By Deepti Hajela
NEW YORK — Some pledges were huge, such as a commitment from the Florida Power & Light Co. to build a solar power plant as part of a $2.4 billion clean energy program.
Others were smaller, but still substantial. CARE, a humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting global poverty, promised $150 million to provide health services to 30 million women and children. BRAC, a Bangladesh nonprofit, vowed to spend $271 million to educate 7.5 million young people in Asia and Africa.
The first day of the Clinton Global Initiative brought out a number of commitments as participants made pledges Wednesday toward action on such global causes as climate change, poverty, health care and education. More promises were expected Thursday.
Founded by former President Clinton, CGI draws world leaders, celebrities and scholars for three days of discussions on global issues and asks them to take concrete steps on those causes.
Brad Pitt announced that his Make It Right project was prepared to break ground by the end of the year on 150 affordable, environmentally friendly homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
“This is doable – this is not that difficult,” Pitt said. “I’ve seen these designs. They’re fantastic.”
Pitt’s partner, Angelina Jolie, spoke about education. She announced a commitment from the members of the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which she co-chairs, to help educate more than 1 million children around the world.
The Education Partnership, founded in 2006, helps fund education programs for children affected by conflict. The 2007 commitment includes $1.2 million to build an educational complex in southern Sudan, a plan to take “Sesame Street” to Afghanistan and a distance learning project that would reach 150,000 children, including those affected by the war in Iraq.
“They say education is not lifesaving,” Jolie said at a news conference with representatives of the Education Partnership’s member organizations. “All of us would beg to differ.”
Pitt and Jolie were among close to 1,300 people – famous and not, liberal and conservative – attending the third CGI conference.
There was even a brief reunion as Clinton and his former vice president, Al Gore, shared a stage Wednesday for a discussion of the need for global action.
Although there has been a chill in their relationship, the two Democrats spoke warmly of each other. Clinton praised Gore for his environmental activism, and Gore plugged Clinton’s new book.
“This climate crisis is not going to be solved only by personal actions and business actions,” Gore said Wednesday at the conference. “We need changes in laws, changes in policies. We need leadership, and we need a new treaty.”
More than 50 current and former world leaders were on the list of attendees, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Tennis star Andre Agassi and media mogul Rupert Murdoch were also on the conference’s guest list this year.
Those who attend pay a $15,000 registration fee and are expected to commit time or money to the conference’s big issues. Those who do not fulfill their pledges are not invited back.
Clinton spokesman Ben Yarrow said there were five people this year whose registration fees were not accepted.
On the Net:
Clinton Global Initiative: http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/