Clinton Global Initiative hails ninemillion campaign as a good cause

Former United States President Bill Clinton has called for renewed action to help millions of vulnerable children obtain an education. At the annual summit of his Global Initiative last week, Clinton urged people to support UNHCR's ninemillion campaign which seeks to ensure education for all refugee children by 2010.

Schoolgirls in a classroom built in Sudan by UNHCR for Eritrean refugees. Former US President Bill Clinton has urged people to support UNHCR's campaign to ensure an education for all refugee children.   © UN/F.Noy

NEW YORK, United States, October 1 (UNHCR) - Former United States President Bill Clinton has called for renewed action to help millions of vulnerable children obtain an education.

Speaking during the annual summit of his Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York last week, President Clinton urged people to visit the ninemillion.org website, which is at the centre of a UNHCR-led campaign to bring education to nine million uprooted children.

In his opening remarks to a plenary session on education, one of four pillars of this year's CGI, Clinton called on those attending the conference to support the ninemillion campaign.

"If any of you wanted to do something good and hadn't decided what to support, look at this initiative," he said. "You know you have a network of people where you will have a high rate of efficiency and a high rate of return."

Clinton then called to the stage key figures leading a number of education initiatives, among them UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie.

Speaking at an earlier press conference, Jolie spoke of the importance of education to children of conflict. "Children of conflict can turn to violence or despair, or they can be the new leaders of a better future for their families and nations, "she said.

The ninemillion campaign brings together UNHCR and private sector partners Nike, Microsoft, Manpower, the advertising group WPP and GSMA, an association of mobile phone operators and equipment suppliers. It aims to raise US$220 million by 2010 to allow millions of refugee and vulnerable children to get an education.

Through its Education (Plus) programme, UNHCR seeks to address all aspects of a child's educational needs, from teachers and notebooks to transportation, water and vocational training. The programme puts particular emphasis on getting girls into the classroom.

Speaking at the CGI, High Commissioner Guterres said education was a basic right of all children. He called the ninemillion campaign a means of ensuring that that right was realized by the most vulnerable.

Also attending the Clinton Global Initiative was best-selling author and UNHCR Goodwill Envoy Khaled Hosseini. The author met with leading business figures during a luncheon hosted by UNHCR where he spoke powerfully of his recent return to Afghanistan with the UN refugee agency.

"Education remains a key need in Afghanistan," he told the group. "In many of the villages I visited children either were not attending school at all, or had to walk long distances to reach the nearest school."

John Dau, a former so-called "lost boy" of Sudan and subject of the documentary "God Grew Tired of Us," also spoke at the luncheon on how access to education had transformed his life as a refugee. "I can still remember the smell of the first textbook I was given by UNHCR," he said.

The initial focus of the ninemillion campaign will be on uprooted children from Darfur, Iraq and Colombia, which are among the world's worst displacement crises.

By Tim Irwin in New York, United States