A Tunisian pro-democracy group accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10 and set the fight against terrorism and helping Palestinians to achieve self-determination as global priorities.
The National Dialogue Quartet, which won the Peace Prize for helping build democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, accepted the award at a ceremony in Oslo held under tight security following the armed attacks in Paris on Nov. 13.
“Today we are most in need of making the fight against terrorism an absolute priority, which means perseverance on coordination and cooperation between all nations to drain its resources,” Hussein Abassi, head of the Tunisian General Labour Union, one of the quartet honored, said in a speech.
“We need to accelerate the elimination of hot spots all over the world, particularly the resolution of the Palestinian issue and enable the Palestinian people the right to self-determination on their land and build their independent state,” he said.
Security precautions loomed large over the banquets and concerts for hundreds of political, intellectual and business leaders attending the lavish Nobel awards ceremonies held jointly in Oslo and Stockholm.
“Security is higher than it would otherwise have been because of the situation in Europe,” Johan Fredriksen, chief of staff for Oslo police told Reuters, referring to the Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed.
Last year, a demonstrator carrying a Mexican flag disrupted the ceremony at Oslo City Hall when Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai and Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi received their Nobel Peace Prizes. He was not a guest but managed to get through the security checkpoints.
The quartet of the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers was formed in the summer of 2013. It won the award for the role it played in the peaceful transition of power in Tunisia in a region struggling with violence and upheaval.
With a new constitution, free elections and a compromise arrangement between Islamist and secular leaders, Tunisia has been held up as a model of how to make the transition to a democracy from dictatorship, said Kaci Kullman Five, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Last year Tunisia held successful legislative and presidential elections but the country has been hit by violence this year. In March, Islamist gunmen killed 21 tourists in an attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, and 38 foreigners were killed in an assault on a Sousse beach hotel in June.
“In this time of terror, the threats against Tunisia and the Tunisian people are indistinguishable from the threats against other countries,” she said in her speech. “I came here to share this extraordinary moment with the whole of Tunisia. I am so proud,” said Haddad Fayssal, a 39-year-old Tunisian engineer from Paris, draped with the red-and-white flag of the North African nation over his shoulders.
“This prize is a powerful message against all types of extremism and terrorism. It is a message that we can all live together,” he told Reuters outside Oslo City Hall, the peace award ceremony’s venue.
In neighboring Sweden, the Nobel Prize winners in literature, chemistry, physics, medicine and economics gathered in Stockholm to receive their prizes from the King of Sweden later in the day.
Belarussian author Svetlana Alexievich won the literature prize for her portrayal of the harshness of life in the Soviet Union
In Stockholm, the winners will collect their medals at a concert hall before attending a banquet at the city hall, which will include VIPs like European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.
Security around the festivities — which has hundreds of royals and prominent politicians as guests — has also been heightened this year after Sweden raised its terror threat level to the highest ever after the Paris attacks. Each of the prizes is worth 8 million Swedish crowns ($949,440).
Pharrell Williams says he’ll have all of humanity singing together at a worldwide concert June 18 to fight global warming.
The pop superstar is teaming with Nobel Peace Prize-winner Al Gore to produce a “Live Earth” concert on seven continents to build support for a United Nations climate pact in Paris among more than 190 nations in December.
On a stage on Jan. 21 at the World Economic Forum in Davos with producer Kevin Wall, Williams said “we literally are going to have humanity harmonize all at once” in support of a binding international accord to limit heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.
He said the purpose is “to have a billion voices with one message — to demand climate action now” from governments rather than to continue the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India have stressed the importance of uniting people across borders and religions by educating children and freeing them from poverty.
The 17-year-old Malala, who was shot in the head two years ago for insisting that girls have as much right to education as boys, says it is “not only the right but the duty of children” to be educated.
Sitting side-by-side with Malala, the 60-year-old Satyarthi said that even if a single child is denied education “we cannot say we are enlightened.”
The Nobel Peace Prize winners were speaking to reporters in the Norwegian capital a day before being presented their awards on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.
Malala, the youngest Nobel Prize winner, said said she had been concentrating on her difficult school exams in recent weeks – she is pleased to have gotten As and Bs -and has only focused on writing her Nobel speech in the last week.
To spotlight her crusade, Malala invited four girls and a young woman who have fought for education rights in Syria, Nigeria and Pakistan to join her delegation.
“I’m really happy my friends are coming,” she said. “I feel I am speaking on their behalf. It is important they are able to join me. This is a very big platform.”
About 100,000 people have signed an internet petition saying they think gay Army Pfc. Bradley Manning should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The petition is being circulated by RootsAction.org and the co-founder of the cyber activist group, Norman Solomon, says he has plans to deliver the petition to the Nobel committee in Oslo later this week.
Manning was formally nominated for the prize by recipient Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, who has said, “I can think of no one more deserving.” She said Manning, convicted of espionage for relaying hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, helped end the Iraq War and “and may have helped prevent further conflicts elsewhere.”
Manning faces up to 136 years in prison for leaking diplomatic cables, plus 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and some warzone video while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010.
He said he leaked the material to expose wrongdoing by the military and U.S. diplomats.
Prosecutors said Manning is a traitor and leaking the material threatened U.S. security and the lives of servicemembers.
Barack Obama is the last American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He received the honor in 2009, the first year of his presidency.
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