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Bill Clinton gets US$2 bil. in pledges to tackle world woes

NEW YORK -- Health care for athletes with mental disabilities, organic know-how for Indian farmers and solar technology for isolated communities were among the pledges made at former U.S. President Bill Clinton's philanthropic summit, which ended on Tuesday.

With its theme of “Designing for Impact” and an emphasis on improving the lives of women and girls in the developing world, heads of states, business leaders and humanitarians at the eighth annual Clinton Global Initiative made 150 new pledges valued at about US$2 billion to tackle some of the world's woes.

The three-day summit, scheduled when world leaders are in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly, also featured appearances from U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, as well as Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi.

“I am convinced that cooperation, not conflict, will define this century,” Clinton said.

The meeting is largely a networking opportunity for some of the world's power brokers to exchange ideas and forge partnerships. It also offers a chance for successful companies to highlight projects that demonstrate social responsibility.

On the opening day, Clinton asked Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke if the company would consider opening a store in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Duke noted the company has opened stores in some of the world's more troubled cities, but politely declined the suggestion.

The summit was also a family affair. Clinton introduced his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who made remarks. And their daughter Chelsea, a board member, moderated a session called “The Case for Optimism in the 21st Century.”

The idea for the summit came from Clinton's frustration with attending conferences while he was president that prompted no action. When the initiative began, corporations tended to show up and write checks to fund humanitarian programs. Now many see philanthropy in terms of investment opportunities.

The pledges will impact 22 million people, the Clinton initiative said. Some of the commitments took the form of donations.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Suntech Power Holdings and the GlobalECHO Foundation teamed up to install US$250,000 worth of solar panels at a hospital that treats victims of sexual violence.

“When you hear the stories of what they're dealing with, you can't not help them,” said Andrew Beebe, Suntech's chief commercial officer.

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