Dialogue, Peace, & Democracy: Tunisian Labor and Rights Coalition Wins Nobel

Members of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) rally in Tunis to mark International Workers' Day May 1, 2012. (Photo: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters)

Dialogue, Peace, & Democracy: Tunisian Labor and Rights Coalition Wins Nobel

Award hailed as 'tribute to Tunisian working class'

The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday awarded its prestigious Peace Prize to Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet--the coalition of labor unions and human rights groups that forged a path to political compromise following the country's 2011 "Arab Spring" uprising.

The announcement was immediately met with cries of mabrouk, or congratulations, to the ordinary people and left-wing forces whose tenacious efforts made the initiative possible.

Established in 2013, the quartet is a coalition of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT); the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA); the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH); and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.

The Nobel committee formally recognized the coalition "for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011."

"[Award] proves dialogue is the only way to solve a crisis and not weapons."
--Ben Moussa, Human Rights League

"Congratulations to Tunisia, to the quartet and to all parties that facilitated the mission of the quartet," UGTT secretary general, Houcine Abassi, told the Tunisian Radio Mosaique FM station. "This prize came at the right time, because our country is still threatened by different security challenges."

Ben Moussa, president of the LTDH, told the same program that the prize "proves dialogue is the only way to solve a crisis and not weapons."

"This prize rewards the role of civil society in supporting the aspirations of the Tunisian people for democracy and human rights," Moussa added in a separate statement.

"The quartet paved the way for a peaceful dialogue between the citizens, the political parties and the authorities, and helped to find consensus-based solutions to a wide range of the challenges across political and religious divides," said Kaci Kullmann Five, chair of the Nobel Committee, emphasizing that the prize is intended "as an encouragement to the Tunisian people."

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However, many say that the recipients of the prize are the ones who have set an example for the world.

The parties to the award "united labor and the rights movement to insist on an all-party road-map for political compromise," scholar and activist Vijay Prashad told Common Dreams. "This was a landmark move that secured the Constitution and some element of stability in Tunisia. It was led by the Tunisian working class, through the UGTT, and not by the United Nations or the West."

What's more, many say that the award honors Tunisia's fallen, from Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation sparked what many refer to as the Arab Spring, to Chokri Belaid, the left politician who was assassinated in 2013. Farhat Hached, who played a critical role in building the UGTT, was assassinated by French colonial forces in 1952.

"It is a great tribute to Hached, Belaid and to the Tunisian working class that they have won the Nobel Prize for Peace," said Prashad.

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