By Maria Saporta
Mayor Kasim Reed is open to the city hosting the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Summit in November in Atlanta.
But he has one condition – that there is a change in governance and leadership in the organization that is putting on the Summit. More specifically, the mayor said the city would be willing to re-engage with the Summit as long as Mohammad Bhuiyan was no longer involved.
“The takeaway is that I’m willing,” Reed said of the city being part of the Summit. “But there is no path forward with Dr. Bhuiyan as the leader of the effort.”
Over the past couple of weeks, an undercurrent of differences between and among the Summit host committee members and the City of Atlanta has bubbled to the surface.
It has culminated with a barrage of critical letters between Mayor Reed and Bhuiyan, CEO of the Yunus Creative Lab – the entity that has been organizing the Summit.
The letters revealed an escalation of bad feelings among the various parties.
An inability to work out a compromise with Bhuiyan led the Mayor to send a letter on March 19 to Ekaterina Zagladina, the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates – withdrawing the City of Atlanta’s involvement with the 2015 Summit.
Bhuiyan responded to the mayor’s letter with a less than tactful letter of his own – even threatening possible legal action against Reed.
That seemed to be the point of no return for Reed.
Up until the past couple of weeks, Reed had been open to the idea of Bhuiyan remaining as CEO of the Summit as long as a community leader – Alec Fraser – would become the chief operating officer of the international event.
Fraser is a retired executive from Turner Broadcasting System. Shamima Amin, Bhuiyan’s wife, has been operating as the Summit’s COO.
Reed said he had stepped in after being approached by “12 to 15 community stakeholders” who had concerns with how the Summit was being run. The group asked the mayor to step in to try to resolve those issues.
“I was simply the messenger,” Reed said in a brief interview Tuesday morning after the annual breakfast meeting of Central Atlanta Progress.
In addition to proposing that Fraser come in as COO, the mayor said the funds raised should be put into an account under the supervision of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and that the Summit hire a Chicago event planner that had helped organize the Summit in the Windy City three years ago. Reed said he had talked to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel about the firm before he made that recommendation.
But Reed could not get Bhuiyan to agree to any of his proposed recommendations, so the mayor then decided to withdraw the city’s support of the Summit. And he asked that his name and the City of Atlanta be removed from all promotional materials related to the Summit.
Now the future of the 2015 Summit in Atlanta will be decided by the Secretariat.
“There are two meetings in the next 10 days,” Reed said of the Secretariat and the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. “There’s a lot of energy in the City of Atlanta to resolve it. I remain open and hopeful.”
Asked whether he had talked to Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who first proposed that the Summit come Atlanta and who has a close relationship with Bhuiyan, Reed said he had not.
Saying he didn’t have a close relationship with Yunus, Reed said an intermediary might be necessary to conduct “shuttle diplomacy” between the City of Atlanta and the 2015 Summit. Yunus has said that Atlanta is his second home, and the mayor had welcomed him as an honorary citizen of the city a couple of years ago.
If the Secretariat were to decide to move the 2015 Summit to another city, Reed said he would accept that outcome.
“I would wish them well,” Reed said. “I knew that was a potential consequence when I wrote the letter. But I was not going to stand behind a process that had $5 million in funding being run by a husband and wife team.”