Bill Clinton on Environmental Preservation and NGOs

Photo: Mike Segar-Reuters

In order to promote his project, the Clinton Global Initiative, former president Bill Clinton spoke to Brazilian magazine Veja and said one of the hardest goals of his organization is "to make of environmental preservation a way to achieve economic prosperity" and that the "consolidation of the non-government organizations as actors in a worldwide perspective" is one of the "three major, yet little noticed, phenomena that are forming the contemporary world".
"It is possible to generate wealth without destroying the environment. That is the big challenge. All over the world water reserves are diminishing, fertile soils are being eroded and grain production is falling. South America is one of the few regions of the world that will be able to increase soy and other grain production thanks to technology and the abundance of fertile lands. But that's an exception in the world. Therefore, one of the hardest goals of my initiative is to make of environmental preservation a way to achieve economic prosperity. Otherwise, society's reactions can be very negative, say in China or India. They can think environmental preservation is an Americans and Europeans ambush to stop the economic growth of their countries", explained Clinton. "That's why we should encourage the use of the solar energy, wind power, and help make popular high productivity cultivation techniques that help us preserve soil and water. This way people will understand that environmental preservation will make them richer and not poorer".
The Clinton Global Initiative is the latest project...... of the William Clinton Foundation, and according to their website, its goal "is to focus the world's leading minds on confronting some of the most challenging global dilemmas, and to find practical, effective measures that can be taken now".
"I think we can produce real results in a shorter term than one would imagine —continued Clinton in Veja's interview-. A global civil society is expanding quickly since the end of communism. If you look at what happened in the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, you will see that three major yet little noticed phenomena that are forming the contemporary world. First one is the fact that for the first time in history, more people live under democratic governments than under dictatorships. Second is the geometric expansion of internet. And third is the consolidation of the non-government organizations as actors in a worldwide perspective".
Former president said "globalization had very positive effects, but a lot of people were not benefited" and that "the only way to extend those beneficial effects is to bring civil society into the scene". "I think the time has come for not-governmental organizations, companies, workers and international organizations to try to develop environmental and social policies that can be up to challenges and opportunities raised by the globalization. The global economic system alone can't solve all the problems, nor locally neither globally. Issues like environmental degradation and poverty and inequality increase cannot be faced barely by the forces of market. Therefore, I don't find realistic to imagine we can have a globalized economy without a social global action".
"Even in countries without a very effective government, there are derelict but intelligent people that are able to survive, with everything conspiring against them. When a good NGO network arrives to a place like this, their work can save many lives, open companies and promote economic growth", he continued.
About his project, Clinton said what he thinks he can do is "to provide everyone the chance of focalize their actions so that they can become more effective". That place will be the initiative's first reunion, which will be held in New York City, September 15-17, 2005, coinciding with the Millennium Summit of U.N. General Assembly. The goals the project has identified include Escape from poverty; Region, conflict and reconciliation; Climate Change: Business Challenge and Opportunity; and Enhancing Government. Veja's online edition is for subscribers only, but here's a link to another site which published the whole interview in portuguese.

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