The Nobel Peace Prize Committee confounded all expectations Friday -- bypassing global figures such as Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- and handed the award to the National Dialogue Quartet for its "decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011."
The Quartet is a group dedicated to creating dialogue between disparate elements of Tunisian society.
"The Quartet was formed in the summer of 2013 when the democratization process was in danger of collapsing as a result of political assassinations and widespread social unrest," the Nobel committee said in a statement. "It established an alternative, peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war. It was thus instrumental in enabling Tunisia, in the space of a few years, to establish a constitutional system of government guaranteeing fundamental rights for the entire population, irrespective of gender, political conviction or religious belief."
The group includes a labor union, a trade confederation, a human rights organization and a lawyers group.
In a broader sense, the prize appeared to be an effort by the Nobel Committee to bolster the Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia in December 2010.
The Arab Spring began with hope and idealism, and spread across parts of the Middle East and North Africa.
It has seen those ideals mired in bitter reality in many countries -- most notably in Syria, where an uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad has morphed into a devastating civil war that has pushed waves of desperate people to attempt to migrate to Europe.