As Tunisia struggles to build a stable democracy from its 2011 Arab Spring revolution, it must overcome terrorist attacks, high unemployment, a refugee crisis and the threat of social turmoil. The stakes are region-wide, as Tunisia remains the only one of five Arab Spring countries to be treading a non-violent, democratic path. A critical figure in Tunisia’s evolution—Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamist movement Nahda—visited USIP, together with the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, on October 28 to discuss how his country can consolidate its progress.

20151028-Ghannouchi-Balancing-Democracy-and-Security-in-North-Africa-event.jpg

Tunisia’s success or failure in building a peaceful democracy is central to U.S. and international interests in a stable North Africa, Middle East and Arab world—an importance recognized this month by the award of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize to key mediators in the country’s political struggle. After two attacks by militant gunmen killed scores of people and crimped the country’s vital tourist economy this year, the government imposed a state of emergency—a step that raised fears among many Tunisians about a return to the country’s decades of authoritarian, police-enforced rule.

Disillusion among young Tunisians has made the country one of the biggest recruiting grounds for violent militant groups such as ISIS. As Tunisian youth circulate to battlefields in the Middle East—and as this nation of 11 million people hosts one million or more refugees from the civil war in neighboring Libya—how can Tunisia manage its borders, improve its security, prevent violence, and also strengthen democratic politics?

In discussing these questions, Sheikh Ghannouchi is a vital voice. His movement, Nahda, led the first post-revolution government, which wrote the country’s new, more democratic, constitution. It is now a coalition partner in the secularist government led by President Beji Caid Essebsi. Sheikh Ghannouchi delivered remarks on the challenges facing his homeland and its region. He then joined Ambassador William Taylor and author Robin Wright in a discussion that included questions from the audience and social media. Continue the conversation on Twitter with #USIPTunisia.

Speakers

Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi
President , Ennahda Movement
 
Robin Wright
Distinguished Scholar, United States Institute of Peace
 
William Taylor, Moderator
Executive Vice President, United States Institute of Peace

Related Publications

Will Tunisia's First Local Elections Advance its Democracy?

Will Tunisia's First Local Elections Advance its Democracy?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

By: Darine El Hage; USIP Staff

It has been over seven years since Mohamed Bouazizi’s protest sparked an uprising that led to the overthrow of longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and spread throughout the Middle East. While the promise of the early days of the Arab uprising has evaporated throughout much of the region, Tunisia has continued its democratic transition in the face of economic and security challenges.

Democracy & Governance

How Can U.S. Better Help Tunisia to Curb ISIS Recruitment?

How Can U.S. Better Help Tunisia to Curb ISIS Recruitment?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

By: USIP Staff

As Tunisia last month celebrated the 2011 overthrow of its dictatorship, thousands of young Tunisians protested in streets nationwide, often clashing with police. Young Tunisians widely voice an angry despair at being unemployed, untrained for jobs, and unable to build futures for themselves. The single democracy to have arisen from the Arab Spring uprisings is undermined by the feelings of hopelessness among many youth, and by their exploitation by extremist groups linked to ISIS and al-Qaida. To help Tunisian, U.S. and other efforts to build hope for Tunisia’s youth, a small, USIP-funded project is measuring which kinds of programs are actually effective.

Violent Extremism; Youth

Tunisia: Democratic but Precarious

Tunisia: Democratic but Precarious

Friday, December 22, 2017

By: James Rupert

Amid central Tunisia’s dry farmlands, the city of Sidi Bouzid bustled one recent day under warm autumn sunshine. Street vendors and shoppers jostled under the roof of a new, open-air market, selling and buying produce or cheap clothes. Seven years after an impoverished street vendor in this city immolated himself and ignited the Arab Spring revolutions, his homeland has achieved a precarious stability. By many measures the Arab world’s only democracy, Tunisia remains hobbled by corruption, unemployment and violent extremism.

Democracy & Governance; Violent Extremism

View All Publications