The four organizations that worked to ensure a peaceful democratic transition in Tunisia in 2013, in the aftermath of the political unrest that followed the 2011 Jasmine Revolution, have been jointly awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The Quartet comprises the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.
“We are here to give hope to young people,” Ouided Bouchamaoui, president of UTICA, said in an interview. “If we believe in our country we can succeed.”
Many had expected the Norwegian Nobel Committee to give this year’s award to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her embrace of those fleeing the Syrian civil war, or Pope Francis for his message and work, but in the end the Nobel committee picked the Tunisian Quartet, which, in the committee’s words, “shows that Islamist and secular political movements can work together to achieve significant results in the country’s best interests.”
Tunisia, which until 2011 was ruled by longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was the birthplace of the Arab Spring—and the only country that, four years after those events, is run by a democratically elected government. But Tunisia’s path wasn’t easy.
In 2013, two years after Bel Ali was ousted, the country was in crisis after the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi, the opposition politician. His killing was followed by massive protests that raised doubts about the nature of Tunisia’s nascent democracy. But the Quartet intervened: It negotiated the resignation of the democratically elected “troika” government and its replacement by a constituent assembly. That was followed by the adoption of a new constitution and fresh elections in 2014.
The Nobel committee said the Quartet “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 message from the Nobel committee was one of hope, given how the Arab Spring has ended in failure in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, and elsewhere.
“Tunisia, however, has seen a democratic transition based on a vibrant civil society with demands for respect for basic human rights,” the Nobel committee said.
But the committee noted that even Tunisia “faces significant political, economic, and security challenges,” an apparent reference to the terrorist attack on Western tourists in July and the attack in March on a museum in Tunis.
The Nobel committee said it hoped the 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.
The committee noted that it hoped the prize would encourage Tunisians, “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.”
The Quartet will receive the prize of 8 million Swedish kronor (around $975,000). Last year’s prize was given to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, who both campaign for children’s rights.