Civil society at the heart of transition and reform processes in Tunisia – Experiences and prospects

When, local time: 
Wednesday, 14 December 2016 -
5:45pm to 8:00pm
France, Paris
Type of Event: 
Meeting by Member States or Institutions
Phinith Chanthalangsy,

UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector, in collaboration with the Permanent Delegation of Tunisia to UNESCO and the Tunis-based Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR), organizes a conference on the crucial role played by civil society organizations at a time of democratic transition in Tunisia. Since the outbreak of the revolution in January 2011, civil society organizations – and human rights organizations in particular – have become key stakeholders in rethinking new models of development, of democracy, and of citizenship.

The Tunisian experiences which will be presented at this conference will foster reflections on the close linkage between the fundamental human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and the participative democracy. The key initiatives undertaken in Tunisia could also illustrate the innovative and creative character of civil society actors in the recent years in the Maghreb region.

Far from the traditional idea of civil society as counter-power, the case of Tunisia has shown that in critical moments of transition, civil society organizations have been able to play both the role of collaboration and innovation for the general interest, in close dialogue with national institutions. Beyond opposition, or a mere competition between stakeholders, the Tunisian experience has shown that democratic transition can be authentic but when there is composition, integration, and innovation.

During this conference, the collaborative role will be illustrated by the particularly significant way in which the reform of the education system has been designed. Launched in 2015, the challenge was to form the national steering committee with the Ministry of Education on the one hand, and two civil society organizations (AIHR-Arab Institute for Human Rights and the National Union, UGTT) – which is unprecedented for such a national project. This participatory and inclusive process is chosen as a motto "For an inclusive dialogue on schools for citizenship”. Collaboration is also illustrated by the National and Constitutional Dialogue that actively involved civil society organizations side by side with the national institutions and political parties.

Finally, the innovative and creative character of civil society actors is remarkable in all fields in the recent years in Tunisia. At this conference, the experience of the Arab Institute of Human Rights (AIHR) will be presented to illustrate how a human rights organization has been able to work in support of the national transitional context. The philosophy of Dar Essaida - the new AIHR headquarters - will be exposed as a model transposable in the region and beyond.