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Nobel prize is an award for the power of social movements

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/10/2015 Sharan Burrow

Every year in October there is a collective moment when the world thinks about peace, and the individuals and institutions who make peace happen.
The Nobel Peace Prize has traditionally put the spotlight on the work of stateswomen and men Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Barrack Obama, civil rights activists Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi and organizations and institutes from the European Union to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
With wars and battles being waged from Yemen to Afghanistan, Syria to the Democratic Republic of Congo and on many more street corners in between - talk of peace has a hollow meaning for millions of people denied a voice by the power of bombs and artillery.
As the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the winner of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, the power of the collective voice of people was finally recognized on the global stage.
The little known Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet left some people wondering why a string quartet would win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Others instantly recognized the dialogue that brought together people across Tunisian society, from trade unions, employers, human rights groups and lawyers to forge a peaceful democratic transition.
The ILO's Director General Guy Ryder went to the heart of its significance with a new twitter hashtag welcoming the award: #social dialogue works.
As the only UN body which has a formal tripartite structure with employers, unions and governments the ILO sets global standards for our workplace economies and democracies - which provide the foundations for peace in all societies.
While the 2015 Peace Prize celebrates the work of Tunisian society to forge a peaceful and stable future, it also puts in the spotlight the dialogue that underpins progress in many countries in our world.
The Nordic model of dialogue and collective bargaining has reigned in the rising inequality faced by many nations including the US and India.
Germany's model of corporate co-determination and strong collective bargaining has held firm a strong economy and introduced a new national minimum wage.
In the Netherlands, unions, governments and employers are negotiating a tripartite compact to realise rights in global supply chains.
Workers, employers and the government have negotiated the basis for a new labour law in Oman, representing all workers including migrant workers.
Unions successfully mobilized against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, and resisted military dictatorships by organizing strikes and mass protests in countries such as Brazil.
And after years of negotiation a constitution and stable democracy is being realized in Nepal, with unions and civil society partners in dialogue with the government.
The UGTT in Tunisia were the people who sustained the revolution and then as part of the National Dialogue Quartet mobilized and negotiated the countries democratic transition while avoiding the level of bloodshed suffered in other countries during the Arab Spring.
Unions were the driving force behind the drafting of a Tunisian constitution which guaranteed fundamental principles such as the separation of powers, and independent judiciary, freedom of association, the right to organize and the right to strike.
These rights, and the dialogue through which they were achieved are the real winners of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.
The irony will not be lost on us that many of those governments that choose to praise the winners of the peace prize, are at the same time attempting to destroy and undermine social dialogue in their own countries, as they close down democratic space.
Austerity policies and the attack on wages and social protection has driven the world to the brink of another recession.
Belgium historically had the space for the social dialogue that was a hallmark of a European way of doing business, but these are under attack and social unrest growing. Earlier this week thousands of workers and their families took to the streets to demand to be heard, after growing discontent with the government.
In the UK the Trade Union Bill is the fiercest attack on workers' rights in a century, undermining the right to strike and peacefully protest.
Across the world, there has been an immense increase in the number of arbitrary arrests and detentions of workers for exercising their rights in a legitimate and peaceful manner. According to the findings of the2015 ITUC Global Rights Index, the number of countries where these were used to silence and intimidate activists rose from 35 to 44 in the past year.
Trade unions have stood at the frontlines of struggles for democratic change and social justice throughout history. In many countries we are the organized voice of oppositions to governments operating at the behest of corporate power and vested interests.
This historic award recognized that unions and social dialogue are vital for peace democratic rights and equality. It's a reminder to the world, in the face of workers' rights being stripped away, that if you build unions and social dialogue, you build democracy.
And that's good for people, good for the economy and good for lasting peace.

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