The 2015 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet for its efforts to bring democracy to the country, where the political upheaval in 2011 sparked pro-democracy movements throughout the Arab world.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised the group “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.”
“It established an alternative, peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war,” the committee said.
The National Dialogue Quartet is made up of four organizations: the Tunisian General Labor Union; Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; Tunisian Human Rights League; and Tunisian Order of Lawyers.
The Tunisian revolution, which forced the country's long-time president to step down, led to uprisings against dictators in other nations including Egypt, Libya and Syria in what became known as the Arab Spring.
Today, Tunisia is the only country in the region to make genuine progress transitioning to a democracy. Egypt's military overthrew its first democratically elected president in 2013, Syria is in the midst of a bloody 4-year-old civil war that has given rise to the Islamic State and Libya's ouster of long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi has been followed by years of political chaos, as competing militias fight for power.
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.
Tunisia still faces political problems, however. Two attacks by Islamic extremists this year killed 60 people and devastated the country's vital tourism industry. Critics also complain that the new government is trampling on the civil liberties of its citizens.
“The government has fallen back into the habit of criminalizing poverty and political dissent,” Nadia Marzouki and Fadil Aliriza, wrote in September on Open Democracy, an online site.
Peter Wallensteen, a professor of peace and conflict studies at Sweden’s Uppsala University, said the prize may help Tunisia “work to maintain a steady course toward further democratization of the country.”
“This is a peace prize for the work of civil society in mediating in a national crisis,” he added, in e-mailed comments.