Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet wins Nobel Peace Prize for helping to build democracy

Tunisian mediators (from left) Wided Bouchamaoui, Houcine Abbassi, Abdessattar ben Moussa and Mohamed Fadhel Mahmoud in 2013. PHOTO: AFP

OSLO (AFP/REUTERS) - Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its contribution to building democracy after the Jasmine Revolution in 2011, which unleashed the Arab Spring, the Nobel Committee said on Friday (Oct 9)

The award was given "for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011".

The committee said the prize was also intended as an encouragement to other countries to follow in Tunisia's footsteps.

"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," it said.

The Quartet is made up of four key organisations in the north African country: the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.

The organisations represent different sectors and values in Tunisian society, including working life and welfare, principles of the rule of law and human rights.

Formed in the summer of 2013, it helped support the democratisation process in Tunisia when it was in danger of collapsing, said the committee.

"It established an alternative, peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war," said Ms Kaci Kullman Five, head of the committee.

"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 panel said. "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 European Union hailed the Quartet on Friday after they won the prize, saying they had shown the troubled North Africa and Middle East a democratic path out of its turmoil.

"The Nobel Peace Prize to the National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia shows the way out of the crises in the region: national unity and democracy," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tweeted.

The United Nations also welcomed the award. Mr Ahmad Fawzi, chief UN spokesman in Geneva, told a news briefing: "We need civilian society to help us move peace processes forward.

"This a brilliant example, I think Tunisia is one of the Arab countries that has done best since the so-called Arab Spring and the upheavals in that part of the world."

"This is a great joy and pride for Tunisia, but also a hope for the Arab World," UGTT chief Hussien Abassi told Reuters. "It's a message that dialogue can lead us on the right path. This prize is a message for our region to put down arms and sit and talk at the negotiation table."

The laureates will receive their prizes at a ceremony in Oslo on Dec 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of prize creator Alfred Nobel, a Swedish philanthropist and scientist.

Ms Kaci Kullmann Five, the newly appointed chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, made the annoucement on Friday at the Nobel Institute in Oslo as the annual Nobel prize-giving week reached its peak.

The 8 million Swedish crowns (S$1.4 million) prize is awarded by Norway's state broadcaster NRK and by Nobeliana, a website run by historians who specialise in tracking the award.

The Peace prize is the only one of six awards to be presented in Oslo and the one that traditionally garners the most attention and speculation.

The other laureates will receive their prizes in Stockholm on the same date.

The prizes were first awarded in 1901 to honour achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with the will of Nobel.

The Pope, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a Congolese doctor were all tipped as top contenders for the prize, but speculation mounted that the honour could go to two octogenarian survivors of the atomic bombings of Japan 70 years ago.

But with a line up of 273 candidates, just shy of last year's record 278, predicting the winner was largely a game of chance.

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