bill_clinton_web_fc_1.jpgNEW YORK — Attending the Clinton Global Initiative's five-day annual meeting in New York is akin to falling down a rabbit hole into a world of endless possibilities for the greater good.

Here, all the participants – heads of state, CEOs of multinational and global corporations and innovative leaders of nonprofit and educational institutions partner in innovative and/or multimillion-dollar projects to solve global and local social, economic and environmental problems.

They call the partnerships “Commitments” and they address some of the world's most seemingly intractable problems.

This is a world of “can do” and “why not” people who demonstrate how corporate social responsibility and public/private partnerships can change the world for the better.

At Monday's opening session, former President Bill Clinton announced that 67 current and former heads of state, more than 600 business leaders and more than 500 leaders from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and philanthropic organizations are attending this sixth summit. Over the course of the week, these summit members will make new connections, share insights and ideas and forge partnerships that will strengthen their work for years to come.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were scheduled to join the program on Thursday to participate in the announcement of a number of groundbreaking initiatives.

Several South Florida leaders are participating in this year's summit,  including Eduardo Padron, president of Miami Dade College; and Donna Shalala.

Padron was a featured expert panelist on Tuesday's breakout session on the topic “Democratizing Education: The Key to Global Economic Growth” with representatives from Microsoft Corporation, Global Give Back Circle, Fast Company Magazine and University of the People.

Heading the largest institution of higher education in the United States, Padron said “the key to the success of MDC students has been the support provided to them by the college in innovative ways.”

Face-to-face education and online education give students options. MDC has been very successful in using new ways, including technology, to enable and facilitate the education of students from multicultural, diverse, first-generation college and underserved backgrounds and communities.

During the plenary session, Clinton announced several new Commitments, including a multi-partner commitment to build a global marketplace for clean cook stoves in rural and low-income communities and assistance for Haiti.

Pollution from indoor stove smoke is estimated to kill 1.6 million people every year, most of them children under 5.  The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a new Commitment made by the U.S. State Department, the U.N. Foundation, the World Food Program, Royal Dutch Shell, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other public and private partners. Together, they committed to help 100 million households change to clean and efficient cook stoves and fuels by 2020.

With regard to Haiti, Clinton said that since the devastating earthquake struck in January, CGI members have made commitments worth $224 million to help the country build back better. Most of those commitments were developed through CGI’s Action Network focused on Haiti.

Facilitated by Denis O’Brien, chairman of the Digicel Group, the Action Network has been meeting regularly to help members meet new partners and coordinate their work. Many of these commitment-makers were working in Haiti before the earthquake and are now coordinating with the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.

Additional commitments on the environment, health, Haiti, flood-ravaged Pakistan, the Gulf Coast and solutions for tackling waste were scheduled to be announced later this week.

Photo: Bill Clinton