- News and Notes
On October 10, the Nobel Committee announced that the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to the Tunisian “national dialogue quartet.” The quartet is a coalition of four key civil society groups: the Tunisian General Labor Union; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade, and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. Following its formation in 2013, the quartet proved instrumental in establishing a peaceful political process in the country’s post–Arab Spring environment. The Nobel Committee emphasized the quartet’s “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution.”
The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian author whose nonfiction writing has exposed the harsh realities of life in the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet space. She has also written about female Russian soldiers in World War II and the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Alexievich was forced into exile for over a decade for speaking out against the Belarusian government. The Swedish Academy praised her work as a “monument to suffering in our time.” Alexievich delivered her Nobel lecture in Stockholm on December 6 (http://tinyurl.com/gqq5q2x).
Eighth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy
On November 1–4, the World Movement for Democracy held its Eighth Assembly in Seoul, Korea, with the participation of 435 democracy activists and practitioners representing more than 100 countries. The theme of the Assembly was “Empowering Civil Society for Democracy and its Renewal.”
The opening session featured remarks by former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell; Korean prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn; Seonghoon Lee of the Asia Democracy [End Page 186] Network; and Ambassador Maria Leissner of the Community of Democracies. The Assembly concluded with the John B. Hurford Memorial Dinner (sponsored by the Hurford Foundation), at which the World Movement’s Democracy Courage Tributes were presented. Wai Wai Nu accepted the award on behalf of the Rohingya people in Burma, Rafael Marques de Morais accepted the award on behalf of investigative journalists in Africa, and Nathan Law accepted the award on behalf of the prodemocracy Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. Transcripts of major speeches and other information about the Assembly are available at www.wmd.org.
Democracy Award Ceremonies
On September 10, the International Republican Institute (IRI) presented its annual freedom award to Sudanese philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, founder and chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and John Boehner, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (R-OH). Also honored with a posthumous award was Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated in February 2015. At the time of his death, Nemtsov was working on a report exposing the Kremlin’s military involvement in Ukraine. Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, Nemtsov’s close friend and colleague, accepted the award on his behalf (see pp. 184–85). IRI chairman Senator John McCain (RAZ) and former assistant secretary of state Constance Berry Newman also delivered remarks. For videos of the speeches, visit http://tinyurl.com/pknw8t8.
On September 29, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) hosted its sixth annual Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards ceremony. The honorees included Attahiru Jega, former chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-CA).
Jega, who served as chairman of INEC during Nigeria’s historic March 2015 presidential and legislative elections, was honored for his role in ensuring a credible and transparent electoral process in what marked the country’s first democratic transfer of power. Pelosi and Royce were recognized for their commitment to supporting human rights and democracy.
On November 10, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) presented its annual democracy award to four Tunisian political and civic leaders—Yassine Brahim, Rafik Halouani, Wafa Makhlouf, and Sayida Ounissi. Brahim serves as Minister for Development, Investment, and International Cooperation, and is the president of Tunisia’s center-right Afek Tounes Party. Civil society activist Halouani is the president of Mourakiboun Network, a leading election-observation body. Makhlouf and Ounissi are elected members of Tunisia’s parliament. Also honored, for his...