World leaders urged to do more to support Tunisia during crucial transition

10 December 2015

The Director of Deakin University’s Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Professor Fethi Mansouri has called on world leaders to give more support to Tunisia as it makes transitions towards sustainable democratic governance.

Professor Mansouri, who holds the UNESCO Chair in comparative research on Cultural Diversity and Social Justice, said the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian civil society leaders who helped the country’s smooth transition to democracy was a significant achievement and the country should be given more support by world leaders.

“The President of the United States and World Leaders talk about peace in the Middle East and North Africa,” he said.

“Yet they take certain things for granted, spending billions in Syria and previously Iraq apparently in an attempt to bring down dictatorship in favour of  democratic reform,  yet nothing is done when there is a successful democratisation model in front of them in the same region.”

Professor Mansouri said the Tunisian model needed a different kind of support to the military kind usually provided elsewhere in the region.

“As the Nobel Committee commented, Tunisia faces significant political, economic and security challenges,” he said.

“Tunisia has a high unemployment rate (15.7%) and low economic growth (recently described as being in technical recession) not helped by a lack of a clear and practical plan by the current government for improving the economy.

“Although politically much more stable than its neighbours, religious violence perpetrated by radical jihadist groups  is a real threat  and a practical and deep reconciliation between Islamist and non-Islamist political parties remains a  real challenge despite recent progress.”

Professor Mansouri said world leaders could help the democratic process in Tunisia by lending not only moral support but much needed help with reform in a number of key sectors most notably security and law enforcement, the judiciary and  local governance (especially that the 2016 municipal elections are looming as yet another important step along the democratic and decentralisation process)  

Professor Mansouri said the message to the world when the committee awarded Tunisia the Nobel Peace Prize was one of support to the Tunisian people and other countries aspiring to  go through the difficult democratic transition process.

“The committee is saying here is an authentic and local model that brings different political and ideological parties together through dialogue and consensus mediated and led by  civil society actors” he said.

“In its statement the committee ‘hoped it would be an inspiration to all those who seek to promote peace and democracy in the Middle East, North Africa and the rest of the world.

“’More than anything, the prize is intended as an encouragement to the Tunisian people, who despite major challenges have laid the groundwork for a national fraternity which the Committee hopes will serve as an example to be followed by other countries’.”

Professor Mansouri said Tunisia was at the height of a political crisis when the quartet emerged.

“After the assassination of two key political leaders, the country could have gone the Libyan/Egyptian way into civil war or taken another route,” he said.

“But the National Dialogue Quartet - the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers created a unique opening.

“They were able to bring all the political actors together for various rounds of dialogue which led to culmination of a road map to democracy, the creation of a caretaker government and ultimately the adoption of a new constitution.

“In the space of a few months it turned the situation around and put the country back on a transition pathway.”

Contact: Sandra Kingston

Phone: 03 92445274

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