Yesterday in Oslo, the Nobel Committee announced the winner of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize – the “National Dialogue Quartet” of Tunisia. This sends a powerful message to us all.
This year’s winners of the Nobel Peace Prize – to be honoured in Oslo on 10 December – are not well known, outside of Tunisia that is. Last year’s winners – Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were less surprising: Malala’s win was much anticipated and Kailash’s longstanding work on child labour well known. Previous winners, such as the European Union, Barack Obama. Al Gore or Martti Ahtisaari, need little introduction. Some of names rumoured for the 2015 prize had included Angela Merkel, Pope Francis, Edward Snowden or the organization Médecins Sans Frontières – all would have been worthy winners.
The Nobel Committee put a lot of thought into their decision. It does not just honour the outstanding work of individual(s) or organization(s) but also sends a message about where they think the world is going and essential components for maintaining peace, developing democracy and respecting human rights. The decision to give the 2015 Prize to Tunisian organizations will have been much debated and well thought through. It does indeed make a lot of sense.
Some have hailed the victory of the “National Dialogue Quartet” as a recognition of the bravery of those who fought the Arab Spring and Tunisia which started the wave of popular uprising and arguably has managed the process best (when compared with Egypt, Libya or Syria few would argue this point). Explicitly, the Nobel Committee recognises the Quartet’s “contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011”. In particular, it is because the main business, trade union, legal and civil society umbrellas of the country have stood together and were key in safeguarding the democratization process as well as the development of a “vibrant civil society with demands for the respect for basic human rights”. Critical has been the Quartet’s ability to mediate complex dilemmas from the time of the revolution to democratic elections last year. This, despite the attack on tourists by jihadists on two occasions, the second earlier this year in Sousse resulted in the death of 38 people.
So congratulations to the Tunisian General Labour Union (Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (Union Tunisienne de l’Industrie, du Commerce et de l’Artisanat), Tunisian Human Rights League (La Ligue Tunisienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme) and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers (Ordre National des Avocats de Tunisie). And congratulations to what this represents – that multi-stakeholder approaches can really deliver results even in the most pressing of circumstances. It is a reminder that the social contract in most of our societies is no longer an issue for governments alone, as my hero Thomas Paine once said (in 1777) ”Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”
This is unlikely to be the last time that the Nobel Committee recognises the role of non-state actors as key defenders of peace and democracy. In fact, the social licence of all actors is becoming a material concern for us all. As with the recognition of Kailash Satyarthi last year – the world is changing – business can have an increasing impact – for better and for worse. Last month, world leaders called on business to provide $1-4 trillion of annual investment needed to reach the 2015-30 Sustainable Development Goals. The 2014 and 2015 decisions of the Nobel Committee reminds us that the accountability of non-state actors, as well as that of government itself, is a complex issue and that each must hold the other to account; and that both most be accountable to society itself.