Compromise could save Atlanta Nobel summit

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on May 1, 2015

Peace may be on the horizon for the 2015 Nobel Peace Laureate Summit scheduled to be in Atlanta from Nov. 15 to 19.

A series of meetings and an Atlanta version of shuttle diplomacy appears to be leading to a working compromise where all the different entities will be able to come together to support the summit.

A deal needed to be reached by early May when the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates has scheduled a special meeting in Rome, Italy to decide how to proceed with the Atlanta event.

“Sometimes it takes a peace summit to plan a peace summit,” said Jason Carter, grandson of President Jimmy Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 2002. “We’ve had some very positive meetings that are helping clear the path for the World Summit to be held successfully in Atlanta, as planned.”

Jason Carter serves on the board of Yunus Creative Lab, the entity that had been awarded the 2015 summit. The CEO of Yunus Creative Lab is Mohammad Bhuiyan, who has been the Atlanta representative for Professor Muhammad Yunus, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Yunus had championed the idea of Atlanta serving as host for the 2015 summit.

Plans for the summit began to unravel earlier this year when there were differences of opinion over the governance of summit and Bhuiyan’s leadership style.

On March 19, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed pulled the city’s support of the summit and later clarified that the city would not participate in the summit as long as Bhuiyan was in charge of the event.

Since then, several members of the host committee have resigned. And perhaps most significantly, Muhammad Yunus resigned as chairman of Yunus Creative Lab, saying he could no longer influence the management of the organization. That move has put planning for the summit in limbo.

The Secretariat has let it be known that the city of Atlanta will need to be a full participant in the summit if the local community still wants to host the 2015 event.

Several local leaders have been working on a solution that would be acceptable to all the parties involved.

“Everybody in this whole situation is well-intended,” said Bob Hope, a public relations executive who serves on the summit host committee. “We have been trying to get everybody on the same page, and I think we are getting there. There’s no evil in this peace effort. Everybody has to compromise a little bit. Feelings get hurt, and you have got to patch over them. That’s what life is all about.”

Laura Turner Seydel, who chairs the summit host committee and who serves on the board of Yunus Creative Lab, will be going to Rome on behalf of Atlanta. She hopes she will be able to present a solid plan with how Atlanta intends to proceed.

“My hope, like Professor Yunus and so many in our community, would be that Atlanta will be the city that hosts the most important summit in the history of peace summits. I am confident there will be a happy resolution that will satisfy all parties and bring our community together,” Turner Seydel said.

As of press time, meetings to finalize an agreement were still being held, but there was consensus on the major issues. One possibility would have Rotary International — with the Rotary Club of Atlanta as the lead — stepping in as the organization that would oversee the summit.

“It took a while for everybody to realize how important this is, and the option of failure is just not one we want to face,” Hope said. “We are not going to get a lot of opportunities like this.”

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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