Robbo turns on charm at Clinton summit

MARY ROBINSON and Gerry Adams played starring roles in Bill Clinton’s summit of world leaders and tycoons in New York over the weekend.

The event raised over €1 billion in pledges for projects to combat poverty, war and climate change and launched the Clinton Global Initiative.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds were among a select group to attend breakfast with the former US President. Ms Robinson hosted one of the four key sessions, with the Sinn Féin leader discussing how to break out of religion-fuelled conflict. The audiences included some of the world’s most powerful figures, from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Britain’s Tony Blair to media mogul Rupert Murdoch. There was a touch of Clinton-era glamour too, with Leonardo di Caprio in the audience for Mr Adams’s round-table discussion of religion as a source and solution to conflict.

Angelina Jolie was at the session discussing the role of enterprise in tackling poverty while Barbara Streisand and Mick Jagger were at the Friday night dinner. The 800 attendees received a gold-trimmed card inviting them to fill in the amount they wanted to pledge for a specific cause. Mr Clinton, looking well after his health problems, warned them that if they don’t stick to their pledges they won’t be invited to the next Initiative event.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers and backing from billionaire Thomas Golisano, the high-energy event was a stark contrast to the summit of world leaders across town at the United Nations. Ms Robinson, virtually banned from the UN with all NGOs, charmed guests including Ukraine keader Viktor Yushchenko into a debate on the need for decent government. One of the advisors to the Clinton Initiative, her sessions had standing room only and guests responded to her self-described “bossy line of questioning”.

Mr Adams was equally relaxed with a group including former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Nobody appeared quite sure why Mr Clinton had launched such a high-profile event. Some suspected it might be to help his wife in her expected presidential bid while others suggested he may be campaigning to be next head of the UN, despite the rota saying it must go to somebody from Asia when Kofi Annan stands down next year.

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