The National Dialogue Quartet of Tunisia was awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize "for it's decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011" during a news conference in Oslo Friday.
The quartet is comprised of four Tunisian organizations: the Tunisian General Labor Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.
Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution in 2011 was one of the earliest and most successful of the Arab Spring, and the group is credited with negotiating the transition from the elected Islamist-led government to an interim technocratic administration, which would organize elections for a permanent government.
Speaking at a news conference in Oslo, Norwegian Nobel Committee chair Kaci Kullmann Five said: "the Quartet exercised its role as a mediator and driving force to advance peaceful democratic development in Tunisia with great moral authority."
"The prize is intended as an encouragement to the Tunisian people, who despite major challenges have laid the groundwork for a national fraternity which the Committee hopes will serve as an example to be followed by other countries," she later added.
After being informed of the quartet's win by the Associated Press, Houcine Abassi, the leader of the Tunisian General Labor Union, said he was "overwhelmed."
"It's a prize that crowns more than two years of efforts deployed by the quartet when the country was in danger on all fronts."
Abassi added he hoped the Nobel prize would "unite Tunisians to face the challenges presenting themselves now — first and foremost, the danger of terrorism."
Mohammed Fadhel Mafoudh, head of the Tunisian Order of Lawyers, said the award was a message to all those embroiled in political conflict, adding it would "tell them that everything can be settled with dialogue and all can be settled in a climate of peace, and that the language of weapons leads us nowhere," AP reported.
The group was among the 273 individuals and organizations in the running for this year's prize, the BBC reported. Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been among the big names tipped to win by betting websites, along with lesser known people such as Eritrean priest Mussie Zerai and Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege.
Ouided Bouchamaou, the president of the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, said the group are "here to give hope to young people."
The Quartet was formed in the summer of 2013 when political assassinations and widespread social unrest threatened to undermine the building of a democracy in Tunisian. Following is the Nobel committee's announcement:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015 is to be awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. The Quartet was formed in the summer of 2013 when the democratization process was in danger of collapsing as a result of political assassinations and widespread social unrest. It established an alternative, peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war. It was thus instrumental in enabling Tunisia, in the space of a few years, to establish a constitutional system of government guaranteeing fundamental rights for the entire population, irrespective of gender, political conviction or religious belief.
The National Dialogue Quartet has comprised four key organizations in Tunisian civil society: the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT, Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA, Union Tunisienne de l'Industrie, du Commerce et de l'Artisanat), the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH, La Ligue Tunisienne pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme), and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers (Ordre National des Avocats de Tunisie). These organizations represent different sectors and values in Tunisian society: working life and welfare, principles of the rule of law and human rights. On this basis, the Quartet exercised its role as a mediator and driving force to advance peaceful democratic development in Tunisia with great moral authority. The Nobel Peace Prize for 2015 is awarded to this Quartet, not to the four individual organizations as such.
The Arab Spring originated in Tunisia in 2010-2011, but quickly spread to a number of countries in North Africa and the Middle East. In many of these countries, the struggle for democracy and fundamental rights has come to a standstill or suffered setbacks. Tunisia, however, has seen a democratic transition based on a vibrant civil society with demands for respect for basic human rights.
An essential factor for the culmination of the revolution in Tunisia in peaceful, democratic elections last autumn was the effort made by the Quartet to support the work of the constituent assembly and to secure approval of the constitutional process among the Tunisian population at large. The Quartet paved the way for a peaceful dialogue between the citizens, the political parties and the authorities and helped to find consensus-based solutions to a wide range of challenges across political and religious divides. The broad-based national dialogue that the Quartet succeeded in establishing countered the spread of violence in Tunisia and its function is therefore comparable to that of the peace congresses to which Alfred Nobel refers in his will.
The course that events have taken in Tunisia since the fall of the authoritarian Ben Ali regime in January 2011 is unique and remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, it shows that Islamist and secular political movements can work together to achieve significant results in the country's best interests. The example of Tunisia thus underscores the value of dialogue and a sense of national belonging in a region marked by conflict. Secondly, the transition in Tunisia shows that civil society institutions and organizations can play a crucial role in a country's democratization, and that such a process, even under difficult circumstances, can lead to free elections and the peaceful transfer of power. The National Dialogue Quartet must be given much of the credit for this achievement and for ensuring that the benefits of the Jasmine Revolution have not been lost.
Tunisia faces significant political, economic and security challenges. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes that this year's prize will contribute towards safeguarding democracy in Tunisia and be an inspiration to all those who seek to promote peace and democracy in the Middle East, North Africa and the rest of the world. More than anything, the prize is intended as an encouragement to the Tunisian people, who despite major challenges have laid the groundwork for a national fraternity which the Committee hopes will serve as an example to be followed by other countries.
Last year's prize went to a pair of children's rights activists — Pakistani teenage education campaigner Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, of India. Both tweeted the quartet their congratulations Friday.
Past Nobel peace laureates include Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Barack Obama, Theodore Roosevelt, and Doctors Without Borders.
Francis Whittaker is a homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Francis Whittaker at email@example.com.
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