The International Crisis Group congratulates the members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet as this year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. It is an apt recognition of its achievement in allowing the spirit of inclusion and compromise to triumph over the polarisation and violence that has been all too prevalent in the region, and of the central role civil society can play at moments of crisis.
The National Dialogue Quartet – composed of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT, Union générale tunisienne du travail), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA, Union tunisienne de l’industrie, du commerce et de l'artisanat), the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH, la Ligue tunisienne pour la défense des droits de l’homme), and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers (Ordre national des avocats de Tunisie) – was the architect of the National Dialogue process that, between August 2013 and January 2014, brokered the formation of a caretaker government that took the country to new elections and the adoption of the most progressive constitution of the Arab world.
In its reporting on Tunisia, International Crisis Group has long emphasised the pivotal role played by the Quartet in defusing the political crisis of summer 2013, fuelled by political assassinations and the polarising impact of the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013. Through its call for a reasonable solution to resolve the crisis and its ability to garner support from wide-ranging elements of Tunisian society, including the labour movement, the business class and civil society activists, the Quartet created an opening for politicians to compromise. Its moral authority and the fact that it represents wide segments of Tunisian society allowed it to overcome polarisation and impose dialogue on sometimes recalcitrant political actors.
The award of the Nobel Prize to the National Dialogue Quartet should serve to highlight the potential of civil society as a peacebuilder. Other Arab countries that experienced uprisings in 2011 have been less fortunate than Tunisia, in part because their civil societies have been marginalised. Cases in point are Egypt, where many NGOs and other groups face a climate of repression, and of Libya, where activists have often been the victims of rivalries between militias.
Crisis Group will be honouring two key participants in the Tunisian National Dialogue, President Béji Caïd Essebsi and Rached Ghannouchi, at its 20th Anniversary Award Dinner in New York on 26 October. Essebsi and Ghannouchi will jointly receive the Founders’ Award in recognition of their efforts, together with the National Dialogue Quartet, in reaching consensus on a peaceful and inclusive transition blueprint as leaders, respectively, of the Nida Tounes and Nahdha parties. Through their willingness to engage each other and make concessions that their parties’ base did not always support, they showed the leadership to seize the opportunity that the Quartet created.