Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., American civil rights leader, receives the Nobel Peace Prize from the hands of Gunnar Jahn, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, in Oslo, Norway, December 10, 1964. (AP Photo)
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Atlanta tries again to host Nobel Peace summit - and hopefully more

Plan includes moving office from Italy, creating “peace universities”

Four years after failing to bring the 2015 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates to Atlanta, the city is primed to host the 2020 gathering as part of a grander plan that could rebrand “The City Too Busy to Hate” with the more global “City of Peace.”

The blueprint, if all goes according to plan, also would move the organizing group’s offices here from Piacenza, Italy. In addition to hosting the summit every few years, organizers would collaborate with local colleges to create “peace universities.”

Boosters are trying to finance the initiative with private funds - and arguing Atlanta is the perfect fit. The city already is home to the Jimmy Carter Center, dedicated to the 39th president and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Martin Luther King Jr., who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, lived here.

Business and community leaders, including Koch Industries Executive Vice President Jim Hannan, Integral Group’s Egbert Perry and former mayor Andrew Young, laid out the framework at a breakfast meeting of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce on Monday. Unlike in 2015, boosters say they have a memorandum of understanding.

“It has a chance to be significant,” said Hannan. “We have the broad support, but we are going to need people to support building the foundation.”

The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates was put together in the early 1990s as a forum to support global peace initiatives. The non-profit promotes the work of Nobel Peace Prize winners and organizes the mostly annual summit, which draws thousands of attendees, including laureates.

Perry, a developer, said the initiative could cost around $8.5 million. More than half would go toward the four-day December 2020 summit, $2.5 million to establish a three-year Peace University pilot program and $1.1 million to relocate the headquarters.

“Getting the summit is not our goal,” said Bob Hope, a longtime Atlanta public relations specialist helping spearhead efforts. “We want it all.”

Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter shows the Nobel medal and diploma to the audience after the presentation from Gunnar Berge (hands pictured)(Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee) in the Oslo City Hall, December 10, 2002. (JOEY IVANSCO/staff photo).
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta’s push is a far cry from the aborted attempt of 2015.

The 2015 summit was supposed to be the largest gathering of Nobel laureates in history, and the largest global event in Atlanta since the 1996 Olympic Games. But it fell apart after Yunus Creative Lab’s CEO Mohammad Bhuiyan, who was organizing the event, repeatedly clashed with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and others.

Reed yanked the city’s support and Bhuiyan claimed that the mayor was attempting to bully him into hiring one of Reed’s friends as event coordinator. A last-ditch effort to save the event by having the Atlanta Rotary Club take over failed, and it was canceled just five months before it was scheduled to begin.

The Atlanta Rotary Club would be heavily involved in the 2020 planning.

“There was nothing wrong with the idea (in 2015), but the biggest thing we learned is you gotta be diplomatic,” said Hope, the PR specialist. “If you gonna promote Atlanta as a city of peace, you need everybody on board. You can’t build peace without building peace at home.”

Speaker after speaker, in pitching the idea Monday, reminded Atlanta’s business elite of the city’s legacy of peace, which would make it the natural location for the summit and office. Having an office in Atlanta, organizers say, also would boost the city’s global image as Nobel laureates flow in and out.

“In the life of a city, something comes along to encourage us to re-examine the spiritual aspects of our city,” said Young, the former mayor and U.N. ambassador. “The spirit of peace is the key to our community. If we can brand our city as the city of peace and infuse that in our elementary schools, business and colleges, you would be surprised at what happens.”

Hope led a delegation of Atlantans last year from Piacenza to Stockholm, Sweden, and Oslo, Norway, where the peace prizes are announced.

The 2017 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, held in Bogota, Colombia, attracted 26 Nobel laureates and close to 20,000 attendees from 20 countries. This year’s summit will be held in Mexico’s Yucatan and 21 laureates have already confirmed attendance.

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