solve these problems. The beautiful thing about CGI – it’s one huge collaboration. It’s one huge convening force for action and commitments,” he said.
Bryant is founder and CEO of Operation Hope, which he described at a global leader in financial dignity. He said the idea is to give people a hand up, not a handout.
“Financial literacy is one example of that. If you were alive in the 20th Century, the issue was democracy. The way you codified that was the right to vote. But in the 21st Century the world is being ruled by the language of money, free enterprise or the lack thereof, the economy, the economic situation. So if you don’t understand the language of money, financial literacy, and you don’t have a bank account, you’re an economic slave,” he said.
In the U.S., Operation Hope helps raise the credit rating of people in poor neighborhoods. He said doing so can literally change the neighborhood itself.
“So now the liquor store turns into a convenience store, and the check cashier turns into a credit union or a bank. Well, you’ve just taken a poor neighborhood to an emerging market. That’s a hand up. That’s doing well by doing good. That’s tangible,” he said.
In North Africa and the Middle East, the goal is to create jobs by encouraging entrepreneurs. Bryant said, for example, that Saudi Arabia needs tens of millions of jobs by 2020. Operation Hope offers 25 types of business opportunities with a start-up cost of about $500. Creating jobs, he said, is one of the best weapons against terrorism.
“You put al-Qaeda out of business. Al-Qaeda doesn’t create any jobs. I mean you got two options in the Middle East. It’s very simple. You either light a candle or you curse the darkness. You figure out what you’re for or you figure what you’re against. People want a job. You don’t want war. You want to spend time with your family and you want to go shopping. What the MENA region needs is a middle class, or the aspiration to get there,” he said.
Bryant said in the 21st Century, freedom means “your ability to have self-determination in your life.”
Former congresswoman Marjorie Margolies of Philadelphia is seeking partners at the Clinton Global Initiative to help promote women’s rights. The University of Pennsylvania professor is president and CEO of Women’s Campaign International. She said getting women elected to political office in North Africa and the Middle East could help bring major changes.
“With the Arab Spring, if you looked out at Tahrir Square, for example, it was filled with women. When it got to kind of putting the government together, they weren’t there. And that’s very important. And women now, at least in our MENA region, the Middle East and northern Africa where we are working, they’re saying, wait a minute, we must be there. This is important,” she said.
Margolies said male members of parliament or those in positions of power in the MENA region are often unaware of the issues important to women.
“Those issues that are often marginalized are often embraced by women and they’re very important. They’re family issues. Women see things often through a different prism, and it isn’t better or worse, but it has to be respected,” she said.
Margolies says Women’s Campaign International helps provide mentors to young women, guiding them on a broad range of issues.
“They’ve decided to do different kinds of efforts. Some are healthcare. Some are education. Although it all cross-pollinates, because you can’t deal with healthcare if you don’t deal with issues of the environment or finance,” she said.
In addressing the CGI annual meeting, Mr. Clinton said that “this year’s commitments represent not only a deep respect for humanity, but also inspire others to transform their ideas and innovation into substantive global action.”