The Annual Nobel Peace Prize Seminar – Can Tunisia Point the way?

Discussing the role of civil society in peacebuilding and lessons learnt from the Tunisian experience during the Arab Spring to the new democratic constitution.


In a special seminar at the Swedish Parliament, the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates  argued for a heightened role of civil society in peacebuilding. “We request the international community…. leave the leading role to civil society,” said Nobel Laureate Ouided Bouchamaoui. “These organisations know the intricacies best and can find the right local solutions.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2015 to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011”. The Quartet was formed in the summer of 2013 when the democratization process was in danger of collapsing as a result of political assassinations and widespread social unrest in the country.

Building Sustainable Peace

This seminar, opened by Urban Ahlin,  Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, looked to Tunisia as an example and provoked discussion among thought leaders on how to build sustainable peace. Isabella Lövin, Swedish Minister for International Development and Cooperation, noted that Tunisia is a model on how to use dialogue in preventing conflict. “Without inclusion and dialogue with a strong civil society, then you still have a fragile state,” said Lövin.

The Swedish Moderate Party Foreign Policy Spokesperson, Karin Enström, spoke of the required bravery, patience and persistence needed to pursue peace in the Middle East and Mats Karlsson, Director for the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, underscored that we need a social contract across the region.

Fighting Extremism with Inclusion

Participation and inclusion are central to peacebuilding and must become the way societies deal with their problems, stressed Scott Weber, Director-General of Interpeace. “Social, political and economic exclusion are at the source of most conflicts…and the best way to deal with violent extremism is to build more inclusive societies,” said Weber.

The importance of including youth in peacebuilding was highlighted by Fanny Härgestam, a journalist who has worked extensively in Tunisia. “What contributes to a feeling of desperation and frustration among youth is the sense of not belonging,” said Härgestam, noting that along with unemployment a lack of respect for youth can drive them towards extremism.

National Ownership

Echoing the nobel peace prize laureates,  Henrik Hammargren, Executive Director of the Hammarskjöld Foundation, concluded that sustainable peace must be built at the local level. “Thank you to the Quartet for showing us a way forward. For showing us that not only is national ownership needed but also national leadership,” said Hammargren.

The December 15th Annual Nobel Peace Prize Seminar was hosted by the Swedish Parliament, in cooperation with the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI).