Posts Tagged 'CGIU'

CGI U 2009 – Peter’s potpourri of thoughts

Here are some miscellaneous thoughts from last weekend’s CGI U Conference:

  • I won’t belabor on points that Jon brought up, but it is worth reiterating the disappointment in the lack of any analysis of the root causes of the challenges faced in the world today.  No mention of history, global political challenges, harmful World Bank and IMF policies, etc.  The conversation solely focused on how we as students could implement small, community-based projects to address the major challenges of the world.  Yes, these types of projects are valuable, but our approach has great potential to be lacking or misaligned unless we as students understand the root causes of such inequities.
  • Encouraging to see some university presidents discuss the importance of developing cultures of civic engagement and public service in their institutions.  Bill Powers of University of Texas and Scott Cowen of Tulane both hit this one out of the park.
  • “No matter how you want to create change there is absolutely no substitute for working with those directly effected by the problems you seek to address.” Nathaniel Whittemore on a panel with several university presidents.
  • How can you have a food panel and not address the deep flaws in US food aid?
  • It is upsetting to see a conference that seeks to address energy and climate change use so much damn bottled water.  Laurie Garrett touched on the absurdity of this in a recent Pop!Cast.
  • Had some great conversations with people from FACE AIDS, Global Health Corps, Keep A Child Alive, Physicians for Human Rights and others in the global health twittersphere.
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CGIU 2009 – Jon’s Impressions

I thought that this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University was a really impressively run conference where I had the opportunity to meet an incredible number of equally impressive students who were passionate about making a positive change in the world. However, I can’t help but feel that there were many things missing. Sure, President Clinton showered us with praise for our commitment and energy, he paraded around his celebrity friends, and he threw one hell of a party, but I felt that what the events had in glitz and glamor, they lacked in substance and depth.

A frequent refrain was that the conference was an opportunity to focus on the “how”: how can we as students go out and build a better world. Unfortunately, the conference was completely lacking in any conversation of the “why”: Why is the world the way it is? Why is it that a person in Zambia is expected to live until their mid 30’s while the Japanese live to be more than 80? Why should we as students even engage in these issues?

I think that the question, “why?” must be the starting point for any well planned student led initiative in global health or development. This is because insightful reasons for why the world is how it is must inform and drive how we proceed with our intervention. If we fail to think about why the world is unequal, unjust, unsustainable, and unstable, then we are much more likely to create “solutions” that unintentionally perpetuate or reinforce the very harmful social structures that we are trying to dismantle.

I guess I just feel like these are immensely complex problems which will require equally complex solutions. The CGIU did not reflect this reality at all, and infact, it presented global problems as having relatively simple, one step solutions. If anything, the conference reinforced the idea that by the virtue of being young, American, wealthy, and powerful: we can walz in anywhere and simply fix stuff. Ivan Illich is rolling in his grave.

Clinton Global Initiative University

CLINTON NEW ORLEANSYour trusty student-bloggers just arrived in Austin, Tx for the second annual Clinton Global Initiative University. Hopefully, it will be an opportunity to meet,  network, and learn with a ton of smart and motivated university students who want to build a better world.

We’ll be trying to throw up a few daily posts about panels that we attend, interesting discussions that we have, as well as progress that we are able to make on our “commitment to action.” Our commitment to action is to create a student-led seminar at Northwestern titled “Student Engagement for Global Health Equity.” We’ll be discussing more about this as well over the coming days. Stay tuned!


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Welcome to the Students for Global Health Equity (SGHE) blog. Published by university students, the SGHE blog seeks to explore news and issues related to global health.

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