Special Correspondent

New York — The sixth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative wrapped up here Sept. 23 with an appearance by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and presentation of awards to distinguished world citizens who are making a big mark in the drive to improve conditions for the world’s peoples.
The Initiative is a global gathering of heads of state, CEOs of multinational corporations and innovative leaders of nonprofit and educational institutions who partner to find solutions to social, economic and environmental issues around the world.

The President commended the participants for  extraordinary commitment to improving people’s lives.

The First Lady spoke about the importance of harnessing human potential – in particular, the untapped potential of veterans and their spouses. She called attention to the plight of veterans of the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars trying to find jobs upon their return home after their tours of duty.

The returning veterans and their spouses have many skills to offer employers in the public and private sectors, she said, and she asked employers to consider hiring them, especially those returning with life-changing injuries.

“These men and women are experts in many areas such as logistics, planning, technology, recruitment, linguistics and other skills adaptable to the modern marketplace and we can help them fulfill their human potential,” Mrs. Obama said.

The meeting focused on finding effective, sustainable solutions to the some of the world’s most pressing challenges in the areas of education, economic empowerment, energy, the environment, and health.  In total, more than 1,900 commitments have so far been made, worth $63 billion, and they have improved the lives of nearly 300 million people.

As examples of the commitments:

•  Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina has partnered with 30 communities over three years to implement early childhood obesity prevention initiative.

•  Microsoft, Twitter, and the Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher Foundation sponsor “The Real Men Don’t Buy Girls Campaign” to end child sex slavery in the United States which impacts between 150,000 and 300,000 children.

•  The Coca-Cola Company has partnered with African countries, including Morocco, Sierra Leone, and Somalia, for water and health projects.

•  Goldman Sachs, KPMG, and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation have sponsored a $60 million bond to fund research and intervention that will help coral reefs adapt to climate change.

•  The Nike Foundation launched a project with Asian and African countries to help secure land rights in rural areas.

The Initiative also presented Global Citizen Awards to five people. The Leadership in the Public Sector Award went to Dr. Leonel Fernandez, president of the Dominican Republic, founder and honorary president of the Fundaciun Global Democracia y Desarrollo.

The Philanthropy Award went to Mohamed Ibrahim, chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation which he founded in 2006, focusing on initiatives to stimulate debate around, and improve the quality of, governance in Africa.

Suraya Pakzad and Dr. Jean Pape received the Leadership in Civil Society Award. Pape is executive director of GHESKIO and is a professor of medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Pakzad is executive director of the Voice of Women Organization, considered one of Afghanistan's most effective non-governmental orgtanizations. It promotes freedom and empowerment for women in Afghan societies

The Leadership in the Corporate Sector Award went to Andrea Jung, chairman & CEO, Avon Products. Through her vision, the Avon Foundation has raised more than $725 million to help eradicate breast cancer and end violence against women.

AP Photo/Evan Agostini. Star Power: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, left, and current U. S. President Barack Obama check out the audience as First Lady Michelle Obama walks to the podium at the Clinton Global Initiative closing plenary session on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010 in New York.