It’s over: last attempt to host 2015 Nobel Peace Summit in Atlanta fails

By Maria Saporta

In the end, there was no peaceful resolution in Atlanta’s quest to host the Nobel Peace Laureate Summit in November, 2015.

The latest effort had been explored diligently by the Rotary Club of Atlanta, which finally voted unanimously at a board

Bhuiyan, Deriso, Clyde Tuggle

Mohammad Bhuiyan (left) speaks to banker Sonny Deriso and Coca-Cola’s Clyde Tuggle about Nobel Peace Laureate Summit a a Rotary meeting in March (Photo by Maria Saporta)

meeting Monday afternoon not to proceed with plans to host the 2015 Summit.

Rotary officials then informed Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the Secretariat of World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates of its decision to not be the host organization in partnership with the City of Atlanta.

“I am disappointed that the hard work of those committed to the 2015 Nobel Summit will not result in the event being hosted in the City of Atlanta,” Reed said in a statement released Tuesday. “However, I want to thank all those who worked diligently to bring this extraordinary event to the City.”

The mayor did leave open the door for the possibility that the City of Atlanta could apply to host the Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in a future year.

“I am hopeful that the work we began this year will bring a Nobel Summit to the City in the near future,” Reed’s statement concluded.

After being awarded the 2015 Summit in the summer of 2013, Atlanta’s top political, business and civic leaders were excited that the city would be in the middle of the global spotlight once more – promoting two themes central to Atlanta’s core – civil and human rights.

Atlanta had two Nobel Peace Laureates – President Jimmy Carter (2002) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1964) who received the prize four years before his assassination.

A fellow Peace Laureate – Muhammad Yunus (2006) – promoted the idea of Atlanta serving as the host of the 2015 Summit, and his Atlanta-based nonprofit – Yunus Creative Labs – initially was serving as the organizer for event.

The top management of Yunus Creative Labs was Mohammad Bhuiyan as the CEO, and his wife, Shamima Amin, as the chief operating officer.

As time went on, a host committee was established, fundraising was started and programming committees for the event were set up.

But in 2014, key members of the community began to raise concerns about the governance of Yunus Creative Labs, and the need to have an independent entity to organize the Summit. Questions also were being raised about the inability to work collaboratively with Bhuiyan to put on an event of such significance.

Finally, after months of meetings, Mayor Reed wrote a letter saying he was withdrawing the all of the city’s support of the Summit because of he had been unable to develop a working relationship with Bhuiyan on several key issues.

The mayor then said the City would reconsider its decision only if Bhuiyan was no longer in a leadership role.

The situation further deteriorated from there. The Secretariat distanced itself from Yunus Creative Labs. Several members of the host committee (which Bhuiyan claimed he had dissolved) resigned.

The ultimate blow came when Muhammad Yunus himself announced that he was resigning from the board and as chairman of his own nonprofit because he had been misrepresented by its management. Later three other members of the seven-member Yunus Creative Lab board also quit in protest.

Despite those obstacles, several members of the Atlanta community continued to try to work with Bhuiyan to try to find a solution whereby he could hold some title, but would turn over the management and the funds that had been raised to another entity – such as the Rotary Club of Atlanta.

But Rotary was never able to seal such an agreement with Bhuiyan, who has insisted that he will go forward with his own Summit independent of the City of Atlanta, the Secretariat, President Carter and even Muhammad Yunus.

The continued friction apparently caused too much heartburn for Rotary board members, who did not know what kind of legal liabilities could exist by going forward with a Nobel Peace Summit for 2015.

So the best solution, despite months of trying to seek a peaceful resolution, was to walk away from the 2015 Summit.

Meanwhile, the Secretariat did not respond to an email asking about where it plans to hold the 2015 Summit and whether Atlanta would be able to apply for a Summit in a future year.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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