Live-blogging the Clinton Global Initiative with Former President Clinton, Angelina and Brad

Here's some of what's happening today at the Clinton Global Initiative ...

10:03 - They've just announced the names of all the heads of state who are here today (52 of them), representing 72 countries.

Former President Clinton just came on stage. "More than 600 commitments have been made. 20 mllion tons of greenhouse gases avoided, 3 million more micor-entrepreneurs have accessed capital."

"There are nearly 1300 CGI members in the room today. The premise of CGI is we are facing complex problems that governments are not or can't solve.

"Everyone has a different story and we inhabit the world in different ways. Just about everyone in this room believes that our common humanity is more important than our difference."

"We seem to all accept our shared responsibility for correcting the current challenges, and leaving a better world for our kids.

"We are webcasting, and we're giving everyone a chance to make their own commitments, MyCommitment.org."
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In the first hour of the Clinton Global Initiative that concluded a couple of minutes ago, Former President Bill Clinton discussed with Al Gore, the presidents of Wal-Mart, the World Bank and Afghanistan, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu an incredible range of the world’s most pressing issues.

Here are some highlights --

Al Gore - "The climate crisis isn't going to be fixed by private efforts alone. At the rate we're going, the polar ice cap will be gone in 21 years, and it won't return for millions. In 1987, two years after the hole in the ozone was discovered, President Reagan listened to the scientists and put us on track to start addressing climate change. People said it would be too expensive, but it wasn't. We need to call on President Bush to follow Reagan's example. We have to have binding reductions and the US has to lead the world to solve the climate crisis. If those who take the low road and cut corners aren't penalized and can gain advantage on others then it won't work. We need a treaty by 2009 and to put it in force by 2010.

"We can't continue to treat our environment as an open sewer. Think of it as a Tale of Two Planets. Earth and Venus are the same size and have the same amount of carbon. On Venus, the carbon is in the air and on earth it's in the ground. On earth, the average temperature is 59 F and on Venus the average temp is 800+F. We're taking carbon from the ground and putting it in the air."

Gore asked for a Global Marshall Plan for the creation of jobs around the reduction of carbons. He cited an African proverb -- "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. We have to go far quickly, and need a mass persuasion campaign to change the climate of public opinion on climate change."

Former President Clinton interviewed Lee Scott, the President and CEO of Wal-Mart who talked about how his company’s environmental commitments have saved them a ton of money while doing good for the environment and customers. "These weren't exotic innovations. We got General Mills to straighten the noodles in their Hamburger Helper which meant they could fit in smaller boxes and we saved hundreds of tons of cardboard and kept trucks off the road. Our suppliers were waiting for us to ask them. We underestimated how much pride everyone would take in being a part of this." President Clinton acknowledged how many energy efficient light bulbs Wal Mart has sold, saying if everyone bought these light bulbs, 80 coal fired power plants wouldn't be needed.

President Clinton tried to get the head of the World Bank, Robert B. Zoellick to address the idea that there is a need for an organization to help countries use the most current and clean technologies to meet their energy needs, saying that he has heard from ministers that Africa should be the first oil-free continent. Clinton said, "If you are running a country with a per capita income of $300, you can't necessarily afford to hire the people you need to help you find the technologies that are going to provide for clean fuels while improving the economic circumstances of your people."

He went on to say, "If Lee Scott can do this, make a ton of money by lowering costs and increasing customers' disposable income, other businesses will follow suit," making a comparison to the lead government agencies can play. "We need an institution that won't preach to developing countries but will help them get to an oil-free, biofuels economy, not the energy policies of 20 years ago.

Mr Zoellick wasn't going there, saying only that he's heard from developing countries that they're concerned that the emphasis on clean energy will take away from poverty programs.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a highlight for the room. President Clinton asked him about the spate of books equating religion with the world's problems, and Archbishop Tutu said that the authors were using "selective evidence.” What about the Dalai Lama? He can fill Central Park and people flock to see him even though he doesn't even speak English properly. They hone in on the goodness that is in him.

"Most people expected my country (South Africa) to go up in flames, for there to be a religious bloodbath, but it didn't happen. And most people would say we're deeply religious."

President Clinton said that the books out now saying the problems of the world are because people are too religious are drawing the wrong conclusions.

Archbishop Tutu said, "Can we join God's utopian dream that we would live in harmony? For God's family has no outsiders - the rich or poor, the smart and the not-so-clever, gays, lesbians and the so-called straight (laughter in the room) -- they all belong. God says you can help me realize my dream that our children see that we're all part of one family, laughing and living and sharing together. How about helping God realize that dream?

Before and after this opening session, President Clinton highlighted five of the major commitments being made this year. The critical initiative for BlogHers Act was announced with the Prime Ministers of Norway, the Netherlands and Indonesia and the head of UNICEF on stage - they launched a campaign called Deliver Now (that I blogged about yesterday), to improve the health of women and children.

Ten million children die every year before they reach five years of age and more than 500,000 women die because of complications around pregnancy and childbirth (one every minute). The organizers of Deliver Now are committing $1.5 billion to the campaign. $1 billion dollars can save the lives of 2 million children.

With BlogHers Act, we'll hope to support Deliver Now with their ambitious and life-saving campaign.

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Here's the part on Brad ...

Here at the Clinton Global Initiative, Brad Pitt just announced a "sustainable building effort for New Orleans, for the Ninth Ward," called "Make it Right."

He said, "These are people who did everything right. They had jobs, they raised their families .. and now it's gone, it's all gone.

"This has been labeled the worst natural disaster in the history of the country. That's not exactly right. It's the worst man-made disaster. This is the result of climate change and decades of irresponsible management of the levees. New Orleans isn't even on the coast, and if we're not careful, it soon will be. The mistakes made here proved fatal. We have a responsibility to right the wrong."

Brad announced that he and Steve Bing will match $5 million in donations for a total of $10 million in contributions to build 150 affordable and sustainable homes.
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Angelina Jolie just announced a commitment to educate one million children in areas of conflict. She stood on a stage in a small press room with the leaders of 15-20 organizations behind her and talked about the needs of kids around the globe who are going uneducated because of conflict raging around them.

She started off by saying, "It's a great honor to get to know children of refugees. They will have no floor, no pens, having not had breakfast and will just sit quietly to hear a teacher talk. These are kids who can be overwhelmed by despair and violence, or they can grow up and become teachers and help transform their communities."

Angelina announced that over 18 commitments are being made in more than 15 countries as part of the project, and as a result, one million children's lives will be improved. Involved organizations are Nike, the Sesame Workshop, UNICEF, the Save the Children Alliance and others.

When it came time to ask questions, I jumped at the chance (totally nervous of course). Here's what I asked…

"I'm a mom and my life was transformed when our blog became a clearinghouse for the people of the Gulf Coast who lost everything to Katrina. Mothers flooded our site because they wanted to do more than write checks; they wanted to give of themselves. For all of us, it seems, when we become mothers, the world's children become ours, as I imagine you would agree. My question is, for the moms and women, all of us -- we're so busy with our lives, shouldering the burdens of the world, taking care of our families and communities -- but we're online and we can get into action online. How can all of us who care about these issues support you? What would you like to ask us to do?"

Angelina gave the floor to several people on the podium with her, including Ann Venemann from UNICEF, and a few others. They emphasized that education should be seen as a right for these kids, and not just a charitable endeavor. These kids are the future of their countries, and educating them is the best thing we can do to reduce future conflicts. They also emphasized how little we in the US know about these issues, and bloggers can accomplish a LOT in getting the word out, in helping to educate us all about what's needed around the world.

Then, as the moderator was about to move on, Angelina jumped in and said, "I'd like to add something. One thing we can do as mothers is to talk to your own children. If we can help our kids understand the world, we can do something for our own understanding and theirs. A lot of these organizations have materials for children. You can show them different schools in different countries and help them appreciate what's going on."

So, that was kinda fun. A conversation with Angelina Jolie. Yeah, there were gazillions of people in the room (how DOES she hold her concentration and finish a sentence with 5,000 cameras with flashes going off every time she smiles?), but it felt like a connection and she seemed to like talking about being a mom.

Addendum:

Angelina just addressed the general assembly and and the conversation was about education. She talked about a boy she met in Afghanistan who was selling tissues (that's how he was making a living). A man with a wound said to the boy, "I'll give you some of my begging money if you'll give me some tissues." The boy said yes, and when the man unwrapped the bandages, the man's wound was covered in maggots. The boy ran away because he was scared. But he came back because he was a good kid, and he helped the man clean his leg wound. When I met them they had been together for a few months, and at that point, they were friends and the boy was helping the man. He was so gentle and did such a good job of cleaing the wound and taking care of him that I asked him, 'You're so good at caring for him, would you like to become a doctor?" He looked at me and said, "I must sell tissues." And I sad, "'But if we could find a way for you to be educated and become a doctor, would you like that?" He said, "Yes, I would, but I must sell tissues.'" At that point, she was teary, as were a lot of people in the room. She went on to talk about the kids and say that there good kids who need the opportunity of education.

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Nicholad Kristof just made the point that a girl in southern Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than be literate. Maternal mortality and lack of education in Sudan are unfathomable to us here.

Then he asked if everyone on stage had seen that kids in these developing countries are desperate to get educated? Angelina answered, "I took three kids to school to school this morning, and they weren't that excited about it. And here, kids will say things like they want to be an actress - not the noblest profession -- but in these countries, you see kids desperate to go to school and you ask them what they want to be and they want to be great things to help their countries."

More on maternal health...

Emily McKhann
Website: The Motherhood
Blog: Been There
BlogHer Contributing Editor: BlogHers Act

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