Our highly interconnected and interdependent world has given rise to an extraordinary collaborative effort to design a future that is sustainable, prosperous and empowering. The recently concluded Clinton Global Initiative 2012 annual meeting’s theme, “Designing for Impact,” focused on designing our lives, environments and the global systems that can create more opportunity and equality.
Every year in New York City, coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly, the Clinton Global Initiative brings together a community of global leaders to forge solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. “I am convinced that cooperation, not conflict, will define this century,” said President Clinton. “From the capitols of the world to the most remote villages, people everywhere understand that there are universal challenges which face us all and are beyond the power of any individual to solve alone.”
The mission of the Clinton Global Initiative is to turn ideas into action. This year, participants made commitments to action in a wide spectrum of issues such as built environment, education, energy, women’s empowerment, global health and technology. Mercy Corps and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) committed $3,800,000 to increase small-holder farmer income through mobile in Indonesia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. NISAA Broadcast Radio Company, a woman-owned radio station in the West Bank, made commitment to empower Palestinian women through Media. Some Participants emphasized how collaboration is vital for innovation, creativity and turning those commitments into action. The meeting closed boasting “150 new commitments made valued at more than $2 billion, expected to impact nearly 22 million people.”
Those estimated 22 million people around the globe can be served well through meaningful public-private partnerships. Various initiatives across the United States and world are strengthened through the Clinton Global Initiative’s efforts. In the United States, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s newly created Infrastructure Trust — a nonprofit entity designed to attract private capital for infrastructure investment, which will promote job creation and economic growth in Chicago — got a thumbs up from other mayors.
“A successful public-private partnership could improve not only our roads and bridges and electrical grids, but also our citizen’s quality of life,” said Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
One of the Clinton Global Initiative’s past commitments is the Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti, a notable example of strategic investment for development. Caracol Industrial Park is part of a larger coordinated strategy between the government of Haiti, the Inter-American Development Bank, the United States Government and the private sector to create access to jobs, housing, electrification, transportation and agricultural development. Caracol’s first tenant, with 800 employees, was the Korean apparel company, Sae-A, one of the largest garment manufacturers in the world.
Most of the employees are women who have never had a formal sector job before and are graduates of a new vocational training center nearby. By the end of the year, Sae-A hopes to nearly double its employees, and it’s on track to reach its goal of creating 20,000 jobs by 2016. As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, “These types of investments, when married with the entrepreneurial spirit of the Haitian people, are helping to catalyze growth in Haiti.”
The natural gas engine company Westport aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from mobile phone tower generators In India. Westport’s natural gas engines will also provide residual power to nearby villages that are currently off the electricity grid. Westport announced a commitment at Clinton Global Initiative 2012, to identify and develop a natural gas fuel supply, engine technology and power distribution that will reduce emissions, and create a consistent and reliable power supply to the phone towers.
By 2015, there will be close to a billion mobile phone users in India, and currently mobile phone towers in India consume approximately 2 billion liters of diesel fuel annually. Project partners include non-profits Development Alternatives and Technology and Action for Rural Advancement, along with regional power producers and fuel providers. If this project is successful, not only can we scale the clean energy solution, but also reinforce how strategic partnerships can bring benefits in numerous contexts.
David J. Maurrasse is the director of the Program on Strategic Partnerships and Innovation at the Earth Institute. He is the president and founder of Marga Inc., a consulting firm providing advice and research to strengthen philanthropy and innovative cross-sector partnerships to address some of today’s most pressing social concerns. His book, “Strategic Public Private Partnerships: Innovation and Development,” is due early 2013.