Sunday, October 11, 2015

About the Tunisian national dialogue quartet:

The award of the Nobel peace prize to
the Tunisian national dialogue quartet
came as a surprise to most of the
world's bookies and punters, who had
laid their bets on better known global
figures like the pope and Angela Merkel.
But the prize follows a Nobel tradition of
rewarding underdogs who promote
peace away from the headlines, and to
give them strength in difficult
circumstances by a show of high-profile
outside support.
More on this topic
Tunisian national dialogue quartet wins
2015 Nobel peace prize
Who are they?
The Tunisian national dialogue quartet
is a coalition of civil society groups that
came together in the summer of 2013
when Tunisia , the birthplace of the Arab
spring, was at a crossroads between
democracy and violence. The Islamist
party Ennahda and its allies, who had
won elections after the Jasmine
revolution and the fall of the dictator
Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, were filling the
state machine with unqualified loyalists
and trying to force through a
constitution that made Islam the state
religion and imposed new limits on free
expression and assembly.
Opposition politicians walked out of
parliament in protest, and there were
clashes on the streets. At the same time
in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood
government had been deposed in a
coup and its supporters were being
killed in Cairo. Tunisians feared a
similar descent into violence, and those
fears were heightened by the
appearance of small, extreme Salafist
The long-established workers'
federation, the Tunisian General Labour
Union (UGTT), took the lead in creating
a civil society alliance and set out
looking for partners. Its leader, Houcine
Abbassi, took the extraordinary step of
convincing the union's historic
adversary, the Tunisian Confederation of
Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA),
to join forces.
Two other well-established and
respected groups – the Tunisian
Human Rights League (LTDH), and the
Tunisian Order of Lawyers – joined as
What did they achieve?
The quartet drew up a plan of action, or
roadmap , designed to steer Tunisia
away from the path to conflict and
towards political compromise. It called
for the entire cabinet to resign and a
non-partisan prime minister to take
over, a new independent election
commission to be set up, and the
constitution to be amended to take into
account opposition concerns.
Largely due to the UGTT's economic
clout, Abbassi's tenacity and the pooled
popular legitimacy of the four groups, as
well as considerable international
support, Ennahda and its allies were
persuaded to sign the roadmap at a
dramatic ceremony in October 2013 , at
which success was uncertain until the
last moment.
Sarah Chayes, an expert on Tunisia at
the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, said: "They showed
that peacemaking takes a lot of effort
and a lot of skill. The UGTT and its
leader had a huge amount of experience
in contract negotiations, as well as a
willingness to stay up talking all night,
night after night, if necessary."
What did the Norwegian Nobel
committee say about them?
In the words of the citation, the Tunisian
national dialogue quartet made a
"decisive contribution to the building of
a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the
wake of the Jasmine revolution".
The quartet was formed in the
summer of 2013 when the
democratisation 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