Atlanta’s 2015 Peace Summit – its future is uncertain until May meeting of Nobel Laureates in Italy

By Maria Saporta

The future of 2015 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates will be decided in Rome, Italy on May 2nd and 3rd, according to a release issued April 7 from the international organization that oversees the event.

The Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates decided to convene a meeting of Nobel Peace Laureates in May to try to settle the controversy that has erupted in Atlanta between the organizing leader and City Hall.

The release also clarified the role that the Secretariat plays in deciding which city will host the event as well as the need for the host city to be part of an official Summit.

In other words, the Secretariat made it clear that it would need the City of Atlanta to serve as the official host of the Summit.

nobel peace summit

Logo of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates

When Atlanta was awarded the 2015 Summit last year, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the top organizer – Mohammad Bhuiyan – were united and jubilant about winning the event that would put Atlanta back into the global spotlight.

But last fall, the relationship between Bhuiyan and key leaders in the community began to fall apart. Bhuiyan was organizing the Summit through Yunus Creative Lab, an entity formed by 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus – who had propelled the idea of Atlanta hosting the 2015 Summit.

Funders believed there needed to be more community oversight and coordinated involvement in organizing the Summit rather than have everything be funneled through Yunus Creative Lab. Bhuiyan is CEO of Yunus Creative Lab; and his wife, Shamima Amin, is the chief operating officer. Both held the same titles in the organization putting on the Summit.

Reed asked Bhuiyan to compromise on three key points – to place the money raised for the Summit in a fund managed by the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta; to bring in an Atlanta civic leader to serve as COO of the Summit; and to hire the event planner that had helped put together the Nobel Peace Summit in Chicago.

When Bhuiyan did not agree to those terms, Mayor Reed sent a letter dated March 19 announcing that the City of Atlanta would no longer be involved with the 2015 Summit in Atlanta.

Since then, there has been a flurry of correspondence between Bhuiyan, the mayor, the Secretariat and Professor Yunus over how to proceed.

Yunus sent out a letter alerting both the City of Atlanta and the Secretariat that there would be a Summit in Atlanta in November 2015 – whether it was officially sanctioned or not.

Last week, Reed made it clear that the only way the City of Atlanta would re-engage as an official host and sponsor of the Summit would be if Bhuiyan was no longer leading the effort.

That has been impasse and stalemate that the Secretariat and the living Nobel Peace Laureates will need to weigh at its May meeting.

Originally Yunus had said Bhuiyan would be his representative at the Summit, but on Tuesday, people close to the situation said Yunus had decided to go to Rome so he would not be represented by proxy.

The other major unresolved question is how former U.S. President Jimmy Carter feels about having the 2015 Summit in Atlanta given the current situation. Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, has been the official co-host of the Atlanta Summit along with Yunus.

The Secretariat’s position, as stated in the release, is as follows:

The candidacy of the City of Atlanta to be the host City of the 2015 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates (WSNPL) has been taken during the annual international working meeting of 2014 according to the rules given about the Summit’s candidate hosting Cities – city can be approved based on an official request and/or acceptance of the hosting City.

The WSNPL rules also provide that in the absence of the participation of the hosting City, the Summit can’t continue to be organized because the Mayor is entitled to be the main hosting party and therefore to sign the official invitations to the Nobel Laureates as such.

In the meantime anybody is free to organize any gathering of Nobel Peace Laureates and to spread the message of peace, but these events cannot be associated with the name World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates created in Rome, Italy and organized since 1999 worldwide, unless they are run according to official procedure of the Summits.

The release also stated that over the last 14 years, the World Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates have featured the participation by numerous Nobel Laureate individuals and organizations including:

President Mikhail Gorbachev,

His Holiness the Dalai Lama,

President Shimon Peres,

Professor Muhammad Yunus,

President Óscar Arias Sánchez,

President Lech Walesa,

President Jimmy Carter,

President José Ramos-Horta,

Dr. Shirin Ebadi,

Lord David Trimble,

Professor John Hume,

President Kim Dae Yung,

Jody Williams,

Mohamed El Baradei,

Betty Williams,

Mairead Corrigan-Maguire,

Tawakkol Karman,

Lehman Gbowee,

Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo,

Professor Adolfo Pérez Esquivel,

Dr. Rigoberta Menchù Tum,

President Frederik Willem de Klerk,

United Nations Children’s Fund,

Pugwash Conferences,

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War,

International Peace Bureau,

American Friends Service Committee,

Médecins Sans Frontières,

Amnesty International,

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,

International Labour Organization,

International Campaign to Ban Landmines,

United Nations,

International Atomic Energy Agency,

Grameen Bank, and

The Red Cross.

Before the recent public controversy involving the 2015 Summit, the expectation had been that Atlanta would have attracted the greatest number of Peace Laureates to ever attend the annual event.

In the release, the Secretariat also said that the annual Summit also includes the high-profile announcement of the winner of the Peace Summit Award.

In previous years, that award has been won by Bernardo Bertolucci, Sharon Stone, Sean Penn, Roberto Baggio, Annie Lennox, Bono, George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldoff, Cat Stevens, the Italian National Football Team and Robert Benigni.

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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