For the second time in four years, an effort is afoot to bring the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates to Atlanta.
This time around, the city wants to do more than just, in 2020, host the summit, an annual gathering of peacemakers that draws about 25 past Nobel Peace Prize winners and 20,000 individuals to the host city.
It also plans move the summit’s headquarters from Piacenza, Italy, to Atlanta and create a Peace University. The three-tiered approach is part of an effort to brand the South’s capital, also known as “The City Too Busy to Hate” as the worldlier “City of Peace.”
Unlike the previous summit effort, which failed, this one is backed by a large contingent of city leaders and businesses in multiple industries. It is led by veteran public relations professional Bob Hope; former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who also served as the United Nations ambassador; Koch Industries Executive Vice President and CEO Jim Hannan; and Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry.
“In this case, this is a situation where it can’t be a few of us wanting to do this. The entire city and area has to step up and do this,” Hope said. “If Atlanta wants to be the ‘City of Peace,’ everybody has to be on board.”
About 40 members of the committee leading the summit effort, including representatives of the Georgia governor’s and Atlanta mayor’s offices, attended a July 22 breakfast meeting at the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s office downtown, where leaders spoke about the initiative.
“All of them seem to be on board. Now we have to just weave it all together and make it work,” Hope said.
This year’s summit effort pales in comparison to the 2015 one, when the permanent secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, which originally chose Atlanta as the host city, decided to move the event to Barcelona just five months before it was to start.
The move came after months of infighting between Vinings resident Mohammad Bhuiyan, Ph.D., the organizer, and Atlanta leaders, including Mayor Kasim Reed. Bhuiyan was sued by some to recover a total of $1.3 million in sponsorship and donation funds the event received before it was relocated, and most of the money was returned through settlements or refunds.
The effort to bring the December 2020 summit, which is expected to last four days, is also different because unlike in 2015, organizers have a memorandum of understanding from the Nobel officials.
Under the plan, the initiative could cost about $8.5 million. More than half would be allocated to summit, $2.5 million would go to establish a three-year Peace University pilot program, which would involve multiple colleges, and $1.1 million to relocate the headquarters.
“We’re also accounting on the fact that as we get into it, there will be a revenue stream with (attendees’) registrations and sponsorships from businesses,” Hope said. “We’ve already had companies from around the country call us and express interest.”
Hope added if Atlanta hosted the 2020 summit, it would host future summits every two to three years, with the years in between reserved for conferences on individual industries within peace, such as the environment.
Buckhead resident Rodney Cook Jr., who is not one of the lead organizers for the summit effort but has been heavily involved in the process, said he and others met with the secretariat in Italy in spring 2018, at the World Summit’s annual board meeting.
In May he also went with an Atlanta contingent to Oslo and Stockholm to meet with officials there, since the Nobel Prize is named after Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel and is annually given at a ceremony in Stockholm.
The Atlanta summit would be held at several venues across the city. One possible location is Rodney Cook Sr. Park, the new 18-acre, $90 million greenspace under construction in west Atlanta that is across the street from the house Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in and is a project spearheaded by his son. The initial phase of the park, named for the late former state representative who was white and pushed for civil rights reforms to help blacks in the 1960s, is expected to open in the first quarter of 2020.
King is one of Georgia’s two Nobel Peace Laureates, with the other former President Jimmy Carter. Hope said the headquarters could be located near the King home but a site has not been chosen yet, adding the announcement finalizing plans for the December 2020 summit could come as early as August.
Cook said the Peace University “could establish a major in peace studies, which we have never done before.”
“It would be a new peace industry,” he said. “Rather than be reactionary, they can be teaching this. That could all come out of Atlanta.”
Both men said the effort, if successful, will be monumental for Atlanta and Georgia.
“I just feel like this is building on Atlanta’s heritage,” Hope said. “One of the things that really resonated with me is Andy Young said the Civil Rights Movement emerged out of Atlanta and did good works around the world. He went to South Africa to help negotiate out of apartheid.
This is the best thing we know of to make sure it’s alive and well and continues around the world. The other thing is it gives Atlanta a global identity. Right now we’re a significant business center in the U.S. Certainly a lot of foreign companies have a base here, but if you talk about Atlanta worldwide, this would put a halo over us.”
Said Cook, “It’s a game changer not just for Atlanta but the whole state. The governor gets that also. Atlanta would become the Davos of peace; you can’t beat that. (Davos is a Swiss city that annually hosts the World Economic Forum). One thing I said (July 22) at the presentation to the CEOs is I’m from Atlanta and I’ve traveled around the world and love Atlanta, but we are a second-tier city with a first-tier infrastructure. This is something that will bring us to first tier and there’s no turning back.”