Fitting honour to Tunisian Quartet

The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet has been awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy” in Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 ‘Jasmine Revolution’. A group of four civil society organisations – the Tunisian General Labor Union, the Tunisian Human Rights League, the Tunisian Order of Lawyers, and the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade, and Handicrafts – the Quartet has worked relentlessly to mediate Tunisia’s peaceful transition to democracy. In a world where many state and non-state actors have opted for the path of violence and force to engineer change, the Quartet’s steadfast commitment to peaceful dialogue comes as a breath of fresh air. The Nobel Peace Committee has done well to recognise and honour its work. Awarding the Quartet with the Nobel Peace Prize will not only provide it with a morale boost but will also throw international media spotlight on the power of dialogue. It has the potential to inject fresh inspiration to the Arab Spring.

Tunisians have played an enormous role in the struggle for democracy. It was they who ushered in the first of the revolutions of the Arab Spring in 2011. Their struggle for democracy was not easy. Yet, theirs is a rare Arab Spring success. Unlike Tunisia, other Arab Spring countries quickly plunged into chaos and civil war. The Quartet seems to have made the crucial difference, cajoling Tunisia’s political leadership to be consultative and collaborative rather than confrontationist. Will the Quartet’s Nobel Prize award draw the attention of other civil society actors in the Arab world and elsewhere to opt for and empower the non-violent path?

Some have criticised the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, questioning its achievements. They point to the string of political assassinations in Tunisia in recent years, the rise of religious extremism and the long road ahead for social justice. While these are challenges that Tunisia must indeed address in the coming years, blaming the Quartet for not fixing all of Tunisia’s problems in a short span of a few years is unfair criticism. The Quartet saved the country from civil war and that is no small achievement. The Quartet must leverage the recognition it has gained with the Nobel Prize. Thanks to the Prize, it now has a global platform. It must speak up against the use of force, even if it ruffles feathers and facilitate the struggles of other civil society groups for a peaceful
and just world. Its real work has only just begun.

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