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Clinton Vision of Helping the World

Former President Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton

The seventh annual Clinton Global Initiative, or CGI, concluded on Thursday in New York with additional commitments of human and financial resources to help solve some of the world's most difficult problems. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton and members of his family shared their vision of ways to tackle those problems.

The CGI provides a forum for politicians, business leaders, activists and philanthropists to talk for three solid days at plenary sessions, working lunches and workshops. It is, however, not idle talk; it helps define serious global problems and to solicit the human and financial resources needed to address them.

Members of the Clinton family had the final word. Responding to a question from daughter Chelsea about the appropriate roles of government and civil society in the 21st century, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said both should work together as partners.

"People are going to participate. They're either going to participate positively, or negatively. We're either going to get the benefits of their talents, or we're going to lose out on them," Clinton said.

That for the Clintons is a call to action.

Chelsea Clinton amplified a CGI theme that equal rights for women would unleash their economic potential to the benefit of their countries and regions. She said if female farmers had the opportunities afforded to males, they would feed an additional 150 million people.

"If women farmers around the world were as productive as their male counterparts, and currently they're not as productive, not because of lack of effort or lack of skills, but largely because of a lack of resources - insufficient access to fertilizer, insufficient access to seed," Chelsea Clinton said.

President Clinton concluded this year's CGI with an observation that the identity of too many people is focused on whether they have control over somebody else's life. He said women are among those controlled. He shared an idea of his former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, that there is a better alternative.

"Humanity has repeatedly saved itself from destruction for more than a hundred thousand years now by, when walking right up to the edge of its own demise, has found a way of widening the circle of who constitutes us and to narrow the range of who constitutes them,the other - the people from whom we have to take in order to feel that we matter," said President Clinton.

For Mr. Clinton, this means men and women as well as governments and the private sector should cooperate to expand opportunity for all rather than engaging in a zero sum game in which the fortunes of some come at the expense of others.

Mr. Clinton said that over the past seven years, the CGI has garnered more than 2,100 commitments worth nearly $70 billion. The money has been used to advance freedom of expression, to combat disease, expand economic opportunity, increase food supplies, clean up the environment, and many other causes.