A Victory for Deliberative Democracy
Last month’s award by the Norwegian Nobel Committee of the annual Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet is the first to be granted to organizers of a nationwide dialogue process. Though Tunisia’s democracy is still under great stress, the richly deserved award heralded a return to bestowing the prize on those whose peace efforts directly stabilize societies on the brink of violent conflict.
In the weeks since the prize was announced, some commentators have cited the Tunisian experience as an example of what the Arab Spring still could be, and some have cautioned that the Tunisian experience is unique, with few, if any, lessons for other countries.
Even if the Tunisian case is exceptional, its experience is well worth studying. Tunisia has peacefully managed two political transfers of power and established a new constitution in the five years since the ouster of its authoritarian ruler, Ben Ali. As the Nobel Committee noted, a core element of this transition was the launch of the national dialogue process, instigated when a substantial portion of the country’s population had no faith that existing governmental bodies could negotiate a successful and broadly acceptable new political order.
The conditions that led to Tunisia’s political crisis, and which continue to challenge its new government, are not unique. Two years after the tragic self-immolation of the young Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi ushered in the Arab Spring, escalating violence by extremists outside of the political process, social tension attributed to economic frustrations, and broad disenchantment with the new status quo led to mass protests.
At the political level, the opposition parties and the pro-government alliance led by the Islamist Ennahda Party were at loggerheads, reflecting a deep polarization among all levels of Tunisian society about many issues, including the role of Islam in the new state. Variations of these factors have been present in most of the conflicts that rippled across the Middle East, and exist in other regions as well.
In 2013, the four organizations receiving the Nobel Prize, led by the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), came together in this volatile situation to launch a National Dialogue that brought all political parties to the table. The UGTT is the country’s largest labor union, with a membership of over 400,000 in a country whose population is only 10 million.
The authority and power of the coalition it formed with the other members of “the Quartet” to which the Nobel Peace Price was awarded – the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers – arose, in part, from the fact that it presented an unusual alliance of interests among labor, business and highly-reputed civil society organizations.
Tunisians were also keenly aware of the dangers their political impasse posed to society. The murder of two prominent politicians from the secular left provoked outrage among many. With young Tunisians comprising the largest segment of foreign fighters from Arab countries in Syria, many feared that extremist elements could cause the revolution to spin out of control, as happened in Libya.
With these dangers looming, an intervention of some sort was imperative. No foreign mediator would have possessed the legitimacy, authority and skills to bring the parties to the compromises reached in Tunisia’s process. What the country needed, and what they created for themselves (with well-timed assistance and support) was an organic national process of reform that led to the passing of a new constitution, the appointment of a new Prime Minister, and presidential elections. In the words of the Nobel Committee, the Quartet’s work was nothing less than a “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy.”
Unique as it may have been, Tunisia’s experience carries lessons for others, including the ability of civil society and business to play a complementary role in political processes and the necessity of compromise among political leaders. Houcine Abassi, the dynamic Secretary General of the UGTT, and an experienced negotiator, played a central role as both convenor and mediator/facilitator. Tunisia’s political leaders were just as central. Sheikh Rached Gannouchi, head of the Islamist Ennahda party (who willingly stepped down as president), and Beji Caid Essebsi, the secular leader (who later became president), ultimately led their parties to the compromises that were necessary.
Though Tunisia’s national dialogue process engaged diverse actors in what was essentially an outcome oriented political negotiation, participation was limited. Decisions were taken by smaller groups of leaders. Mediators and facilitators, both foreign and domestic, stepped in at key times to move the process forward. The elite nature of some discussions did not lessen the importance of participation from individuals and institutions representing diverse constituencies, such as the Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center.
Perhaps the most important contribution of Tunisia’s National Dialogue, beyond its contribution at a critical moment in Tunisia’s political evolution, is the attention it draws to an increasingly important strategy for political transformation – that of inclusive and carefully structured political dialogues established when existing legislative bodies are perceived as illegitimate, or simply deadlocked and unequal to the task of political reform.
Last October, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India - both indefatigable advocates for children's rights. In Friday's announcement in Oslo, the Nobel Committee cited the recipients "struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education."
In bestowing this year's Peace Prize on these two inspiring advocates, the Nobel Committee reaffirms
the much needed expansive definition of peace - of positive peace, not simply characterized by the
absence of war, but by the presence of the broad spectrum of human rights. As the Nobel committee noted, "It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected. In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation."
Breaking free from generational cycles of violence, whether in small communities or whole societies,
requires more than the cessation of hostilities brought about by negotiated settlements. Indeed the all too frequent relapse into violence of conflicts with signed "peace agreements" is a testimony to this challenge. Positive peace – peace created by repaired relationships and respect for the broad spectrum of human rights - is the only sure way of fundamentally transforming violent conflict.
The work of Malala and Kailash highlights how our world still falls short of protecting one of the most
fundamental human rights, the rights of children to education in an environment free of fear and exploitation. Whether we live and work in conflict-affected societies such as Pakistan's tribal areas, or in more stable democracies such as India or the U.S., these rights remain an unfulfilled promise for far too many children.
Twenty-seven years ago, this concern for the future of children led all of the living Nobel Peace Laureates to issue a call, known as the "Appeal of the Nobel Peace Laureates for Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World" which inspired much global activism, including the founding of the Peace Appeal Foundation itself. In the intervening years, there has been much progress on multiple fronts, including 78 million fewer child laborers in the past 10 years alone, and an estimated 50% reduction in the number of girls not attending primary school between 1999 and 2009. Still much remains to be done to realize the aspirations of the Laureates Appeal. Child soldiers remain a particularly disturbing trend, with young children being used in multiple conflicts across the globe, most recently in Libya and Syria.
This year's Nobel Peace Prize underscores how individuals, whether a 17 year old Pakistani school girl or a 60 year old social entrepreneur from India, can make a difference for thousands of children globally. At a time when peace may seems ever more elusive and conflicts abroad too remote for us to influence, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi should remind us that we can all be agents of change.
Nobel Laureates call for Making Peace with the Earth
By James Michael Wine
Thanks to the Nobel Prize, peace is not simply the absence of war. The work for peace is not simply the prevention of war or the resolution of conflict. Peace has been equated with new strains of grain to help feed the world; with planting trees to stimulate resiliency in the land, in people, in society; with micro-credits for development. Poverty, hunger, disease, indignity, segregation and apartheid, humanitarian help in a world without borders. All the work for peace.
Now the Nobel message is about making peace with the Earth. We are a world at war. The consequences are now and for generations to come. In the words of another Peace Laureate Kofi Annan, “We are all in the same boat.”
It was no surprise that the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2007 prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."
We are all more aware of the intensely systemic problem known as climate change thanks to their combined efforts in science and communication. 2007 will be remembered as the year we got the message. "We all agree. Climate change is real, and we humans are its chief cause. Yet even now, few people fully understand the gravity of the threat, or its immediacy," wrote UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently in the International Herald Tribune, adding: "I have always considered global warming to be a matter of utmost urgency. Now I believe we are on the verge of a catastrophe if we do not act."
The IPCC is the largest group of scientists ever to work together for the benefit of the whole planet. Their research findings make it clear that it’s not natural, it’s us. The message is simple: we must stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere before tipping the planet in a dangerous phase that will last for centuries.
Al Gore is not a scientist, but a tireless ex-politician and slide show lecturer turned Oscar winning movie star, who managed to create a profoundly effective form of communication out of an impossibly complex subject. Gore studied and spoke the inconvenient truth. We got the message. More than 75% of the world’s population are now aware and concerned.
Yet it is not surprising that a recent survey showed that concern is higher in the developing world than at the source of the problem, the developed world. Study after study show it will the poorest who will suffer first and most. Witness the fallout from Katrina. When you have little, you can lose the most.
Underscoring the sudden urgency is the fact that both the IPCC and Gore vastly underestimated the
speed of climate change. This year’s dramatic Arctic meltdown came decades ahead of their predictions.
Nature, it seems, has its own time schedule and we must accommodate. Increasingly, the issue of climate is linked to global security. The consequences of forced migration, water and food shortages, storms and droughts, financial and market instabilities all point to conditions that have led to war before. Though now on an altogether different scale. Soon the world gathers in Bali to hammer out the framework for a new deal. Essentially it comes down to climate and equity, but this makes the complexity of the Doha Round seem like simple arithmetic.
Still, climate is just the tip of the ecological iceberg that is melting away. Water, fisheries, land-use, pollution, species extinction - the problems are everywhere. New technologies will play essential roles in the solution. But old “new” technologies also caused many of the problems. They will not solve the deeper crisis.
William James’ essay, “The Moral Equivalent of War,” is given the credit for such US projects as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Peace Corps, enlisting youth in the work for the commonwealth. However, his was an “army enlisted against Nature,” so that these young people could have “done their own part in the immemorial human warfare against nature.”
This human warfare has wittingly and unwittingly been the consistent strategy of civilization. It defined progress. It produced wealth. It carved out sovereign territories on a borderless planet. Now this cumulative warfare has brought us to the brink of Mutually Assured Destruction - and this too is mad. If we are to understand the meaning of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace, we will not find it in the historical tomes of statesmen or the metaphorical tombs of unknown soldiers. We must look to ourselves.
Thanks to Rachel Carson, we have a better understanding: "We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven't become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself. I truly believe that we in this generation must come to terms with nature, and I think we're challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves."
We have less than ten years to change course, to gain maturity and prove this mastery. To mitigate
climate change will demand an end to poverty. Conflicts will play out in a new context. It will alter forever how we live with each other and with the Earth. We have a choice. Do we sustain this immemorial human warfare against nature and against ourselves - or do we choose to bury all of our hatchets, heed the human wisdom which has whispered from the edges of every culture and choose the path of peace?
The work for peace has usually seemed a thankless task at the periphery of Business as Usual. Now the task has never been so challenged, or so critical to the survival of humanity. We live in a world at war. At war with nature and with ourselves. We cannot negotiate a settlement with nature, not even an orderly truce. But we can bring the work for peace into every home, every school, every church, every business, every nation - everyone.
In the United States everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, the great family gathering. Most Americans have some vague idea of the tradition, a picture Indians and Pilgrims sharing a meal. But the real history dates back a thousand years to the beginning of the Iroquois Confederacy when the Peacemaker brought the five warring nations together, buried their hatchets under the Great Tree of Peace, and instructed the people in the rite of Thanksgiving for all of creation, all of nature, of which they were a part, in peace.
So today let’s thank the Iroquois Peacemaker and these Nobel Peace Laureates. Thanks, too, to Pogo who shouted: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” And thanks to Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, whose insight echoes the indigenous wisdom that leads to peace: “We are the earth’s.”
Give thanks for peace.
James Michael Wine, a Tallberg Forum adviser and poet, is one of the founding members of the Peace Appeal Foundation and Peace Tools. His father was one of John F Kennedy’s principle speech writers.
By Derek Brown, Executive Director
Peace Appeal Foundation
In honoring Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank with the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee has for the third time in 4 years taken the stance that peace in our world is not merely defined by the absence of violence. Countering the typical foreign aid precept that poverty cannot be addressed until peace is secured, in this year’s award the Nobel Committee has recognized how the two must be simultaneously interlinked.
By refraining from awarding this year’s prize to diplomats or political leaders, (the rumored front runners were Finnish diplomat, Martti Ahtisaari, who led peace negotiations in Indonesia’s ACEH province, or Gareth Evans, former Australian Foreign Minister who brokered the Cambodia peace accords), the Nobel Committee has highlighted what we in the US have come to know the hard way, peace and nation building is a far more complicated process than our government leaders have informed us.
The complexity of peacebuilding has long been recognized by a small but important segment of the philanthropic community. Over the past three decades, many foundations have played both an open and discreet role in supporting peace initiatives, from South Africa to Northern Ireland, from Uganda to Cambodia. But despite great advances, the record of peace initiatives is Take some of the supposed “successes” in peacebuilding today. Angola hasn’t had a national election in 14 years. Despite significant oil wealth, 70% of its population lives below the poverty line. Bosnia & Herzegovina, as well as Kosovo to the south, are still deeply divided. Ratko Mladic and others charged with war crimes, remain at large. Corruption, violence, and intimidation of government critics are daily facts of life in Cambodia. Only now, nearly a quarter century after the rule of the Khmer Rouge, are its remaining leaders being pursued for their crimes of genocide. In East Timor, deep ethnic, religious and regional rivalries, coupled with economic uncertainty, led to rioting by soldiers this past Spring, sending 70,000 residents of the capital fleeing into the countryside.
South Africa, perhaps the most powerful beacon in the world today for the potential of nonviolent social change, remains a work in progress, despite its impressive political transformation and strong economic performance. Earlier this month, the Reverend Desmond Tutu noted that South Africa sits on a “powder keg” requiring the country’s still entrenched poverty be addressed to avoid violent social unrest.
The unfinished business in even the “successful” cases of peacebuilding, let alone the world’s recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, is one of the reasons many institutions have shied away from grantmaking in this area. The scale of the problem and the difficulty of measuring outcomes has often been perceived as too daunting for private grantmakers to make a substantial impact. This year’s Nobel suggests that the sector may need to revisit these assumptions, and embrace a broader conception of peacebuilding that encompasses a significant role for private sector funders and institutions.
Understanding how a Bangladeshi economist and a bank whose average loan is $309 became this year’s Nobel Laureates is key to understanding the broader role the philanthropic community can and should play. Grameen’s importance isn’t just because of its phenomenal success in helping poor women gain access to small loans allowing them to boost their household incomes. The bank’s lending practices build social capital, helping women educate themselves and each other, nurturing civic engagement and growing women’s participation in not only the economic lives of villages, but in the political life of their country. Grameen’s over 6 million economically empowered women borrowers serve as fairly significant counterweight to religious extremism in Bangladesh, not to mention the often divisive and occasionally violent political culture of the country.
Grameen’s supporters, from its village borrowers who own a stake in the bank, to the private philanthropic institutions around the globe which have given and lent money to the institution deserve, and should see their investment in the bank as an investment in peacebuilding.
Lessons from Grameen are being applied on a daily basis in conflicts and post-conflict environments across the globe, from Afghanistan to Columbia. Rather than despair in the face of the current crises of Iraq, Darfur, the Middle East, etc., the Nobel award this year challenges us to see these crises in a broader perspective. These societies need more than peacekeeping forces, globe trotting diplomats and emergency relief professionals. They require a long term commitment from the international community to address the broad range of social and developmental needs. Only with the help of the
Muhammad Yunuses and Grameen Banks of the world, as well as the UN and other governmental and multi-lateral institutions, will these societies be able to transform their own conflicts and build and secure peace.