NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pledges to train 40,000 Tunisian youths to open businesses, give a million poor U.S. students access to broadband and teach 600 Indonesians a trade were among the commitments made at former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s philanthropic summit, which ended on Thursday.
With a focus on creating jobs, programs for women and girls and sustainable consumption, heads of states, business leaders, humanitarians and celebrities at the seventh annual Clinton Global Initiative made 194 pledges valued at more than $6 billion to tackle the world’s woes.
During the closing session of the three-day conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appealed to those with “educated opinions” to help the United States and the world deal with the economic crisis instead of blaming politicians.
“We are very worried in our own government, as you know, about Europe, we’re still worried about growth in our own country, we’re worried about the potential impact in the consuming countries like ours, but also in poor countries,” said the secretary of state, who is Bill Clinton’s wife.
“I would make a plea for more people with knowledge ... to not stand on the sidelines and shrug or throw a shoe at the TV when political discussions take place, but to try to participate, play a productive role,” she said.
The number of pledges made at the September summit was a third less than last year’s record, but when combined with those made at an inaugural summit organized by Bill Clinton in June to help create U.S. jobs and fuel a U.S. economic recovery — there have been a record 299 commitments made so far in 2011.
A further 66 commitments are in development and expected to be finalized by the end of the year, organizers said, taking the 2011 total to 365.
With U.S. unemployment over 9 percent, fears the United States may be on the brink of another recession and global stock markets in turmoil on Thursday, almost half the pledges made this year were focused on creating jobs.
President Barack Obama addressed the Clinton Global Initiative on Wednesday, seeking support for his $447 billion plan to create jobs. He said improving the economic prospects of the world’s richest economy was good for the world.
The state of the U.S. economy is expected to be crucial to the Democratic president’s re-election prospects for 2012.
To attend the Clinton summit, commitments must be made on the issues of economic empowerment, education, health, and energy and the environment. If the pledges are not kept, attendees cannot return.
“There are challenges that we all face and we have to face them together,” the former president told the summit. “You should feel good about being part of the non-governmental movement, but I do not think you should be anti-government.”
“If you are prosperous, you should feel grateful for the chance you have had and I want you to enjoy your prosperity. But you shouldn’t feel it is sustainable for your children unless more people have a chance to prosper,” he said.
Clinton’s summit came from his frustration while president from 1993 to 2001 at conferences that prompted little action.
Since the initiative started, more than 2,100 pledges have been made, valued at more than $69 billion, which organizers say have improved the lives of several hundred million people.
A list of commitments can be seen at www.clintonglobalinitiative.org
Editing by Peter Cooney