LONDON: A coalition of labor unions, businesses, lawyers and human rights activists won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.”The prize to the coalition, known as the National Dialogue Quartet, comes nearly five years after an unemployed street vendor set himself on fire, touching off a political earthquake that toppled Tunisia’s longtime authoritarian president and proceeded to reverberate throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Among the disappointments of what has become known as the Arab Spring — collapsed states in Libya, Syria and Yemen; the return of rule by a military strongman in Egypt; and the rise of the Islamic State in the sectarian caldron of Syria and Iraq — the relative success of Tunisia’s transition to democracy has been a wisp of hope.
The quartet comprises four organizations: the Tunisian General labour Union; the Tunisian General Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handi Crafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and Tunisian Order Of Lawyer. But the Norwegian Nobel Committee emphasized that the prize “is awarded to this quartet, not to the four individual organizations as such.” “The Arab Spring originated in Tunisia in 2010 and 2011, but it quickly spread to other countries in North African and the Middle East,” said Kaci Kullmann Five, the chairwoman of the committee, who announced the prize in Oslo. “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.”
In Tunisia, the winners rejoiced. “Congratulations to Tunisia, to the quartet and to all parties that facilitated the mission of the quartet,” the labor union’s secretary general, Houcine Abassi, told Radio Mosaïque FM, a Tunisian station. “This prize came at the right time, because our country is still threatened by different security challenges.”