Paul Holmes 09 May 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
During the last decade, more than 100 armed conflicts have erupted in over 70 different locations and in every region of the world. Since the end of World War II, 27 million people have lost their lives due to war. Although religious leaders individually have spoken out against and tried to halt these hostilities, there had not been a concerted effort to join the world’s leading religious figures in a united initiative for world peace, working in conjunction with the United Nations.
For the first time in history, encouraged by the support of the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, over 1000 senior religious and spiritual leaders from around the world came to together for the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders to discuss how to forge a partnership of peace with the United Nations. The goal of the Religious Summit would be to identify ways that the worldwide religious and spiritual communities could work together as interfaith allies with the United Nations on specific peace, poverty and environmental initiatives.
From the Summit’s conception, Ruder Finn provided strategic counsel for the historic event including conducting a major research initiative—in conjunction with Harvard Divinity School—identifying and justifying the need for a Peace Summit, researching top religious leaders worldwide, researching and advising on the establishment of an international advisory board and strategic partnerships with scholars and diverse organizations, managing international media relations efforts and performing all event logistics.
To unite more than 1,000 preeminent leaders from the world's great religious and faith traditions to pledge a commitment for the achievement of world peace; by serving as interfaith allies to the United Nations in its quest for peace, global understanding and international cooperation.
To facilitate the role of religious leaders in resolving other global challenges such as environment degradation and poverty.
To encourage religious and spiritual leaders to make an ongoing commitment to the global peace process through engaging discussions and forums for dialogues.
Position the Peace Summit to have validity and concrete outcomes and not be over looked as another summit of mere rhetoric.
Overcome the negative public perception of mixing religion and politics.
Constantly reacting to the controversy surrounding the Dalai Lama situation and the criticism involved with the nature of the invitation issued to Dalai Lama, including the US State Department’s statement condemning the Peace Summit Secretariat.
Catering to the special dietary considerations and cultural requests requested by the delegates and participants.
To raise international public awareness among the religious and spiritual leaders, political leaders, policy makers, diplomats, scholars of religion, devotees, followers and observers on the need for conflict resolution and religious tolerance as a way to educate and mobilize communities to focus on reducing divisions and ancient antipathies.
Ruder Finn identified and facilitated strategic partnerships with groups such as the Interfaith Center, Harvard Divinity School, UN University for Peace and World Conference on Religion and Peace to pull resources together in planning the event.
Ruder Finn created a Master Invitee List of over 2000 participants consisting of delegates, observers and followers from all 6 continents.
Ruder Finn developed the program, key speakers and discussion topics based upon in-house scholarly research on zones of conflict, environmental degradation, issues of poverty and forgiveness and reconciliation.
To provide a structure for the Summit and create a pool of respected influences to lead the development of the Summit program, Ruder Finn advised on the creation of the advisory councils and partnerships, provided administrative functions and helped facilitate dialogue.
The structure included:
The Summit Secretariat, to provide administrative communications, organizational and fundraising headquarters
Executive Council, to oversee the overall administration
International Advisory Board, to identify the key leaders from all religions and regions around the world to participate; to advise on elements of the agenda and working sessions; and to provide input on the drafting of the Commitment to Global Peace
The Advisory Council of Interfaith Organizations, to provide ongoing counsel
Regional Coordinators, appointed throughout the world to identify appropriate religious and spiritual leaders to participate
Strategic Partnerships, to obtain input from leading professional and academic institutions
Ruder Finn led ongoing logistical meetings with many departments of the UN and Waldorf-Astoria; coordinated hotel accommodations and meeting venues; and served as stage management for the 4-day event of speaking programs, working sessions and an international music concert.
Ruder Finn also managed the invitation and participation confirmation process, with responsibilities ranging from crafting and distributing the invitation letters and participant questionnaires to managing the database of confirmed attendees and ongoing communications with speakers, delegates and observers.
The international media relations campaign was aimed at generating broad-based and sustained coverage of the many different angles presented by the first-ever Religious Summit. Planning included development of the international media list focusing on religion and general interest journalists; research on Summit participants to develop a unique series of story angles; creation of a news release schedule to continuously promote the Summit prior to and during the event; and coordination of ongoing instant updates on the Summit’s website and with the Summit’s web site partner, Beliefnet.com.
Literally, hundreds of international media attended the Summit conducting interviews and filing stories before, during and after. At least 80 leaders were interviewed individually in the Summit media center. Ruder Finn estimates that between 300-400 media representatives utilized the media center over the course of the five days that the Summit was in session.
Ruder Finn managed the development of the Summit’s web site, brochure, press materials, event program, and welcome packages.
Based on research conducted by Ruder Finn, including identifying those whom were invited approximately 2000 religious delegates and observers from 100 countries attended the Peace Summit.
A high level speaking program developed by Ruder Finn, included UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, with the inaugural speech, followed by addresses from Ted Turner, preeminent religious leaders and scholars. Other key speakers included: Francis Cardinal Arinze--representative from the Vatican, Venerable Samdech Preah Maha Gosananda--the Buddhist Nobel Prize nominee, Rabbi Isreal Meir Lau--Chief Rabbi of Israel, Dr. Mustafa Ceric--The Grand Mufti of Bosnia
The resulting effect of this call to dialogue and extensive research led to the creation and signing of the “Commitment to Global Peace” by the religious leaders. This Commitment, which was presented to Secretary-General Annan during the Summit, condemns all violence in the name of religion and makes a forceful appeal to all religious, ethnic and national groups to respect the right of freedom of religion.
The Summit research facilitated the development of an ongoing Advisory Council, consisting of religious leaders and scholars, which will explore ways to bring about future collaboration with the UN and identify specific mechanisms to further that process.
The media campaign resulted in hundreds of articles and broadcast features before, during and after the Summit. Ruder Finn estimates the publications in which these articles appeared reached a total combined readership of approximately 50 million.
Significant placements included 5 articles in the The New York Times, 9 placements in the Associated Press, cover story in the Christian Science Monitor and a feature in Time Magazine.
The Summit stories appeared in major daily newspapers including, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, Detroit Free Press, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Times, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, San Diego Union Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Seattle Times and Houston Chronicle.
Editorials about the Summit ran in all the major daily newspapers in the U.S. including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Washington Times.
The Summit was covered by television and radio news outlets around the world, including: CNN International, BBC (radio and TV), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, PBS’s The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Korean TV, Uzbekistan TV, Associated Press Radio, USA Radio, America News Network (radio), Reuters TV, Associated Press TV, Bloomberg Radio, Indian Television, Voice of America (Hindi Service and Television), Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia.
Internet news sites also played an important role in distributing the Summit story. Yahoo! News, CNN Interactive, Bloomberg, Rediff (major Indian web site) and Fox Newswire are a few examples that made the Summit story available to Internet users.
The Summit provided the platform where intense dialogue would transform into new collaborations among religious leaders of diverse faiths. The working sessions and informal encounters among delegates perpetuated discussions on the role of religious leaders in resolving conflicts, fostering reconciliation, and addressing the shared global problems of poverty and environment degradation.
The goal of the Summit was to begin a process by which religions can work together more constructively with governmental bodies, specifically United Nations. That process was begun. The sentiment was expressed again and again by participants that the mere presence of such a religious Summit at the UN was a most powerful experience and enabled them to envision how they, personally, can participate on a more global scale in addressing key issues.
Due to the positive response from the Summit participants, this will be the start of ongoing initiatives that the Summit Secretariat will undertake in regions plagued by conflict around the world. One of the first will occur in North and South Korea, and Peace Initiatives are also being proposed for Africa, China and India for 2001.
Other post-summit activities include attending religious conferences in Thailand, Japan and The Sudan.
The Peace Summit has also began to partner with other organizations such as the World Economic Forum, UNESCO, and Women Waging Peace to broaden their reach and create a greater global impact.
The regional peace initiatives and other ongoing activities of the World Peace Summit are centered on its overarching goal: to build a network of religious and spiritual leaders as interfaith allies in support of peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations.