Damon, Usher, Keys join philanthropy conference

Former President Bill Clinton opened his Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday with a speech from President Obama. In the coming days, a notable influx of Hollywood figures and their causes will follow in his footsteps.

But in contrast to other events that offer the reward of publicity and prestige, some of the celebrities have made actual commitments, and will be expected to follow through on their philanthropic efforts or be denied invites to future Clinton conferences, as is the rule for all participants.

Clinton’s annual Manhattan event, now in its fifth year, gathers world leaders, CEOs, philanthropists and nonprofit officials together for a series of seminars and the aim of securing concrete commitments and solutions for such problems as climate change and poverty.

Matt Damon, for instance, has made a commitment on behalf of Water.org, a nonprofit he co-founded, with a goal of providing safe drinking water and sanitation to a minimum of 50,000 people over a three year period. Usher has said his org Usher’s New Look will establish a global campaign to get hundreds of thousands of young people to volunteer around the world. Alicia Keys has an org, Keep a Child Alive, to establish a series of safe houses in India to protect HIV-positive women and children and children orphaned by AIDS.

On Thursday, Brad Pitt will appear at a session along with Clinton and Michael Darden, executive director of the Make It Right Foundation, which Pitt founded. They will update Make It Right’s New Orleans efforts to build green, affordable housing in the Lower 9th Ward.

Other sessions will feature Julia Ormond, on an effort to end human trafficking; Ted Turner and Bob Wright, talking about how philanthropies work with the business community; and GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt, addressing infrastructure. Others expected include Barbra Streisand, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Goldie Hawn and Fran Drescher.

On Thursday evening, Quincy Jones will be among the honorees in the Clinton Global Citizen Awards, recognizing his efforts in famine relief and children’s health. Alicia Keys and Juanes are scheduled to perform, and Ben Stiller is to host.

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