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UNGA 2013: Day One

Farmers, MDGs, Bill Clinton, and More

My Monday afternoon during U.N. Week focused on development and innovation – in a couple of very different contexts. I started out with a chance to catch up with Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and now serving as Chairman of AGRA, an organization our foundation does a lot of work with to improve farming and food security in Africa. Helping African farmers increase their yields leads to so many other positive benefits in health and education. It’s vital to have strong local partnerships in Africa, and it’s terrific to have his leadership on this important work.


I also met with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan. We're working with his government to improve their agricultural sector.

Later in the afternoon I was over at the U.N. to take part in a panel on the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs. The panel also included Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. We all had different ideas about using innovation for greater impact, but it was great to see how much support the MDGs had across all of the panelists and in the audience. The MDGs have been an incredible tool for focusing attention and energy on the problems of the poor. As I wrote last week, I had reservations about the MDGs at first. But I came to love them. I'm a big fan of the current set of MDGs and an advocate for keeping our focus on extreme poverty when we adopt the next round of goals in 2015.

Another fun part of the afternoon was sitting down with former President Bill Clinton to talk about development and innovation in a different context. He joined me for a moderated Q&A with writer Steven Levy, whom I've known for many years. Our conversation will be the cover story for the December issue of Wired magazine, which I'm guest-editing. President Clinton has been a tremendous advocate for Africa, both during his time in office and in his work since. Our foundations are collaborating on some terrific health projects in Africa, and I always enjoy my conversations with him. He knows as much about policy and history as anyone I've ever met.

Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, and Stephen Levy

We're both optimistic about the world getting better, though we approach the topic from different directions. I think readers will enjoy the give and take when the story is published online and in the magazine at the end of November.


After our Q&A, President Clinton was kind enough to pose for a selfie with me.

All in all, a great first day in New York. Tomorrow I'll be over at the Clinton Global Initiative talking about philanthropy and will have meetings at the U.N. with some other leaders who are in town. 

P.S. One somber note from the week: I was saddened to learn that Elif Yavuz, a vaccine researcher with the Clinton Foundation, was killed in the shopping-mall attack in Nairobi. Melinda and I send our condolences to the family and friends of Elif and all the victims of this senseless violence.

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