UNDEF marks decade of work with Tunisia’s civil society

Tunisia has been a priority country for UNDEF for the past decade, with 18 UNDEF projects there since 2012 – not least in the crucial area of youth empowerment. Several of UNDEF’s current and completed projects directly support young people’s participation in public and political life, including opportunities yielded by Tunisia’s ongoing decentralization process. One project works in Kairouan, Béja, Jendouba, Mahdia, and Tunis to build young people’s capacity to take part in community affairs and local governance. Implemented by Tamkeen For Development, it trains young people to conduct social audits, with the results published on dedicated platforms; to establish and run a social innovation unit for community projects addressing local needs; to promote awareness and accountability among elected local officials; to bring young people and the larger community closer together. The project was conceived in light of results of Tunisia’s 2018 municipal elections, which confirmed low levels of youth participation even as the ongoing decentralization process presented new opportunities for increased youth involvement in governance and accountability.

Another project builds on the opportunity of Tunisia’s decentralization process to empower young citizens from marginalized regions. Implemented by the   Observatoire Tunisien de l’Economie,  it works to build a youth-led movement for development in El Kef, Medenine, and Kairouan, seeking to integrate young marginalized people into local governance with roles in monitoring public projects, analyzing central authorities policies, identifying the development potential of their regions, and formulating recommendations to local authorities. Working methods, training, and technical tools are developed in parallel with raising awareness on decentralization and democratic participation in remote regions.

A third ongoing project works to engage young citizen journalists and bloggers in national efforts to fight hate speech and violent extremism in Tunisia. Covering Tunis, El Kef, Jandouba, Beja, Sousse, Monastir, Kasserine, Sidibouzeid, Kairouan, Sfax, Gafsa, Touzer, and Medinine, it focuses on producing alternative media; promoting peer-learning for awareness of human rights; and mobilizing local communities against violent extremism. Implemented by the Arab Institute for Human Rights, the project incorporates responses to the Covid-19 crisis in countering misinformation and supporting journalists on the front line.

Another project works in marginalized natural resource-producing regions to empower civil society organizations and local journalists to influence policy reform. Implemented by the Natural Resource Governance Institute, the project works in Gafsa, Tattaouine, and Kebili to build capacity, targeted advocacy and investigative products that inform public opinion on local demands and issues. Ultimately, the project will support the institutionalization of venues for multi-stakeholder natural resource reform through the platforms of the Open Government Partnership and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

UNDEF Senior Project Officer Christian Lamarre visited the above projects in November 2021, participating in workshops and milestone activities. 

To ensure an exchange of lessons learned and best practices, Christian Lamarre also held a roundtable with eight completed UNDEF projects in Tunisia:  Kif-Kif Women and Men, implemented by the Free Sight Association;  Promoting Gender Equality in Decision-Making in Six Regions of Tunisia, implemented by the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability; Observatory for Minority Rights in Tunisia, implemented by the Association pour la Promotion du Droit à la Différence; Women and Men as Equal in Partners in Local Government in Tunisia, implemented by Lam Echaml; Building Public Participation, Trust and Transparency in Local Government in Tunisia, implemented by Action Associative; Entrepreneurship for Participation and Inclusion of Vulnerable Youth, implemented by Tamkeen For Development; Promoting Local and Participatory Democracy, implemented by Observatoire Chahed; Support for Civil Society and Constitutional Processes in Decentralization and Governance, , implemented by Développement Sans Frontières. These projects were the focus of an independent meta-evaluation of UNDEF’s work in Tunisia published here in 2021.