News and analysis
October 01, 2015

Pledges at Clinton Gathering to Tackle Pollution, Child Mortality, and More

Paul Morse, Clinton Global Initiative

In Bill Clinton's opening remarks, he said philanthropy and corporate responsibility have changed over the past decade, with governments, businesses, and nonprofits now working together more to solve social problems.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated with information about sponsorship revenue for the event and to include another commitment, this one for small business efforts.

The cars Google uses to take street-view pictures for its maps will be equipped with technology to gather data on pollution. New baby warmers will be distributed in Africa and Asia to save 100,000 infants. And clean water and sanitation will be provided to 13 million people by 2020. Those are some of the 123 commitments made during the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York this week.

Donna Shalala, the new president of the Clinton Foundation, said in an interview with The Chronicle late last week that the commitments totaled "hundreds of millions of dollars" and will affect 15 million people.

Since its inception in 2005, Clinton Global Initiative members have made more than 3,400 commitments improving the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries, according to the foundation.

In his opening remarks this year, Bill Clinton said that he wanted to create a new community of governments, corporations, and nonprofit leaders to tackle difficult economic and social problems. An analysis of 10 years worth of commitments from Clinton Global Initiative community members shows that now more than 90 percent are partnerships involving governments, the private sector, and foundations.

"This was not how philanthropy or politics or corporate responsibility operated a decade ago," Mr. Clinton said. "Even today there are some people who don’t understand it or question if it is a good idea."

The Clinton Foundation’s marquee global-development conference kicked off one day after the United Nations adopted of a new 15-year global-development agenda. Many of the commitments made at the Clinton gathering align with the U.N.’s new 17 sustainable-development goals, a sort of blueprint for governments and others as they tackle poverty, gender inequality, and climate change.

Child Mortality

During a session at the Clinton meeting, philanthropist Bill Gates said that among the key health data to watch in the next 15 years will be the number of deaths of children under the age of five. Since 1990, that number has been cut roughly in half to less than 6 million a year, he said. The new goal is to halve it again.

"That is very doable," Mr. Gates said.

Mr. Gates has said that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will spend about $3 billion annually to help poor countries achieve the sustainable-development goals.

The Microsoft co-founder was one of many prominent individuals at the Clinton Global Initiative, which ran Saturday through Tuesday. The annual September meeting is a star-studded event, regularly attracting heads of state, academics, and artists and entertainers.

More than 1,000 leaders of government, business, and philanthropy passed through this year, according to the Clinton Foundation. Other speakers and participants were Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Jack Ma, executive chairman of Chinese commerce site Alibaba.

Absent was Democratic presidential candidate hopeful Hillary Clinton. And President Barack Obama missed the event for the first time since entering the White House.

Sponsorship revenue for the event was up this year compared to last, Clinton Global Initiative chief executive Bob Harrison said in an opinion piece published by Fox Business.

“Every year some sponsors leave, new sponsors sign on, and the overwhelming majority choose to continue their support,” he said. "In fact, our turnover rate was lower this year than other years. And even those who aren't returning as sponsors continue to implement the commitments they launched through CGI."

New Leader

The meeting was the first for the Clinton Foundation under the leadership of Ms. Shalala. She took the reigns in June after 14 years at the University of Miami, where she proved herself a prodigious fundraiser and shrewd crisis manager. She is a lifelong friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s, having met the pair before they married.

Ms. Shalala became a headline herself when on Tuesday, hours after the meeting concluded, she suffered a stroke.

"Fortunately, she was with colleagues at the time and taken to the hospital for treatment. Initial reports are very encouraging," President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton said in a statement.

A Clinton Foundation spokeswoman said Wednesday she was unable to provide an update on Ms. Shalala’s condition. In an email to The Chronicle late Wednesday night, a longtime colleague of Ms. Shalala’s at the University of Miami said she is doing "much better."

Commitments Detailed

Some of the commitments from the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative:

  • $220 million in loans, savings accounts, and other services from Opportunity International to support educational opportunities and small farming in Africa
  • More than $83 million will be disbursed to entrepreneurs, microenterprises, and small or medium-size enterprises
  • $5 million in medical equipment from medical-technology company Masimo to Jordanian hospitals to enhance care for Syrian and Iraqi refugees
  • $6 million from Room to Read to build 700 classrooms in 62 schools in Nepal’s Nuwakot District
  • A commitment from Just Like My Child Foundation to help 10,000 girls in Uganda avoid child marriage, early pregnancy, and violence
  • A commitment from major employers and experts under the Working Parent Support Coalition to support longer parental leave and other policies
  • A commitment from Procter and Gamble to help 100 million girls and women build confidence
  • A commitment from the Hershey Company to train 7,500 farmers in Ghana in growing techniques
  • A commitment from Possible Health to rebuild the health-care system in Nepal’s Dolakha District, restoring health-care access for 74,000 people.

Send an e-mail to Megan O’Neil.