Corporate transparency, corruption, land grabbing, women's rights or lack of and connectivity for the planet are big issues being mentioned at this year's Clinton Global Initiative in New York. The tone among global leaders and members is optimistic and supportive of the good deeds and progressive projects underway, but where is the outrage? With all this positive work (I am a fan) it's easy to forget that real controversies exist among the social entrepreneurs and changemakers.
Luckily, we have Bono and Mo Ibrahim to give us a reality check, but we need others to challenge the powerbrokers and keep them in line too.
Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese billionaire telecommunications entrepreneur didn't waste any time on day one and said that the first thing global technology corporations could do to benefit Africa is to pay their taxes. Speaking on a panel "Mobilizing for Impact" moderated by former president Bill Clinton, Mo joined U2 and ONE cofounder Bono, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund to discuss how individuals and organizations can better work together to make real change. Global corporations paying their rightful share of taxes in the developing countries where they make money sounds basic but there are legal tax saving schemes to curb this. So pervasive is the problem that in September the G20 leaders made a deal to combat international tax evasion by multinational companies and share information on individual and corporate taxpayers.
Next the "C" word reared its ugly head. "We know corruption is killing more kids than TB, AIDS, and malaria put together. There is a vaccine and it's called transparency," said Bono. He applauded the oil companies for funding malaria and AIDS prevention but also mentioned their efforts to block new anti-corruption rules that would require them to reveal what they paid for the rights to extract natural resources in developing countries.
"I'm no cranky anti-corporation critic here," Bono said. "I implore the people in this room, from Exxon, from Chevron... You can't have it both ways. You can't give alms to the poor on one level and have your hands on their throats on another."
"Africa has some of the world's richest natural resources so why is it so poor," echoed Mo Ibrehium. That's a complex question that gets asked time and time again, just like why is there so much violence against women and young girls in the world, and why are we spending so much money on aid and the problems remain?
The frank discussion was a highlight of day one at the conference and I hope to see more debates on the consequences of corporate and government corruption; and more outrage towards the thriving culture of misogyny in the developing world.
I know important things come out of the Clinton Global Initiative's meeting. I've drank the Clinton Global Initiative kool-aid and every session I attend a "hopeful, change is possible" attitude ensues. It helps that I've travelled throughout northern Ethiopia and to shantytowns outside Lima, Peru in the past two years with non-profit HOPe (Helping Other People) and I have a first-hand understanding of these complex problems and controversies.
I understand CGI is ultimately about helping people take action to improve their situations, particularly those underrepresented groups in the developing world. I hope they continue to highlight injustices wherever they may lie and continue to shout for corporate transparency. The onslaught of media, money, star power, and hard work from truly committed people on the stage and behind the stage gives voice to the marginalized and for that I applaud the Clinton family and the new commitments that will unfold this year.