- REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet just won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015.
The group’s win was a surprise – the prize was expected to go to Pope Francis or German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But the Nobel committee was impressed with the quartet’s ability to bring the north African country together in 2013, during the aftermath of the Jasmine revolution that overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
It’s made up of the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. They’re credited with helping a smooth transition towards democracy.
The Nobel committee gave some background information on the quartet in a press release published Friday after the announcement:
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.
Tunisia conducted peaceful elections in 2014, while some other countries which overturned autocratic leaders in the aftermath of the Arab Spring are still in political turmoil or outright civil war.
Rory McCarthy, a researcher who has studied Islamist activism in Tunisia, said on Twitter that the quartet “was about negotiation, pragmatism, [and] compromise in democratic transition” and noted that it was “far superior to Egypt’s coup.”
Kaci Kullmann Five, chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, made a similar assessment at the committee’s press conference on Friday.
“The Arab Spring originated in Tunisia in 2010 and 2011, but it quickly spread to other countries in North African and the Middle East,” Five said. “In many of these countries, the struggle for democracy and human rights has come to a standstill or suffered setbacks. Tunisia, however, has seen a democratic transition based on vibrant civil society, with demands for respect of basic human rights.”