Expect world leaders to dodge some scheduled United Nations sessions today in a rush to attend the opening round of the Clinton Global Initiative, where 750 global glitterati and their aides have converged on the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers – at $15,000 per head – to forge a “new level” of global cooperation.
The former U.S. president has sought openly a post-presidential position commensurate with his vision, hoping to use his “clout, connections and charisma” on behalf of the global community.
A South China Morning Post headline captures the mood: “His plans are grand, but can he save the world?”
Maybe so, according to heavy-hitter sponsors, including Microsoft, Starbucks, Hewlett Packard, Google, Yahoo, Goldman Sachs, the Rockefeller Foundation and Citigroup.
As Americans remain focused on Katrina recovery and the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, an international drama is unfolding in New York where the U.N. is hosting a world summit in celebration of its 60th anniversary.
The summit is the largest ever gathering for world leaders. Topping the list for diplomats is the urgent and embarrassing call for U.N. reform.
Last month, newly arrived U.S. Ambassador John Bolton flipped aside the proposed document that called for developed nations to dedicate 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product to eradicate global poverty.
That document also endorsed the U.N.’s ambitious “Millennium Development Goals,” among them universal education, “gender equality” and measures to halt AIDS. Delegates spent weeks in a slug-fest to rewrite a face-saving document for heads-of-state to sign in front of cameras, a bid to salvage some semblance of U.N. leadership for global efforts.
The revised document created a Peace Commission, but omitted contested sections on disarmament and failed to define terrorism. The revision did not increase Secretary General Kofi Annan’s power to make management changes, a disappointment that Annan did not obscure.
“There were governments that were not willing to make the concessions necessary,” he said. “There were spoilers also in the group; let’s be quite honest about that.”
On the opening day of the summit, Annan pleaded with 153 monarchs, prime ministers and presidents to sign the document as their pledge to the Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000.
Yet, brittle-eyed realists have moved on, say some U.N. watchers. They’ve begun to look beyond the United Nations flags flapping above the line of diplomatic limousines. Some think Annan, tainted by the oil-for-food scandal, is incapable of guiding the international agenda.
President Bush thumped Annan at yesterday’s high-level plenary session. The U.S. president addressed the Millennium Development Goal of poverty where he noted that leaders have a “moral duty to make sure our actions are effective,” a clear reference to the corrupt and inefficient oil-for-food program. Bush drove home his point, reminding world leaders that, “We agreed to a new vision for the way we fight poverty, and curb corruption” in Monterrey in 2002.
The president caused squirms among a few nations when he outlined the terms of America’s commitment to MDGs via the U.S. government’s new Millennium Challenge Account: “This account is increasing U.S. aid for countries that govern justly, invest in their people and promote economic freedom.”
Annan and his management team seem to be dismissed in all but the formality. Blocks away, a new paradigm of global leadership is under construction. Former President Clinton and fellow internationalists – those who profess a vision of planetary interdependence and “global governance” – have convened the CGI conference.
A veteran U.N. observer quipped, “These people all have ‘Multilateral’ for their middle name. They are self-appointed patrolmen of the global commons.”
Like the U.N., the Clinton Global Initiative has set for itself some of the same lofty goals: poverty; enhancing governance; climate change; and religion, conflict, and reconciliation.
Attendees include Condoleezza Rice, perhaps to keep an eye on heads-of-state including Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair. Unlike the U.N., global elites of the billionaire variety, captains of industry, doyennes of charity, think tankers and masters of the media – The Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, Fox’s Rupert Murdoch – are among the invited. Selected political operatives such as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Vice President Al Gore and Gen. Wesley Clark also will attend. To maintain international fraternity, Kofi Annan also is included.
In a strange twist of events, Hurricane Katrina has highlighted the globalists’ call for an interdependent planet. Plans for the Clinton Global Initiative were drawn long before Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast. But the aftershocks of Katrina provided fodder for the anti-unilateralist ideologues that claim that U.S. failures in the wake of the storm demonstrate an inherent U.S. weakness. Others find the storm the perfect platform for chastising the U.S. position on global warming. Their reasoning is that the United States bungled Iraq and has now bungled Katrina.
“The reason that Hugo Ch?vez can organize across Latin America in ways contrary to U.S. interests is that the sheen has come off American exceptionalism. We are no longer seen as being able to order our own universe,” said former Clinton aide David Dreyer.
The premise for global governance adherents is that a new, multilateral, mutually secured world is the answer to global calamities, whether natural or man-made such as genocide.
Top supporters for the “interactive,” if exclusive, Clinton Initiative donate a minimum of $250,000 in exchange for their name or logo on event gift bags. And if this fund-raising tactic would appear to reduce the CGI to one more tiresome tony forum, some are less sanguine. Of particular concern is the Religion Conflict and Resolution component. According to CGI, “For many hundreds of millions, the most important community ties are born of faith – not nation; the most authoritative pronouncements are those of religious leaders – not statesmen … .”
The Clinton Global Initiative finds religion to be “a chief engine of deadly conflict, providing immediate pretext and overall context … .” Yet, people of faith are wary of those who preach peace by fingering religion as the source of “deadly conflict.” In light of the CGI’s goal of an “integrated global community of shared benefits, responsibilities, and values,” a looming question is, whose religious “values” will this “integrated global community” demand?
The advisory board for the Religion Forum is packed with those who are noted for their liberal views toward religion – those for whom dogma is “problematical.”
Board members include the cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick, Edgar Bronfman, Sr., president of the World Jewish Congress and William F. Vendley, secretary general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace/International, or Religions for Peace.
The advisory board for the Enhancing Governance track includes a man prominent in most conspiracy theories – George Soros of the Open Society Foundation. Soros’ presence is considered ominous among defenders of American sovereignty.
One blog site summed up the Clinton-Soros axis this way: “If the United Nations is shifting away from the Annan legacy, but Clinton-Soros move into the vacuum, we are left with the same globalist mentality. That is not government ‘enhancement,’ but entrapment.”
Outspoken anti-globalists ask if the world is witnessing the first stage of a Clinton-and-Clinton world hegemony – Hillary as president of the United States and Bill as secretary general of the United Nations.
“Between them they will control the world’s money and arms,” lamented one blogger.
“No,” responded a Hillary fan. “That idea is just part of the vast right-wing conspiracy.”