The new leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee repeatedly urged a worldwide audience on Thursday to “look to Tunisia” as an example of how dialogue and democracy can prevail over conflict and violence. In her debut address at the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Kaci Kullmann Five called the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet an “admirable” and “worthy” winner.
Five noted how the dialogue sparked by the four Tunisian organizations that made up the Quartet managed to keep their country from sinking into the horrors of civil war. The civilian organizations sharing the prize include the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.
Five (pronounced Fee-veh) also gave the Quartet credit for helping to stem mass migration. If other countries in conflict had done what Tunisia did, under the firm and systematic guidance of the Quartet, “far fewer people would have been forced to flee,” she said, and the refugee crisis that has overwhelmed Europe and other countries including Norway might have been averted.
The Quartet was hailed for “paving the way for dialogue, tolerance, democracy and equal rights.” Five noted, however, that “dark forces,” which view the emergence of democracy and equal rights for all as a threat to their own ambitions for power, still don’t want Tunisia to succeed. That poses “major security challenges for Tunisia,” and all the more reason that Tunisia’s fledgling democracy needs more help than what a Nobel Peace Prize can provide. “This is the time to mobilize support for Tunisia,” Five declared, through economic development and cooperation. “The international community must assume its responsibility and invest in Tunisia,” Five said.
Five also drew a link between the introduction of Tunisia’s new constitution last year, in 2014, and Norway’s own celebration of the 200th anniversary of its constitution from 1814. It was considered radical for its time, and Five said she hopes that in 2214, Tunisians would look back with as much pride as Norwegians do today.
For the entire text of her remarks, click here (external link).
All four representatives of the organizations forming the Quartet spoke at the prize ceremony that was, as customary, attended by the Norwegian royal family, Prime Minister Erna Solberg and members of her government, Norway’s Supreme Court Justice and a host of other dignitaries. Ambassadors, former Norwegian prime ministers, entertainers who’ll perform at Friday’s traditional Nobel Concert and a large delegation from Tunisia were present, and many of them impulsively burst into song as the Nobel Peace Prize medal and diploma was presented to the Quartet. Each of the four posed with the prizes, and have arranged to obtain copies.
There was other song as well, with Norway’s rising opera star Lise Davidsen performing, among other pieces, Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s Ved Rondane. And each representative of the Quartet drew applause, like when Houcine Abassi of union federation UGTT noted how people in Tunisia ultimately put the nation’s best interests ahead of their own.
They all stressed how many challenges lie ahead, and how Tunisia already has experienced terrorist attacks and severe unrest. Ouided Bouchamaou of UTICA said she thinks the security situation was getting better, though, and they all vowed not to give up their efforts to ensure democracy, prod economic development, stress consensus, improve education and create jobs to ease poverty. Abassi worried that the pride they all felt over winning the Nobel Peace Prize can’t eliminate the threats still facing the country and the world.
For now, though, the Tunisians could enjoy the Nobel glare, which would climax Thursday evening with the annual torchlight parade and banquet at Oslo’s Grand Hotel. Friday would also be busy, with visits to the Parliament and several other appearances before the Nobel Concert Friday night. The winners were scheduled to leave Oslo on Saturday, and get back to the work of building their nation.