Vancouver Peace Summit more than 2 years in the making

September’s Vancouver Peace Summit was a three-day event and with one memorable moment followed by another it seemed to come and go in a flash. For Victor Chan, however, the gathering was neither a fleeting moment nor a 72-hour affair, but something more than two years in the making.

Chan, the founding director of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education and longtime friend of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has been planning the Vancouver Peace Summit since the spring of 2007. He says he's happy with the results.

“I’m very pleased with how it came together,” says Chan. “We put together something that a lot of people are saying is quite historic and an important moment in the development of civil society in Vancouver, in Canada and beyond.”

The event was certainly historic with five Nobel laureates gathered together for the first time in Canada.

The Summit was not without its challenges, Chan points out. A sixth Nobel Laureate, one of the Dalai Lama's closest friends, was to attend but had to pull out at the last moment.

“Unfortunately, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was unable to travel from Cape Town to Vancouver because of a ruptured disc,” says Chan, who joked at the Summit that the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner had likely injured himself dancing. “It’s a great pity because I was really looking forward to the amazing chemistry between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu."

Chan, who has hosted the Dalai Lama in Vancouver three times in the last five years - previously in 2004 and 2006 - is proud of how the events have continued to evolve with each visit.

“I think what’s different from 2004 and 2006 is that we were able to have people from all different sectors coming together. We had powerful activists, we had politicians who understand the government and how to implement policy to effect change, and we had philanthropists all working together with spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle and Matthieu Ricard.

“We had a coming together of some of the most compelling people around the world.”

The Summit also involved a gathering of partner organizations including the Fetzer Institute, TED, and Free the Children. The Fetzer Institute presented the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with the inaugural Fetzer Prize for Love and Forgiveness while TED presented Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion. Free the Children partnered with the DLC to host WE Day Vancouver, a chance for 16,000 students to come together and be inspired to make a change in the world.

Chan is pleased with how the Summit became a truly global event. The Summit was streamed online by CTV and people around the world were able to follow the event and watch exclusive interviews through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Chan realizes that bringing the power of the Internet into the Summit was critical and he already has his mind on the next visit from the Dalai Lama.

“This was rather unprecedented,” he says. “And it will be difficult for us to do something equally significant in the future.”

Planning another event like this will certainly be helped by the positive reaction from one of the Summit's most prominent guests.

"After Vancouver, I traveled with the Dalai Lama to Calgary, Washington DC, and Dharamsala, and everywhere he went he talked about the Summit," says Chan. "Vancouver was a real highlight of his tour."

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