Not many people can say they have triumphed over the Pope but Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet can claim that they, indeed, beat out such beloved figures as Pope Francis and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to take this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for their extraordinary work in restoring Tunisia’s vision of democracy, which was first seeded in the Arab Spring of 2011.
According to NPR, the ”Quartet is a mix of civil society groups — labor, business, human rights and legal groups — whose leaders became mediators between Tunisia’s Islamists and secularists and saved their country from civil war.”
To give some historical context, NPR’s Leila Fadel reports that “Tunisia was the first country to revolt against authoritarian rule in the Middle East, and it set off a domino effect. And now it’s really the only country in the region that remains on a path to democracy.”
The Quartet called for a national dialogue between Islamist and secular politicians, and persuaded the Islamist Ennahda party to join in talks with the General Labor Union; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. Professor Habib Kazdaghli of the University of Tunis says that the national debate “occurred only because it was preceded by a series of painstaking consultations and preliminary conversations with Tunisia’s various political factions.”
The dialogue didn’t immediately stop the conflict in the country but it did establish an acceptance of the Quartet’s national road map which called for the existing government to resign and be replaced by technocrats, which, after months of negotiations, was eventually signed in December, 2013.
After learning that his Quartet won the prestigious award, Mohamed Fadhel Mahfoudh (who is also President of The Tunisian Order of Lawyers) commented, “I think this is a message to the world, to all the countries, to all the people that are aiming for democracy and peace, that everything can be solved by dialogue.”