In Tunisia, civil society organizations (CSOs) across the country have taken principal roles in supporting government efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. By standing up government efforts with resources, leadership, or community relationships, these CSOs have held an important role in virus response across the country. Be it through local crisis committee leadership, or by informing government responses with health care data, NDI’s partners have been able to organize their expertise and services in concert with government responses. At the same time, NDI’s partners have continued advocacy efforts that were in progress before the pandemic. In Medenine, one such partner, Pole Civil, has mobilized skills learned through their work with NDI to both continue in their activist role during the pandemic, lifting youth voices while using their skills and resources to strengthen community responses to COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, NDI worked with Pole Civil to design and implement a citizen-driven environmental advocacy campaign. The group has recently presented youth recommendations on environmental issues to local elected officials, including establishing neighborhood forums to raise awareness of environmental issues, creating public green spaces, and committing to regular garbage pickups. During the pandemic, Pole Civil entered the monitoring phase of their project to track progress on implementing these recommendations, including monitoring the establishment of neighborhood forums, confirming elected officials’ commitment to join the open government program, and introducing measures to improve transparency and enhance citizen participation in Medenine. The group is also working to confirm that the health and hygiene committee has cleaned up all unregulated waste sites to make room for more green spaces throughout the municipality.
In addition to its environmental work, Pole Civil has also supported local pandemic responses. In Medenine, Pole Civil volunteered to disinfect public spaces, donated 1,000 protective materials to both civilians and security workers, and gathered and distributed aid to poor families. Pole Civil also launched and operated a delivery shopping service so citizens could get groceries and supplies delivered to their homes to reduce the number of people in public places. These services have been key to supplementing the government’s efforts in Medenine. Pole Civil has utilized resource mobilization and organizational skills developed during NDI trainings to enhance its community efforts.
Pole Civil serves as a prime example of the capacity of NDI partners to serve dual purposes in times of crisis: continuing to advance their pre-crisis advocacy efforts while shifting resources to help support their communities' emergency needs. Through its radio broadcast series “Our Municipality,” Pole Civil has aptly demonstrated that duality by providing a platform to discuss local policy issues with citizens. Broadcasts that typically focus on local environmental efforts have shifted to include evaluating municipal action during the health crisis, and tracking progress of municipal committees in addressing citizen concerns. As the severity of the pandemic lessens in Tunisia, Pole Civil’s environmental work will likely retake center-stage. For a deeper dive into the group’s engagement with environmental advocacy, this video shows the development of the campaign and its achievements so far.
The National Democratic Institute’s work with the Tunisian CSOs is generously funded by the United States Department of State’s Near East Bureau.
Authors: Andrew Blunt (Project Assistant) works with NDI’s Middle East and North Africa team.