Except for Academy-award winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio and perhaps, Irwin Jacobs, who pioneered wireless communication and founded Qualcomm, the winners of this year’s Global Citizen Awards at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative, would likely not be readily known. But when you hear their stories, and what they have accomplished, it gives you a sense of possibility that there is goodness in the world and that the most intransigent problems and cruelties can be overcome.
The Clinton Global Citizen Awards, since 2007, honor outstanding individuals in civil society, philanthropy, public service, and the private sector who exemplify global citizenship through their vision, leadership, and impact in addressing global challenges.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who earlier in the day had marched with nearly 400,000 others in the Peoples Climate March, was honored for Leadership in Philanthropy, with the foundation he established in 1998, when he was just 24, with the mission of protecting the Earth’s last wild places, habitats for creatures which are otherwise vanishing, and implementing solutions to build a more harmonious relationship between humanity and the natural world. Through grantmaking, public campaigns, and media projects, DiCaprio has worked to bring much-needed attention and funding to three focus areas — protecting biodiversity, ocean and forest conservation, and climate change.
He was introduced by Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, who noted that carbon is now at a level not seen in a million years (and a million years ago is when scientists believe homo erectus nearly went extinct). “We have lost half of birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles…. We are exhausting the planet’s ability to support you and me. The earth needs a voice. Leonardo DiCaprio is waking us up and standing up for the future of the planet, our home.”
Carter announced that this year, Nepal, “with Leo’s help, has zero poaching of tigers, elephants and rhinos; Nepal tripled its population of tigers bringing new wealth and health to revive local communities. He also works to establish marine conservation.”
DiCaprio, who is the new United Nations Messenger for Peace and opened the UN Climate Summit, used his time at the mic to make his point:
“This is a real and terrifying crisis. Climate change is compromising the very livability of this planet. there are 7 million premature deaths a year. We stand by as oceans and forests – that would mitigate carbon – are being destroyed. the ocean is acidifying. Only 2% of oceans are protected for the very industry whose long term sustainability depends on it. Climate change is the the defining issue of our time.”
Atifete Jahjaga, President of the Republic of Kosovo, was honored for Leadership in Public Service for promoting reconciliation in the region and building Kosovo’s political and economic institutions to gain EU membership.
She was introduced by Madeleine K. Albright, who was Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton when he organized action in the Balkans to prevent genocide. Jahjaga is only the fourth president of Kosovo, but its first woman to hold the office.
She is very active in promoting a European reform agenda and is determined to fight corruption and consolidate the rule of law in Kosovo. Under her leadership, women empowerment in Kosovo has advanced. She has taken a firm stance on the issue of victims of rape during war, with a focus on the acknowledgement of their legal status. President Jahjaga has worked hard to build bridges between Kosovo’s estranged communities, and she has been very active in interfaith dialogue among Kosovo’s different religious communities, viewing it as a way to address radicalization and promote reconciliation.
“Fifteen years ago, Kosovo was covered in rubble, lives broken, families divided, the fabric of ethnic communities torn. Today it breathes in freedom and peace, member of the European Union and NATO,” Albright said.
“Who would have thought Kosovo, which became a country like the day before yesterday, and they already got a woman president,” President Clinton joked.
Hayat Sindi, founder and CEO of i2 Institute for Imagination and Ingenuity, a nongovernmental organization aiming to create an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and social innovation for scientists, technologists, and engineers in the Middle East and beyond, was honored for Leadership in Civil Society, for her work to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship among young people in the Middle East. She was the first Saudi woman to be accepted to study biotechnology at Cambridge University, where she received her PhD, becoming the first woman from the Arabian States of the Persian Gulf to complete a doctoral degree in the field. She also was one of the first female members of the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia. Sindi is a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board and is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for her efforts in promoting science education in the Middle East, especially for girls.
“How will we know if we achieve the impossible? Make others believe.”
The actress and activist Eva Longoria, founder of the Eve Longoria Foundation, introduced Greg Asbed and Lucas Benitez, co-founders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the honorees for Leadership in Civil Society. They have taken up the mantel of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, in fighting for the human rights and a living wage for farm workers, and they did it in a novel way: making a business argument for paying workers a penny more a pound for the tomatoes they picked in Immokalee.
“They incentivize farms to stop exploitive practices,” said Longoria, who appears in a documentary about their struggle. They got Walmart and whole Foods to demand better conditions of their suppliers. “It was groundbreaking, a promising model for protecting farmers’ rights worldwide.”
“This will be the gold standard for the protection and expansion of fundamental human rights,” said Greg Asbed. Asbed is a principal author of the CIW’s Fair Food Program, a breakthrough, worker-driven approach to verifiable corporate accountability recognized by the United Nations and the White House for its unique effectiveness. He also works closely with Benitez on the CIW’s Anti-Slavery Campaign, recognized by the U.S. State Department for its pioneering work in the prevention of forced labor.
Lucas Benitez remarked that 30 years ago, he was an 18 year old farm worker exploited and abused in the fields. “This means the elimination of forced labor. No more victims, strict market consequences, not just in Florida but around the world.”
Benitez is a key organizational leader and member of the Fair Food Program worker education team, and is one of the earliest farmworker leaders in the Fair Food movement. He also works with consumer allies to organize national actions—renowned for their creativity and effectiveness—designed to bring pressure on the large retail purchasers of Florida produce to join the Fair Food Program. The CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food is the subject of a feature-length documentary directed by Sanjay Rawal entitled “Food Chains,” set for nationwide release November 21.
President Clinton said, “He’s 18 years old, a farm worker, oppressed and 30 years later, gets the biggest companies to use market power to [honor] human rights. There are people like you at 18 who think putting up gun is only option. You proved them wrong.”
California’s Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome introduced Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs, founding chairman and CEO emeritus of Qualcomm, honored for Leadership in the Private Sector, “for bringing the transformative power of wireless technology to underserved communities globally including developing women’s access to wireless technology and their economic empowerment.”
Jacobs co-founded Qualcomm in 1985, and as CEO through 2005 and chairman through 2009, he led the growth from start-up to Fortune 500 Company, which now employs over 30,000 people worldwide. Qualcomm pioneered the CDMA wireless technology used by all third-generation cellular networks to deliver broadband Internet access to over 2.2 billion customers, and is a leader in supplying fourth-generation technology. Qualcomm has become the world’s largest semiconductor supplier for mobile devices and has been named to FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 15 consecutive years.
But what Jacobs is being honored for is that since 2006, Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach program has brought wireless technology to underserved communities globally and invests in projects that foster entrepreneurship, aid in public safety, enhance the delivery of health care, enrich teaching and learning, and improve environmental sustainability. The latest project in Morocco is an ultrasound device that enables a pregnant woman to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor remotely, cutting time for response from two weeks to one day and cutting the cost from $8 to $1. Many projects place emphasis on women’s empowerment through cell phones.
“There are 7 billion wireless connections – growing at a rate more rapidly than people,” Jacobs said. “Wireless will have a major impact on education, health and economies.”
Personally, Jacobs and his wife Joan support the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute and have been recognized by Business Week and Chronicle of Philanthropy for being among the 50 Most-Generous Philanthropists in the United States.
Last year’s Global Citizen honoree, Bunker Roy, founder of The Barefoot College which trains “grandmas” in remote villages as “solar engineers” returned to this year to announce that he is working with another Global Citizen honoree from last year, Bishop Elias Taban, a former child soldier who grew up during Sudan’s civil wars, to expand Barefoot College to South Sudan. The program has trained 900 women who bring solar energy to unelectrified villages, improving the lives of 450,000 people.
“We want to solar electrify 100,000 houses and reach 1 million people,” Roy said. “When most would write off South Sudan as most dangerous, we established the Barefoot Center, saving 200,000 jobs, stopping migration. We want to establish 6 more over Africa.”
“For me to hear Bunker talk about what he has done with Bishop Taban in South Sudan, a lot of good things happen here, a lot of good people,” President Bill Clinton said.
“These honorees represent some of the most visionary leaders in the world and embody what it means to be a true global citizen,” said President Bill Clinton. “Having brought together and lifted a nation, given a voice to marginalized populations, worked to protect our fragile environment, and equipped our next generation with the skills they need to succeed, I’m encouraged by their efforts and optimistic about our collective future.”
The Global Citizen Awards has become a major fixture of the Clinton Global Initiative which just marked its 10th year.
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 180 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date, members of the CGI community have made more than 2,900 commitments, which are already improving the lives of more than 430 million people in over 180 countries.
CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting focused on collaborative solutions to economic recovery in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their community or around the world.
This year, the first Clinton Global Initiative to be held in the Mediterranean, to be held in Athens, Greece in June 2015.
For more information, visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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