The history of the annual World Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates dates back to 1999, the year marking the first Summit held in Rome at the initiative of the Gorbachev Foundation, an international NGO found by the former leader of the USSR. Since then, the Summits have gained in importance as a venue for exchanging opinions and as an event promoting international peace campaigns and initiatives.
Each year, the Summits are attended by Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and prominent global figures active in the social, scientific, political and cultural arenas. Extreme poverty experienced by a portion of the global population, problems with managing water resources, the role of ethics in politics and economic undertakings, cross-cultural integration of people – these are only a few examples of the topics debated during the Summits.
The Summits are organised by the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, a non-profit organisation headquartered in Rome. The event is traditionally presided over by Mikhail Gorbachev, the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and Walter Veltroni, former Mayor of Rome.
The first Summit was themed “New Policies for the 21st Century”. The capital of Italy hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates until 2007. Starting the following year, the Summits became an international event hosted by a different country each year depending on the main theme.
For example, the 2008 Summit was held in Paris to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, while Berlin was selected as the venue of the next year’s event to mark the passing of two decades after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. In 2010 the Peace Prize winners took part in a session on nuclear disarmament organised in Hiroshima.
The three-day 2012 Summit, attended by a record number of participants, was for the first time held in North America. The event was hosted in Chicago, a city praised by the organisers for being both centre of community and civic engagement and an active player in international affairs. President Barack Obama, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, hails from Chicago. In 1931, Jane Addams was awarded the Prize for her work on behalf of Chicago’s marginalized immigrant communities, becoming the first American woman to receive this prestigious distinction.
The Chicago Summit ended with the laureates’ appeal to the youth of the world urging the young generations to engage in efforts to maintain peace and peacefully resolve conflicts. “We need your enthusiasm and we want you to join us in our continued quest for peace and justice”, reads the appeal.
The summit was attended by about 6,000 university and secondary school students and teachers, from the US and rest of the world.
Since 2002, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have been handing out their own award, the Peace Summit Award (before 2006 named the “Man for Peace Award”), to high-profile cultural, entertainment and sport personalities who champion for human rights. In Chicago, the Award was presented to the Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn in recognition of his involvement in relief actions for earthquake victims in Haiti. In previous years, the Peace Summit Award has been given to, among others, former Italian footballer Roberto Baggio for his global charitable work, British singer Annie Lennox for her engagement in the struggle with AIDS in Africa, and U2 frontman Bono, who was awarded for his campaign to cancel the debts of the poorest countries in the world. The first winner of the Award was Italian actor and director Roberto Benigni, creator of La vita è bella (Life Is Beautiful), an Oscar-winning tragicomedy about life in a concentration camp.
The Summits attract significant media coverage, and each event ends with a press conference and adoption of a declaration.
One of the key documents developed by Summit participants was the Charter for a World Without Violence, a document adopted in 2007 after three years of work.
The Charter’s authors note that violence manifests itself in many ways, not only as armed conflicts or military occupation, but also through poverty, economic exploitation, environmental destruction, corruption and prejudice based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. They also express their concern about the potential consequences of violence being glorified in the world of commercial entertainment. The Charter calls for nuclear disarmament, elimination of weapons of mass destruction, and for limitation and strict control of conventional weapons, but also urges an end to domestic violence. The signatories condemn terrorism, but emphasise that the fight against terrorism cannot justify violations of human rights, international humanitarian law, civilised norms or democracy.
The document was signed by 13 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, among them Lech Wałęsa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Dalai Lama XIV and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The signatories also included representatives of Nobel Prize awarded organisations, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Each year’s Nobel Peace Summit feature a different theme – for instance, the 2003 Summit discussed “Ethics in Policy, Economics and Science”, the event held in 2005 was themed “Africa Emergency” while the 2007 Summit’s motto was “The Next Generation”.
The Summit did not take place twice – in 2001 and 2011.
The Summits held so far have been attended by, among others, the historic leader of Solidarity, Lech Wałęsa, former President of South Africa Frederik Willem de Klerk, President of Israel Shimon Peres, the Dalai Lama XIV, the late President of South Korea Kim Dae-jung and Northern Irish peace activists Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire. The events have also involved Nobel Peace awarded organisations, including Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders), the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Red Cross and Red Crescent and Grameen Bank, a financial institution providing microcredits to economically underprivileged residents of developing countries.
Polish Press Agency (PAP)