Clinton’s summit to focus on job creation

September 18, 2011

Former president Bill Clinton will push corporations and nonprofit groups at his philanthropic summit this week to create jobs as the U.S. unemployment hovers at 9.1 percent and poor nations worry that the economic crisis will stall their labor-market growth.

More than 50 heads of state, including President Obama, are among the estimated 1,200 business leaders, humanitarians and celebrities expected to attend the seventh annual Clinton Global Initiative, which starts a three-day run on Tuesday.

This year the meeting will focus on three areas — job creation, sustainable consumption and programs for women and girls.

To attend Clinton’s summit in New York City, participants must commit to tackling the focus issues, and companies or individuals who do not keep that pledge cannot return.

Clinton, president from 1993 to 2001, told Reuters in an interview that a global focus on creating jobs is needed because there are several wealthy countries suffering, as is the United States, from high unemployment.

“And there are a lot of developing countries that are afraid the global economic crisis is going to stop them from creating sufficient employment to continue to grow,” Clinton said.

“Everyone understands that we don’t have any control over what the E.U. decides to do about Greece or whether America decides to clean up its housing debt more quickly or all those sorts of things but that there are lots of things that can be done everywhere to create more employment,” he said.

Clinton expects President Obama to speak about his $447 billion jobs plan when he addresses the summit on Wednesday.

“It’s going to be very difficult for us to return to full employment and dramatically robust growth until we find a way to unlock the capital reserves in the $2 trillion in corporate money . . . that is not being invested now and the more than $2 trillion that banks have in cash reserves,” Clinton said.

Clinton said creating jobs would be the key theme throughout this year’s summit. Other highlights include a conversation with Nobel laureate and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who will be appearing via video link from Burma. Suu Kyi was freed by the Burmese government last year after 15 years of house arrest.

Her appearance, Clinton said, would “remind us that a certain amount of political liberty and personal mobility is necessary to give girls and women equal chances in the world . . . and that is a precondition of broad-based economic growth in a lot of these developing countries.”

Clinton said his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea, also may speak about U.S. initiatives to help women and girls around the world.

Clinton’s summit was born out of his frustration while president at attending conferences that were more talk than action. When the initiative began, corporations tended to show up and write checks to fund humanitarian programs. Now many see philanthropy in terms of investment opportunities.

“What I really am trying to do is to develop models of doing business in a way that makes CGI [the Clinton Global Initiative] less necessary, but we’re not there yet,” Clinton said, adding that he wants it to be standard practice for the public, private and nonprofit sectors to work together to tackle social and economic challenges.

Since the initiative started, more than 2,000 pledges have been made valued at more than $63 billion, and they have improved the lives of more than 300 million people in 180 countries, Clinton has said.

— Reuters

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