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Atlanta mayor stays away from Muhammad Yunus’s Nobel summit

14Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed has washed his hands of an event planned in the US city by former Grameen Bank chief Muhammad Yunus to bring together Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Yunus, embroiled in a fight with Bangladesh government for allegedly evading huge personal taxpayment, is the event’s prime mover.
He is working in tandem with former US president Jimmy Carter, both of whom have won the prize.
Besides withdrawing himself, Reed has also made it clear that the city council would be in no way involved.
He has forbidden the use of the name of any civic official or the body’s logo on the summit website, advertisements, and publicity materials.
Reed’s decision follows shimmering differences, evident from letters exchanged between the Mayor and the Yunus Creative Lab, on matters such as summit preparation, its management, and the spending of the raised funds.
The meet will be held from Nov 15 to 19 at the Georgia Aquarium and Georgia World Congress Centre in the state of Georgia’s Atlanta City, which has a sizeable Bangladeshi population.
The organisers hope to have 21 of the 30 living Nobel Peace Prize winners at the meet.
The fundraising for the summit began at a gala function held last year.
Business houses such as United Parcel Service Inc. and Coca-Cola have signed up as sponsors.
The organising body is the Yunus Creative Lab (YCL), an entity the Bangladeshi Nobelist established in the US.
Various heads of state and government from across the world aside, several thousand students are expected to take part in it.
In a letter on Mar 19, Reed demanded an end to YCL Chief Executive Mohammad Bhuiyan’s involvement in summit matters.
‘The Atlanta Journal of Constitution’ reported on Mar 27 differences surfacing between Reed and the YCL.
The report added to the curiosity regarding the holding of a mega event in the US by someone from outside the country.
Mayor Reed expressed concerns about the summit plan, those at the helm of its execution, and spending of the money.
‘11 Alive’, an Atlanta-based newspaper, published excerpts from Reed’s letter voicing worries.
“Unfortunately, given our inability to reach consensus regarding issues which are integral to the effective coordination of the event,” Reed wrote in his letter to Bhuiyan, “I have reached the difficult decision that the City of Atlanta will no longer participate in the planning process or be part of the event in any way.”
Bhuiyan then emailed to the paper: “The Board of Directors of the Atlanta Organizing Committee for the Nobel Peace Laureate Summit voted unanimously to move forward with the Summit.
“We have made tremendous progress under the leadership of Prof. Yunus and President Carter as Laureate hosts.”
Bhuiyan went on: “It is unfortunate that our refusal to hire someone’s friend (Reed’s) as the event planner for the Nobel Peace Summit bypassing the RFP process has become more important than the city’s honor itself to host the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit in November.
“It is even more unfortunate that we were told by a few that we do not have the ‘Right Face for the City’ and they need to find a face that would be acceptable.
“In fact, the Nobel Laureate who gave this honor to Atlanta has a face like us too.”
The paper also published parts of Reed’s reply to the YCL chief’s letter.
He said: “The City has no intention of interfering with the preparation of your Event; the sole determination is that I will not remain involved in the preparation, nor will any member of my Administration.”
The mayor described as untrue Bhuiyan’s claim that only a few of the stakeholders had expressed concern.
“One proposed solution was hiring Jascula Terman and Associates of Chicago as the Summit manager, while keeping you involved in the planning process. Contrary to your false assertions, Mr. Jascula is not a ‘friend’,” Reed wrote.
The letter continued: “I met Mr. Jascula for the first time on December 4, 2014 at meeting in which you were present.
”The Jascula Terman public relations firm was one of the primary organisers of the 2012 Chicago World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. The firm also works with The Clinton Foundation and The Carter Centre.
“The company is highly regarded and has demonstrated its ability to organise a successful world summit in a major American city.
“Their substantial track record in staging major events of this kind is the sole reason I advocated for their involvement.”
The mayor further said his other proposal was to transfer the “Summit funds to The Community Fund for Greater Altanta, which receives contributions and gives out grants of over $75 million annually.
He said the foundation had built up impeccable reputation of transparency in handling large contributions.
Reed also said Bhuiyan’s advisers, along with Joseph Bankoff, chair of the San Nunn School of International Affairs, had favoured the formation of a new organising committee headed by a person called Alexander Fraser.
He said, as the former president of the Turner Global Properties, Fraser had earned countrywide reputation for his outstanding management skills, leadership, and ethics.
He alleged, like all the other proposals, the proposal to have a committee headed by Frazer was also turned down.
“Not surprisingly, you rejected the commonsense recommendation in favour of continuing with the current government structure, in which you serve as the event Chief Executive Officer with your wife, Shamina Amin, as your Chief Operating Officer.”
Reed also described as “dishonest” Bhuiyan’s correspondence to Ted Turner, honorary chair of the summit.
He referred to Bhuiyan’s allegation in the letter that the mayor was pressing him to remove Turner.
“Here, your patently false statement further contributed to my decision to withdraw our participation as I never proposed removing Mr. Turner as the Honorary Chair.”
Reed forbade the use from Apr 1 of the Atlanta City logo, seal, and website link, and his or the name of any corporation functionary in the summit preparation.
Yunus shared Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen Bank in 2006 for contribution to reducing poverty through microcredit.
He had been the bank’s managing director from the time of its inception.
He was made to retire by the central bank in 2011 on the grounds that he had crossed the retirement age.
Yunus had appealed against the decision in court but lost the legal battle and resigned.