Bill Clinton plans private summit on global woes
CHAPPAQUA, N.Y., (Reuters) – Former U.S. President Bill
Clinton says he is intent on finding ways the private sector
can solve some of the world’s most pressing problems from
poverty to terrorism.
As host of a meeting in New York later this year of private
and public sector leaders, Clinton said in an interview with
Reuters on Tuesday there are plenty of problems governments
simply cannot address.
“What I’m trying to do is figure out what private sector
people can do,” said Clinton, 58, who left office in 2001 after
eight years in the White House which saw the longest-ever U.S.
economic expansion but were dogged by personal scandal.
“It’s unrealistic to think all the world’s problems will be
solved only by government actions,” he said at his home in
suburban New York.
“If I were president and I had a Congress that was
two-thirds Democrat and we were starting with a budget surplus
of prosperity, there would still be needs in the world I would
like to see met that the American government could not meet
entirely,” he said.
“If you’re a nongovernmental organization or a corporation,
you can say, ‘I’m going to do this and do it now.”‘
The Clinton Global Initiative, to be held Sept. 15-17 in
New York to coincide with the United Nations’ General Assembly,
eyes four topics — poverty, corruption, climate change and
religious and ethnic reconciliation.
Everyone who participates must make a specific commitment
to be fulfilled by the next annual meeting, he said. For
example, a corporation might commit to building schoolrooms in
Kenya or sending educational materials to Mexico.
Anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people might attend, he said.
People expected to attend run the gamut from British Prime
Minister Tony Blair to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
and News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch.
Clinton has said he got the idea for the meeting from
Davos, where the World Economic Forum meets each year in
Switzerland. That meeting has come under fire by critics who
complain it is all talk and no action.
“If you come to my meeting, at the end I want you to make a
commitment,” Clinton said. “If we did one of these every year
at the opening of the UN … and these commitments were made
and kept for a decade, I think it would change the world.”
One of the youngest former U.S. presidents when he left
office, Clinton has established the William J. Clinton
Foundation, opened his presidential library in Little Rock,
Arkansas, where he was governor, written his autobiography and
most recently served as a U.N. envoy for tsunami relief.
Discussions of ethnic and religious reconciliation will
naturally include the issue of terrorism, as will discussions
of governments’ ability to operate effectively, he said.
“When governments don’t have the capacity to deliver the
goods, to operate efficiently, to generate economic
opportunities, to bring in investment, to give people something
to look forward to when they get up in the morning, then that
makes them more vulnerable to terror,” he said.
But he stressed that security remains a government issue.
Clinton travels next week to Africa for former South
African President Nelson Mandela’s 87th birthday celebration,
then to Tanzania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Lesotho and Kenya.
While Clinton said his health was good after heart surgery
last year and follow-up surgery this year, his plans to start
jogging again have been postponed until after the Africa trip.
“When I was jogging, I didn’t feel like maybe it was quite
settled inside so I decided I’d walk another couple of months
and then start, but I feel good,” he said.
He was mum on any political plans by his wife, Democratic
Sen. Hillary Clinton who faces reelection in New York next
year. She is considered a strong contender among the Democrats
who want to retake the White House in 2008.
“The honest answer, which no one believes, is I don’t know,
and I don’t want to know because I want her to focus only on
getting reelected,” he said. “I want her service to be ratified
by the people of New York and, until that happens, I don’t
think she can afford to think about anything else.”
Certain rules apply in the Clinton household, he added.
“One of them is you never look past the next election because
if you do, you might not get past the next election,” he said.