In my two previous posts, I discussed comments on the American job market by former President Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative. In this post, I'd like to briefly comment on some of the panel discussions on other topics.
Women and Girls
President Clinton's remark that it is amazing that we even need panels discussing the protection and empowerment of women and girls in the year 2010 set the stage for CGI's focus on this topic. The panel discussion on Empowering Girls and Women (see Michelle Kraus' piece at the Huffington Post and Ken Houghton's notes at Angry Bear) was one of the better ones in my view. A superb video worth watching and sharing - The Girl Effect - was aired during this session. Joan Walsh at Salon.com wrote more about this and about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement on a new initiative:
I'm attending the first day of the Clinton Global Initiative, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just announced the launch of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private partnership. Before you shake your head at the former president's powerful wife being confined to the kitchen, the toxins released by open fires and inefficient stoves create one of the five most serious health risks to people in developing countries, putting them at risk for pneumonia and lung cancer.
The participants on the main panel were Queen Rania Al Abdullah from Jordan, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Muhtar Kent, CEO of the Coca Cola Company, with Katie Couric of CBS moderating. I was particularly impressed by Queen Rania Al Abdullah (her outspokenness and willingness to take strong positions), although President Sirleaf was engaging as well.
The breakout session on Securing the Heath and Safety of Girls and Women, moderated by The Daily Beast's Tina Brown, was interesting as well (see Ken Houghton's notes at Angry Bear). The panelists were Gary Cohen, EVP of BD, Geeta Rao Gupta, Senior Fellow at the Gates Foundation, Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (US State Department), and actress Ashley Judd, Board Member of Population Services International (PSI). Holbrooke was vocal about what he felt were some shortcomings in traditional approaches to deal with women's rights and security in countries where women face suppression or sexual violence. He said that we also have to address the men in order to fix the problem of violence against women, that he rarely sees programs where men are the target of appropriate outreach - he gave an example of police training (not sure if he was referring to Pakistan) where he said there was nothing in the training really about how women need to be shown respect. He mentioned that both he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton see eye to eye on this topic. Gupta countered this by stating that there are programs that target men and boys - not just women - and with a broader community-level focus these programs aim to show how the men and the community can benefit (especially in terms of growing their income or wealth) if women are allowed more freedom to pursue their goals and are respected. Holbrooke also spent some time discussing the recent devastating floods in Pakistan and what he thought it would take to help Pakistan recover from this unprecedented calamity. He cautioned that any aid given to Pakistan should not be linked to any commitments on social re-engineering because it would be counter-productive - he said, aid should be provided to save lives and livelihoods, not just for security alone. Judd spoke passionately about her travels and experiences in Africa.
(NOTE: I was unable to attend the session on Profiting From The Poor? A Discussion on Microfinance IPOs - where Muhammad Yunus (Nobel-Prize winning Founder of Grameen Bank) and Vikram Akula (Founder of SKS Microfinance) evidently had an energetic debate. Megha Bahree of Forbes has a brief write-up on the debate in her blog and Rina Chandran has more at Reuters).