Preventing armed conflict in Tunisia


The National Dialogue Quartet, a consortium of four major Tunisian civil society organisations, helped to prevent armed conflict and guide their country on a peaceful course in the wake of the 2011 Jasmine Revolution.

The 2010 – 2011 Arab Spring originated in Tunisia, sparking a wave of change and upheaval that ultimately ended in conflict across much of the Middle East and North Africa. In Tunisia, the protests succeeded in forcing the country’s long-time ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to resign and heralded the introduction of multi-party elections. An interim government took power until elections could be organised, but popular protests continued throughout the year.1 The October 2011 elections resulted in the formation of a minority government, however by May 2012 divisions between the Islamic and secular wings of Tunisian politics were escalating into limited armed clashes between paramilitary groups.2 Renewed protests took place, with some calling for the ratification of a constitution while others demanded the introduction of religious laws. The demonstrations escalated to the verge of civil war following the assassination of a popular opposition leader in July 2013 in an attack attributed to the ruling party.3

Fearing an armed conflict, the leader of the Tunisian General Labour Union first called its 750,000 members to down tools in April 2013, bringing the country to a halt, before employing this tactic at key moments of tensions throughout the peace process.4 While protests continued in some areas, the union leader met with representatives of the Tunisian bar association, the Human Rights League, and the president of the Tunisian Confederation of Industry. The four individuals resolved to establish the National Dialogue Quartet (NDQ) and work to mediate a peaceful resolution to the incipient conflict and establish constitutional rule to Tunisia. Its first promulgated a Road Map, calling for parliament to pass a constitution, schedule elections, and appoint a technocratic interim government.5 The NDQ then held talks with a range of political parties, gathering enough support for a compromise constitution to be approved. Furthermore, the Quartet identified a suitable interim prime minister acceptable to all parties (an engineer new to politics). Parties from across the political spectrum adhered to the Road Map, and the elections were held in a peaceful environment in 2014.6 The NDQ had forged a space for dialogue and then used it to skilfully mediate meaningful agreements which resolved the crisis and laid the framework for Tunisian democracy to take root. The NDQ was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts.7

1 BBC. “Tunisia profile – Timeline.” BBC News. (2017) Available at: (Accessed 06/12/2020)

2 Chris Stephen. “The Tunisia quartet: how an impossible alliance saved the country from collapse.” The Guardian. (2017) Available at: (Accessed 06/12/2020)

3 BBC. “Tunisia political crisis deepens after assassination.” BBC News. (2013) Available at: (Accessed 06/12/2020)

4 Stephen. “The Tunisia quartet.”

5 Ibid.

6 Hendrik Kraetzschmar. “How the Tunisian national dialogue saved a country from collapse.” The Conversation. (2015) Available at: (Accessed 06/12/2020)

7 The Nobel Prize. National Dialogue Quartet: Facts. (Nobel Prize, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 06/12/2020)

Start Year


End Year




UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Risk of a horizontal (non-state) intrastate conflict, Risk of a vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict

Type of Initiative

Local action, Mediation of a peace agreement

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The National Dialogue Quartet




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