During the week of May 8th - 12th, NDI-Tunisia and our civil society partners join the annual celebrations of the International Week of Open Government through ongoing programming on open, accountable and transparent governance processes with the Government of Tunisia, and the El Kef Municipality in northwest Tunisia. Despite escalating challenges to the core democratic freedoms enshrined in the 2014 and 2022 constitutions, civil society organizations (CSOs) continue to advance their campaigns for more responsive governance.
Through State Department MEPI funding, NDI-Tunisia is supporting 12 Tunisian CSOs to create the first “Tunisian Forum for Open Government Partnership (OGP) CSOs” to promote a collaborative framework to engage the Government of Tunisia on open governance objectives. One of the key priorities of the Forum is to advocate for reforms, especially on financial transparency. This is a real priority since the government received two notification letters from OGP warning that the country has been placed under procedural review and is at risk of being designated an "inactive country" because of the delay in the adoption of the Executive Budget Audit Report. Inactive members are not eligible to run in Steering Committee elections and may only attend OGP events as observers for learning purposes. If a country remains inactive for a year without communicating its intention to continue participating in OGP, it will be automatically withdrawn from membership.
“Our role is mainly about supporting the steering committee to help in achieving the commitments and the provided action plans in order to sustain the membership of Tunisia in OGP. Through sending letters to the relevant Tunisian institutions and holding press conferences, we are trying our best to engage them in order to avoid the scenario of revoking our membership from OGP.” - Aicha Karafi, President of Tunisian Association for Local Governance.
Onshor Association, a member of the Tunisian Forum for OGP, led an advocacy campaign consisting of regular meetings with the Tunisian government. These meetings helped create a push toward better policies such as the Promulgation of Governmental Decree No. 2021-3. The decree regulates the publication process of government data in accordance with the principle of opening up. It also helped propel the adoption of the new version of the National Open Data Portal on March 19th, 2021, which is a unified access point to government data produced and published by public structures at central and regional levels.
“Tunisian Civil Society played a major role in the process of Open Governance with providing suggestions and solutions that are in direct relation to the needs of citizens and local communities. During our active participation in the steering committee, we kept on monitoring the commitments and helped in achieving them with the assistance of local and international partners.” - Charfeddine Yakoubi, President of Onshor Association.
On a local level, NDI-Tunisia, with National Endowment for Democracy funding, supported the El Kef Municipality in implementing their first OGP Action Plan (2021-23) made up of four commitments. These commitments include digitizing the archive and opening it to the public, launching a website that deals with women’s concerns and interests, the creation of digitized citizen space, and the adoption of an internal audit system to ensure transparency of conduct and management.
During the first few weeks that followed the start of the OGP experience in El Kef, little progress had been made on starting the OGP Co-Creation process. As the municipality and the CSO partners faced challenges in establishing a partnership based on trust, the OGP support unit asked NDI-Tunisia to support OGP in El Kef in November 2021. NDI focused on helping the two partners understand the benefits of OGP for both parties and, most importantly, for the citizens of El Kef.
By late 2022, thanks to all stakeholders’ full engagement in a constructive partnership, El Kef managed its municipal affairs more transparently, improved its local policies and services and also inspired other municipalities who are interested in replicating El Kef’s success.
The various stakeholders have praised the value of NDI’s technical support for El Kef’s OGP process, as well as its adaptation to the El Kef stakeholders’ needs and respect for their ownership and leadership.
“NDI reestablished the link and the collaboration between the civil society and the municipality through the facilitation of meetings and the training sessions that have always been specifically tailored to meet the specific needs of the OGP stakeholders.” - Representative of Civil Society in the El Kef OGP Steering Committee.
Despite the challenges encountered by OGP's initiatives in Tunisia to date and the ongoing legal and structural reforms that will impact all levels of government, many local government and civil society actors remain committed to making meaningful advancements and growth. The accomplishments made so far demonstrate the efficiency of OGP's methodology in encouraging transparency, responsibility and civic engagement. With greater political investment from the Tunisian Government and cohesive strategic planning and cooperation among stakeholders, there is reason to be optimistic about the future of local and MENA OGP endeavors beyond the program's conclusion. By harnessing the momentum created by OGP's actions, Tunisia has a foundation from which to forge ahead toward a more democratic and inclusive society.
This Project was implemented with the support of the US Department of State through their “Toward Open Governance in the Middle East and North Africa” program.
Authors: Amel Bouguerra, Program Officer; Nejib Jeridi, Senior Program Manager; Jihene Berriri, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.