Ideas to Action:

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Bill ClintonWednesday kicked off the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative in New York, where the development poverati mingle with the holders of the global purse-strings to "match people with ideas and those who have the means to see them through." Building on Bill Clinton's philosophy of giving (Atlantic Monthly subscription required), this year's areas of focus—education, energy & climate change, global health, and poverty alleviation—are all near and dear to our hearts at CGD, and it is encouraging to see them take center stage at such a high-profile event; in fact, many of the specific topics under discussion are closely tied to work currently being undertaken by my colleagues here, including:

  • A session on strategies for young and adolescent girls features Nancy Birdsall as the moderator and draws on CGD's past work on the importance of investing in girls education, most recently including Inexcusable Absence and the accompanying case book. This is also the focus of a new project led by Ruth Levine, which dives into the literature to examine the role of adolescent girls in the welfare of families, communities and nations—and the most promising ways to expand opportunities for girls and young women. Among other strategies for donors, progress-based aid could also be used to give countries extra resources to ensure all girls receive a quality education.
  • A discussion of strategies to improve maternal, newborn, and child health among a former Senator, the head of WHO and a prime minister (among others) is closely related to recent Visiting Fellow Jeremy Shiffman's work on the political agenda surrounding maternal mortality, and hopefully will touch on some of the success stories identified in Millions Saved, such as maternal health care in Sri Lanka or the National Vitamin A Program in Nepal. CGD's work on Advance Market Commitments is also prominently displayed in a related session on expanding access and fostering innovation for vaccines.
  • Overcoming drug resistance takes its rightful place as a critical development challenge in a session examining the threats presented by drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS, and the increasing challenge of conquering these deadly diseases. Coming quick on the heels of a recent Gates Foundation grant tackling drug resistant tuberculosis, the CGI panel will move beyond just the product development process to also highlight strategies for deploying effective drugs and interventions and the importance of improving global surveillance systems. This has been on our minds for a long time (see, for example, this related post from the Global Health Policy blog), but we hope that it will assume an even larger role in the global health discourse as CGD launches a new Drug Resistance Working Group over the next few months—stay tuned!
  • Also on the health front, CGI is taking the lead in addressing under and over nutrition in relation to chronic disease. Despite the relative dearth of donor attention to date, high-calorie diets and sedentary lifestyles are leading to an explosion in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in the developed and developing world alike, often in the very same places where under-nutrition is a problem. Rachel Nugent has shared her views (and her report!) on this over at the Global Health Policy blog, and is now undertaking a research project to show how US and other rich country agricultural policies may contribute to this growing problem; her preliminary ideas were featured at a recent CGD event on "A Healthy US Farm Policy in a Globalized World."
  • The plenary on economic growth in the face of resource scarcity and climate change is just one of many on the subject of global warming, but between Tom Brokaw, Tony Blair, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Hank Paulson it is certainly the one not to miss. Here at CGD, David Wheeler and others are rapidly ramping up a climate change initiative with both domestic and global implications, and hope to tie in a new project specifically looking at the relationship to population.
  • A sure-to-be-controversial session on brain drain, brain gain, and brain circulation moderated by CGD board member Larry Summers tackles the intersection of higher education and migration, focusing on the impact on developing countries. Labor mobility is currently facing off against climate change as the newest and most important entrant on the development agenda, and at CGD alone we've put out two books and a number of working papers since I joined. While Give Us Your Best and Brightest and Let Their People Come are both most-reads, as a health junkie I am personally hoping that the CGI discussants have also had the chance to read "Do Visas Kill?" which challenges the current conventional wisdom surrounding the "brain drain" of health care workers from Africa.
  • Latin America and the pressures of globalization is a favorite topic of Nancy's and one where she explores the relationship between economic growth and inequality and how developed countries can help reduce the risks. Giving the region's history of inequality, many of these same issues will likely be tackled in a special session on promoting growth and fairness the next day, including such luminaries as Trevor Manuel, Amartya Sen, John Podesta and Andrew Stern.

This is an exciting line-up, and CGD is exceedingly proud to be a part of it. Hopefully these insightful discussions will lead to serious commitments, and we look forward to having an equally influential role in turning these ideas into action as the commitments start rolling in.
See also: Financial Times feature section on the CGI

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.