The Forum in Tunisia
March 2015 – March 2016
Project Title: Support for Decentralization in Tunisia
The need for Tunisia to develop its institutional capacity to facilitate democratic decentralization, and increase Tunisian’s understanding of and participation in this process, is essential and has particular urgency in the context of the regional and municipal elections which will be held in early 2016. For decentralization to have the desired impact, decision-making power must be vested in all levels of government – national, regional, and local. These elections represent a proving ground for the decentralization ideals of the new Tunisian constitution, and an opportunity for stakeholders to influence policy making in their localities. Ensuring that government officials, particularly local and regional officials, comprehend decentralization and are able to implement the devolved governance processes that accompany it will be crucial. Similarly, the participation of women in the political process, particularly at the regional and local level, is fundamental to the principles of democratic governance that decentralization is designed to foster. Empowering women to participate in the political process at levels of government that are closest to them has the potential to improve service delivery. Obtaining an inclusive understanding of Tunisia’s governance reform process, and the institutional capacity to implement change are necessary pre-requisites for Tunisia to achieve long term peace, stability, and a system of democratic government which meets the needs of citizens.
The project has three inter-related components:
- Reinforcing Institutions to coordinate and implement the decentralization process enshrined in the new Constitution.
- Education on Decentralization for Civil Society and Media
- Increasing intellectual capital on decentralization – publications and training materials.
- Increase the capacity of Tunisian stakeholders to participate in Tunisia’s decentralization process and to make informed choices on the design and implementation of decentralized state structures. Enhance the understanding of all on the importance of women’s contribution to the achievement of decentralized state building and the need to enable their full participation.
- Increase the capacity of Tunisian Institutions to steer the decentralization process, roll out the legal and enabling framework for this process, and further the understanding of Tunisian Public Servants and elected officials of devolved state building.
- Increase intellectual capital on the theme of decentralization and devolved state building.
The Forum implemented the project Support of Constitutional Reform and Decentralization in Tunisia.
Of all the countries associated with the Arab Spring, Tunisia has been at its origin and is now furthest along in the process of democratic and constitutional reform: On 23 October 2011, Tunisians elected a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution nine months after they overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising. Former human rights activist Moncef Marzouki was elected as President on 12 December 2011.
The project focused on decentralization and devolving power from the central authorities to lower levels of government. It aimed to build and increase capacity of Tunisian stakeholders to make informed choices in the design and processes related to devolved governance, and to adequately address regional inequities. The main stakeholders in this process were the Constituent Assembly (CA), and more specifically the CA-Commission for Regional and Local Collectivities which set the constitutional framework for devolving power, and the Ministry for Regional Development and Planning (MRDP) which implemented in practical terms the new constitutional setting, aimed at relieving inefficiencies and regional inequities. The need for being engaged by the project arose therefore with these two key-players. Both institutions received training and were advised by the Forum on getting expertise and experience of other decentralized countries. The MRDP also assisted in designing the system of benchmarks for a better and more responsive governance at regional and sub-regional level. The Forum engaged with stakeholders of civil society and provided training on different options of devolved government as well as the design for a transparent and efficient public service delivery at regional and municipal level.
Forum experts provided training and access to comparative experience from other countries on devolution to the CA-Commission of Regional and Local Collectivities, and facilitated consultation and feed-back between the CA-Commission of Regional and Local Collectivities with stakeholders of civil society. Forum experts helped the Ministry of Regional Development and Planning to establish a framework for efficient and responsive service delivery on the regional and sub-regional level, identified appropriate data for setting up an efficient benchmarking system, and provided training on regional and sub-regional resource management. Finally, Forum experts organized training sessions for stakeholders of civil society on options and institutional design for devolved government at universities or other educational institutions.