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World leaders join Clinton's initiative

September 22, 2006
The Clinton Foundation has been working extensively to make HIV/AIDS treatment affordable in developing countries, including India. Between programmes, the LCD screens often beamed colorful images from various projects in India and Africa.

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson (in image) pledged to commit $3 billion over the next 10 years to help combat global warming. All profits from the airline and rail businesses of the Virgin Group (that he founded) would be spent on combating global warming, he said.

The Clinton Global Initiative calls upon people to make commitments in four focus areas. The first commitment came from Laura Bush, who announced a $16.4 million investment by the US government, the Case Foundation and the MCJ Foundation to expand the installation of PlayPump Water pumping systems throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

"Play Pumps are children's merry-go-rounds attached to a water pump in a storage tank. When the wheel turns, drinking water is produced," she said. "Play pumps are fuelled by an endless energy resource -- children at play," the American First Lady added with a smile.

September 20, Clinton invited Mallika Dutt, executive director of the human rights organisation Breakthrough, to sign a commitment for a three-year campaign, Value Families that will push for fair and just immigration policies. "We believe that decent immigration policies can advance the human rights of all Americans," Dutt said.

Poonam Ahluwalia (on Branson's left), executive director, Youth Employment Summit (YES) Campaign, was among the people invited to share the stage with Clinton when he addressed a news conference September 21.

The YES campaign is active in 84 countries where it works with governments, NGOs and others, and creates markets and encourages entrepreneurship. Clinton chaired the first summit in Egypt in 2002.

In India, a solar energy lab has been created in Hyderabad as part of the campaign; curriculum is developed in consultation with the company Shell Solar, and the youth are trained to work there, Ahluwalia said. At the same time, technicians are trained to manufacture solar equipment that can be used in villages. It's a way of providing off-grid solutions.

"I think the beauty of the Clinton Initiative is that it has somebody as charismatic as Clinton behind it," Ahluwalia said. "In terms of actual work, we have to let it unfold, and very patient because new paradigms are being created here."

On a panel on managing and treating chronic disease, Srinath Reddy, a cardiologist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said India has 20 million people with diabetes, and the number is expected to double in 20 years. The solution, he said, is policy intervention, an example being a price change mechanism through which healthy oils and fats could be made available to people at affordable prices.
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