By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on October 11, 2013
It’s Atlanta, again.
Atlanta has won the 2015 gathering of the Nobel Peace Laureates — only the second time that the summit of international superstars will have been held in the United States.
The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize is being awarded Oct. 11, and it is expected that the new laureate as well as most of the living Nobel Peace laureates will be coming to Atlanta for the summit that will take place in either October or November 2015.
More than 2,000 official delegates are expected to attend the summit — including Nobel Laureates such as former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, U.S. President Barack Obama, F.W. de Klerk, Lech Walesa, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Shimon Peres and Henry Kissinger.
Also, all the organizations that have received prizes — Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate — will attend.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said that Atlanta winning the 2015 summit is one of the “most important wins the city has had since I’ve been mayor because it’s going to put the city of Atlanta in the heart of the international stage, and it’s going to continue to strengthen the recognition of Atlanta as one of the leading cities in the world.”
The official announcement about the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates Atlanta 2015 will be made on Nov. 22 at 11 a.m. at the Woodruff Arts Center.
It will include former President Jimmy Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002; Ted Turner, founder of CNN, the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the United Nations Foundation, who will serve as honorary chair of the summit; Mayor Reed, host of the summit; and professor Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, who has made Atlanta his second home.
In fact, it was Yunus who first proposed that Atlanta host the summit of Nobel Peace Laureates at the 2012 Summit in Chicago.
Yunus had been honored that January at the King Center’s Salute to Greatness dinner, when the “father of microcredit” from Bangladesh announced that Atlanta would become his second home. At the time, Yunus spoke of the significance of Atlanta being the home of two Nobel Peace Prize winners — Carter and Martin Luther King Jr., who won the prize in 1964.
Also, Reed then made Yunus an honorary citizen of Atlanta on May 11, 2012.
Atlanta faced stiff opposition to its 2015 bid. Those competing for the 2015 summit were Brussels, which was backed by the European Union; Helsinki, which was backed by the Nordic countries; and Philadelphia, which was being supported by several peace organizations.
Atlanta’s presentation was made by Mohammad Bhuiyan, president and CEO of Yunus Creative Lab Inc. who will serve as the president and CEO of the Atlanta Summit, and his wife, Shamima Amin, a chief adviser to the Yunus Lab.
The Atlanta bid touted Georgia natives King and Carter and their lifelong work in civil and human rights. But it also highlighted the Atlanta connections to Yunus as well as the Dalai Lama (1989 winner) and Desmond Tutu (1984 winner), who both are visiting professors at Emory University.
The decision to hold the 2015 event in Atlanta was made by the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates Secretariat at their July meeting in Rome.
“When we were done, even our three competitors voted for us so it was unanimous,” said Bhuiyan, who added that they could not announce the win until other pieces had been put in place.
As Bhuiyan sees it, the Peace Laureates Summit will be “comparable to the 1996 Olympics for the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia” in terms of the international stature of the event.
To host the summit, Atlanta will need to raise $5 million in cash and in-kind services between now and 2015. For example, Bhuiyan said that the organization will need office space, which could be an in-kind donation. Also, the summit will raise another $5 million to implement some of the recommendations that will emerge from the summit.
“Both President Carter and professor Yunus have made it very explicit that as part of their involvement they want to see some follow-up action,” Bhuiyan said. “We don’t want this to be just a talking summit. We want it to be an action conference.”
The summit usually occurs over five days. Delegates begin arriving on Saturday and Sunday. The official summit begins on Monday morning with a major dinner and honoree that evening. Official summit business continues throughout Tuesday with another major dinner and honoree that night. On Wednesday, the summit works on its declaration — its recommendations on what to do going forward. The summit officially ends Wednesday afternoon, but many delegates stay on for an extra day or two.
Bhuiyan said Atlanta already has put together a core host committee of about 30 people, which includes Laura Turner Seydel of the Captain Planet Foundation; former U.N. Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young; Bernice King of The King Center; John Hardman of The Carter Center; state Sen. Jason Carter; Penny McPhee of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation; Jonathan Reckford of Habitat for Humanity International; Virginia Hepner of the Woodruff Arts Center; and Helene Gayle of CARE.
The host committee will be holding its first meeting at the end of October when several decisions are likely to be made — including the actual dates and location of the summit.
“A lot of things are coming into place — our stars are aligned,” said Laura Turner Seydel, who Bhuiyan described as someone who is doing “a lot of the heavy lifting” for the summit. “To have all these magnificent people honor us with their presence is an honor that few cities ever get. Our stars continue to align. We are the mecca of the Civil Rights Movement and the human rights movement. We are raising the bar. It’s been a while since we’ve had something of this global significance in Atlanta.”
Bhuiyan said he also will be reaching out to companies in Atlanta to sponsor and participate in the summit.
“All the Atlanta businesses will have an opportunity to showcase what Atlanta has to offer,” he said.
Bhuiyan also is working with Georgia’s Board of Regents to include all of the state’s 31 public universities. About 500 students from around the world who are interested in international relations also will be attending the summit.
Reed said that the National Center for Civil and Human Rights also will be open, and he is hopeful that it will be included in one of the official events during the summit because the themes of the Center, the city of Atlanta and the summit are so in sync.
Bhuiyan said that the host committee is working on the focus areas that will be covered during the summit, but they likely will include civil and human rights, global health, water and sustainability, woman empowerment, youth, education and nuclear disarmament as well as poverty and prosperity.
The Nobel Peace Laureates Secretariat was co-founded by Gorbachev and former mayor of Rome Walter Veltroni in 1999. The summits were held in Rome from 1999 to 2007 when the decision was made to award the international gathering to cities around the world.
The 2008 summit was held in Paris; then it was Berlin in 2009; Hiroshima in 2010; and Chicago in 2012.
The 2013 Summit will be held in Warsaw, Poland, from Oct. 21 to 23. The 2014 Summit will be in Capetown, South Africa. And then the 2015 Summit will be in Atlanta.
World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates Atlanta 2015:
Summit honorary chair: Ted Turner, chairman, United Nations Foundation
Summit host mayor: Kasim Reed, mayor, city of Atlanta
Summit leader: Mohammad Bhuiyan, President and CEO, Yunus Creative Lab Inc.
Laura Turner Seydel, chairman, Captain Planet Foundation
Bernice King, president and CEO, The King Center
John Hardman, President and CEO, The Carter Center
Henry Huckaby, chancellor, University System of Georgia
Jason Carter, trustee, The Carter Center
Shamima Amin, chief adviser, Yunus Creative Lab Inc.
Penny McPhee, president, The Arthur Blank Family Foundation
Martha Brooks, board member, Harley-Davidson
Virginia Helpner, president and CEO, Woodruff Arts Center
Helene Gayle, president and CEO, CARE
Jonathan Reckford, president and CEO, Habitat for Humanity
Duriya Farooqui, COO, city of Atlanta
Taylor Glover, CEO, Turner Enterprises
Sam Williams, president and CEO, Metro Atlanta Chamber
Wayne Lord, president, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
William Pate, president and CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
Pradeep Sinha, surgeon, Atlanta Facial Plastic Surgery
Rodney Cook, president, The National Monuments Foundation
Palaniswamy Rajan, president, TiE
Colin Brady, OBE, chairman emeritus, International Leadership Council
Ernest Greer, vice president, Greenberg Traurig LLP
25 years of past Nobel Peace Prize winners
2013– Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
2012–The European Union
2011–Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman
2009–Barack H. Obama
2007–Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore Jr.
2006–Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank
2005–International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Mohamed ElBaradei
2004–Wangari Muta Maathai
2001–United Nations (U.N.) and Kofi Annan
1999–Médecins Sans Frontières
1997–International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and Jody Williams
1995–Joseph Rotblat and Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
1993–Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk
1992–Rigoberta Menchú Tum
1991–Aung San Suu Kyi
1988–United Nations Peacekeeping Forces