The Clinton Global Initiative wrapped up its annual meeting with several heavy moments. Following a discussion with new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi that covered topics ranging from democratization of the Middle East to the controversial film that has sparked recent violence, the meeting concluded with the introduction of Chen Li, a disabled Chinese woman who was once hidden from President Bill Clinton when he visited her village—for fear of offending him. To see her not hidden, but highlighted as an advocate for the rights of others, marked an emotional conclusion that capped many powerful moments over the course of the three-day meeting.
Keeping to the central theme—“Designing for Impact,” which ARCHITECT discussed here and here—Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times and author of Half the Sky, hosted a session titled “Women and the Built Environment: Designing for Opportunity.” Panelists, including Iraqi architect Salma Samar Damluji of the Daw’an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation and Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, discussed the key role women play in designing in a more productive and inclusive way. In asking a question publicly that the profession has been asking ourselves for years—namely, “How can more inclusive design approaches unlock access to key services, expand economic opportunities, and reduce inequalities?”—the expectation that design must impact social issues beyond building was reaffirmed. Or, perhaps, introduced to some for the first time.
"I celebrate our members who have committed to working together to meet these challenges head on," President Clinton said on Tuesday. "Their creative and focused actions will help to bring about a stable, sustainable world in which all people have a chance to thrive."
Over the course of the meeting, stakeholders agreed to 150 commitments that will affect more than 22 million people. With many of those commitments focused on the built environment, CGI members have dedicated themselves to addressing issues related to the design, sustainability, and responsible management of the environment. With a combination of openness and will, these members demonstrated that they plan to work collaboratively with architects on issues that are integral to sustainable rural and urban development. The profession is more than ready to do the same.