Clinton Summit to Focus on Financial Crisis, Other Topics

NEW YORK - The financial crisis roiling markets in the U.S. and around the world underscores the importance of taking a global perspective, former President Clinton said at the start of his summit of world leaders and celebrities.

"This crisis is not an excuse to walk away from the world's challenges but a compelling reason to intensify efforts to meet them around the corner and around the world," Clinton said at his annual Clinton Global Initiative.

"This purpose is going to be more important than ever in the next few years if there are economic conditions which prevent governments from giving as much as they otherwise would have."

The initiative, now in its fourth year, draws world leaders, celebrities and scholars for three days of discussions about pressing global issues like climate change and health.

It coincides with the General Assembly meeting taking place on the other side of town at the United Nations.

Already this year’s conference is unlike any other. The current crisis on Wall Street is front and center of our coverage at the Clinton Global Initiative. This is an unprecedented time in the financial industry. Investors are paying close attention to what’s happening on Capitol Hill as the market tries to digest Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s plan to buy up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets. The talk of the bailout is everywhere. Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin will be on a panel talking about poverty alleviation and the state of the global economy on Wednesday.

Other issues on the agenda include global warming, global poverty and alternative energy, among others.

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President Clinton told me that one key agenda at this year’s conference is fighting global warming in an economically beneficial way. Reducing poverty and promoting economic empowerment in poor countries and in communities in America will also be a top priority. Wednesday's event was kicked-off by a call to action on these very same issues by Lance Armstrong, Bono, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Her Majesty Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, Former Vice President Al Gore, Coca-Cola Chairman Neville Isdell and Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Former President George Bush spoke this morning about the battered coastal communities of this year's hurricane season. President Bush stressed the need for action in repairing regions after the storm. So far this season, there have been 10 named storms, and five have become hurricanes.

Watch Maria's interview with Former President Bill Clinton at left.

Big energy player Boone Pickens, Chairman and CEO of BP Capital and Robert Zoellick, the President of The World Bank will join forces later this week on a session on using water more efficiently, expanding food security and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Oil continues to rock the markets after the price per barrel posted its biggest one-day gain in history earlier this week.

On Thursday, I will be on a panel talking about business and entrepreneurship education for women in emerging economies. In 2007, a record 12 women ran U.S. companies. However, that’s only 2.4 percent of the Fortune 500.

Both presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama will also take part in the conference.

All participants in the conference are asked to take concrete steps to tackle specific problems. Some of those commitments are announced during the four-day meeting.

On Wednesday, Lance Armstrong, who is planning a return to cycling and next year's Tour de France, said his foundation would commit $8 million over the next five years to a global awareness campaign for cancer, including a meeting that would convene in Paris after the tour.

"This must be a global health priority. It is the reason we are here today," he said, adding that racing his bicycle all over the world is the best way to promote the effort.

Close to 60 current and former world leaders were expected at the conference.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.