NEW YORK (Reuters) – Former President
Bill Clinton wheeled and dealed on Friday at his Clinton Global Initiative summit, yielding promises from global leaders to do things to make the world a better place and bringing the value of aid commitments over two days to nearly $500 million.
Friday’s pledges announced by organizers included more clean water for Africa, an Arab entrepreneurship initiative and the assignment of a youth corps to help in relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts in the U.S. Gulf states devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Created by Clinton, the three-day conference was in full swing on Friday. Thursday’s opening day of the summit — where attending leaders were pressed for pledges to do something good for the world — brought promises of more than $200 million for African economic development and to fight
Over the first two days of the summit, Clinton has yielded 150 concrete pledges.
Friday’s events were kicked off with a session between Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa, where the pair discussed the future of relations in the Middle East.
“We had a very good session on the Middle East and I’ve had several more people tell me they want to invest there,” said Clinton, in his element in the political art of making a deal.
Clinton said he also secured a much-appreciated pledge on Friday from charity organization World Vision to spend $20 million over five years to bring clean water to half a million people in Ghana, Mali, Niger and Ethiopia.
“There are at least 1 billion people in the world, most of them children, who never get a clear glass of water,” said Clinton. “That was something that really touched me.”
A four-ring circus of activity swirled through four floors of a midtown Manhattan hotel as each focus area — poverty, religious conflict, global warming and stamping out corruption — held concurrent workshops with political leaders and other world figures weighing in.
With 800 participants attending, Clinton held a flurry of behind-the-scenes meetings.
In the basement, the hotel’s “Business Floor,” Clinton dipped in and out of private rooms for bilateral talks aimed at investment in poverty-stricken areas and in social action.
After a friendly embrace from Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Clinton introduced him to a Canadian businessman who was apparently keen to invest in the former Soviet state.
In another room, Clinton huddled with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe who was deep in talks about possible oil exploration deals and how best to curb drug trafficking.