On Tuesday, President Barack Obama joined President Bill Clinton to open the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. Participants in the three-day event will focus on developing innovative solutions to four global challenges – energy and climate change, economic empowerment, education and global health. President Clinton announced that more than 60 current and former heads of state, 500 business leaders, and 400 leaders from nongovernmental and philanthropic organizations will be attending the meeting, representing 84 countries. The event is time to coincide with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly when heads of state and government from around the world are in New York. Established in 2005 by President Clinton, the Initiative provides a meeting place for people and organizations to make commitments to improve the lives of those in need. In total, they have made have made more than 1,400 commitments valued at $46 billion affecting the lives of people in 170 countries. President Clinton also announced the first two commitments of this year’s meeting, one of which is environmental in its focus. Water.org co-founders, actor Matt Damon and the organization’s executive director Gary White, joined President Clinton on-stage to announce a $2 million commitment to provide 50,000 people in Haiti with safe water and sanitation over the next three years. “The situation in Haiti is extreme. It’s the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and nearly half of its people don’t have access to clean water,” said White. “Expanding Water.org’s programming to Haiti will help people break the cycle of disease and poverty.”
Water.org’s Haiti Commitment will reach beneficiaries with grant-driven programs while also exploring opportunities with microfinance institutions in Haiti under its WaterCredit Initiative. WaterCredit is a financial innovation that brings microfinance to the world’s poor who lack safe water and sanitation. It is the first comprehensive program of its kind to move beyond grant-driven charity and enables microfinance activity in the water and sanitation sector. WaterCredit leverages commercial capital and motivates microfinance institutions to launch loan portfolios to assist the poor who lack basic water and sanitation services.
As part of the commitment, Water.org has launched a social media campaign so that anyone can participate in meeting the water challenge in Haiti. The Haiti Challenge is a new website that encourages visitors to fundraise and “friend-raise” for the cause through their online social networks. Getting a friend to really care about the water crisis is as important as asking for a donation. White says the website includes new technologies that leverage the most popular social media sites, making it quick and easy for people to invite their friends and followers to support the cause.
The other new commitment comes from Coca-Cola, which commits to alleviating poverty by increasing opportunities for women in the Coca-Cola distribution network in Africa.
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