NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton secured a record 291 pledges worth more than $6 billion to tackle global woes at his sixth annual philanthropic summit, which wound up on Thursday.
The value of Clinton Global Initiative pledges for economic empowerment, education, environment, energy and health was $3 billion less than 2009, but the organization said that in previous years one or two big commitments represented a disproportionate share of the whole.
Since 2005, nearly 2,000 commitments have been made valued at $63 billion. Most of this year’s pledges were agreed upon before the meeting started.
Clinton told the closing session of the meeting that what he had been most worried about during the worst U.S. recession in decades was that people would lose their confidence.
“But it is astonishing how many people from all walks of life with all levels of resources still think about their neighbors,” he said.
More than 1,300 people including heads of state like U.S. President Barack Obama, business leaders such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, humanitarians and celebrities like the Rolling Stones attended the three-day meeting.
“The reason I think people like (CGI) is that there’s a minimum amount of posturing and a maximum amount of seeking. There’s a minimum amount of talking in relationship to the commitment, to doing,” said Clinton.
Clinton’s summit was borne out of his frustration while president from 1993 to 2001 at attending conferences that were more talk than action. When CGI began, corporations tended to show up and write checks to fund programs, but many companies now see their philanthropy as investment opportunities.
Obama attended the Clinton Global Initiative to introduce his wife, Michelle, who appealed to companies and nonprofit groups to employ U.S. military veterans and their spouses.
“Do it because it’s good for your bottom line and the success of your organization,” the First Lady said.
Earlier on Thursday, Cisco Systems Chief Executive John Chambers, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and other business leaders told the initiative that Internet technology drives economic growth and enables poor countries to develop at a faster pace than rich nations did.
“It suddenly allows us to change people’s lives at tremendous speed,” Chambers, whose company makes tech networking equipment, told a panel discussion. “If you watch the speed of change that is now occurring its almost what used to occur in 10 years can occur in one.”
Twitter Chairman Dorsey said that social networking sites allowed one person’s view or advice to become global and noted that the technology was so simple and inexpensive “that anyone can access it.”
A list of the commitments made at the Clinton meeting is available at www.clintonglobalinitiative.org
Editing by David Storey and Todd Eastham