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Friday, October 9, 2015

Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet becomes 129th to win Nobel Peace Prize

"When people decide to live, destiny shall obey, and one day ... the slavery chains must be broken." ~ words of a Tunisian poet !

A revolution known as Jasmine Revolution, an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations began  on 18 December 2010 and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. The demonstrations were precipitated by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, a lack of political freedoms and poor living conditions. The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest; resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of which were the result of action by police and security forces against demonstrators.

All that occurred in ‘ Tunisia ‘ – the northernmost country in Africa.  Its northernmost point, Ras ben Sakka, is the northernmost point on the African continent. It is bordered by Algeria,  Libya  and the Mediterranean Sea. Its name is derived from its capital city, Tunis, which is located on the country's northeast coast. More web searches will be made on the country and the association as they have won the coveted Nobel Prize.  The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes created by the Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel, along with the prizes in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature. Since 1901, it has been awarded annually (with some exceptions) to those who have "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015 is to be awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. The Quartet was formed in the summer of 2013 when the democratization 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 belief.

The National Dialogue Quartet has comprised four key organizations in Tunisian civil society; they represent different sectors and values in Tunisian society: working life and welfare, principles of the rule of law and human rights. 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 Peace Prize for 2015 is awarded to this Quartet, not to the four individual organizations as such.

Those forming part of the quartet are : the President of the Tunisian employers union, Wided Bouchamaoui, Secretary General of the Tunisian General Labour Union, Houcine Abbassi , President of the Tunisian Human Rights League, Abdessattar ben Moussa and the president of the National Bar Association, Mohamed Fadhel Mahmoud. This quartet has been awarded Nobel Peace Prize 2015. The selecting panel  said group established a 'peaceful political process when country was on the brink of civil war'.  The prize is a huge victory for small Tunisia, whose young and still shaky democracy suffered two extremist attacks this year that killed 60 people and devastated the tourism industry.

Tunisia is the only country in the region to painstakingly build a democracy, involving a range of political and social forces in dialogue to create a constitution, legislature and democratic institutions. '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,' Nobel Peace Prize Committee Chairwoman Kaci Kullmann Five said.

'It's a prize that crowns more than two years of efforts deployed by the quartet when the country was in danger on all fronts,' he said. The decision came as a surprise to many, with speculation having focused on Europe's migrant crisis or the Iran-U.S. nuclear deal in July. A favourite among those placing bets had been German Chancellor Angela Merkel for pledging to keep her country's borders open to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from Syria and other countries. Others mentioned in the buzz included the Reverend Mussi Zerai, an Eritrean priest who helps co-ordinate rescue missions for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif were also mooted as candidates for their July deal on Iran's nuclear program, as was Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel leader Rodrigo Londono.

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

While Tunisia has been much less violent than neighbouring Libya or Syria, its transition to democracy has been marred by occasional violence, notably from Islamic extremists including this attack in March when gunmen killed 22 people, again mostly tourists, at the country's leading museum, the Bardo in Tunis.

There were 273 candidates nominated for the 2015 peace prize, five fewer than in 2014. The award capped a week of Nobel Prize announcements, with the winners of the medicine, physics, chemistry and literature awards presented earlier in Stockholm. The economics award –not an original Nobel Prize but created in 1968 – will be announced on Monday.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 95 times to 128 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2014, 103 individuals and 25 organizations.  With the announcement Friday morning that the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet will be the latest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the number of Peace Prize laureates will tick up to 129. That figure doesn’t match up with the number of years the prize has been given, as some years have multiple honorees and others–historically times of war–have none. But it also wouldn’t match up with the number of prizes announced. That’s because in 1973 Le Duc Tho became the first and only person ever to voluntarily refuse a Nobel Peace Prize. The prize had been awarded jointly to Tho, a North Vietnamese politician and diplomat, and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for their work negotiating a ceasefire in the Vietnam War.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
9th Oct 2015.


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