Despite the degree of stability that Tunisia has achieved since its 2011 revolution, there are still obstacles to democratic consolidation, as well as unaddressed issues that threaten social and political stability—such as growing economic disparities, deepening mistrust between civil society and the government, weak local governments, and the difficult process of achieving meaningful institutional reforms.

Ongoing international support exists to bolster economic growth and employment, improve democratic governance, and further securitize borders. But more fundamental support is needed to empower community leaders to peacefully and constructively resolve conflict and governance challenges that affect stability.

USIP’s Work

Since 2014, USIP has provided support to the Alliance of Tunisian Facilitators (ATF). ATF is a network of mediators and dialogue facilitators with a solid understanding of local dynamics and drivers of conflict. USIP has assumed the role of secretariat for ATF, providing administrative, communications, and technical assistance. USIP works with ATF to support outcome-oriented community-based dialogues in response to a range of potentially destabilizing local-level conflict drivers throughout Tunisia, including natural resource governance, management of informal trade, community-police relations, competing socio-religious identities, violent extremism, and local governance.   

ATF Peacebuilding Efforts

Preventing Violent Extremism Through Women Empowerment in Douar Hicher

In the marginalized community of Douar Hicher, high levels of extremist recruitment have been met with a heavy-handed security response that contributes to the community’s fragility. ATF and USIP are empowering local women to rebuild community relationships affected by foreign fighters and violent extremists. By collaborating with local authorities, the participants are working to address localized drivers of radicalization, such as poor relations with government and ineffective policing practices.

Key Results

  • Participants used this safe space to discuss the taboo subject of how radicalization has impacted their families and communities.
  • The participants increased their confidence in speaking to those in power about state marginalization and poor living conditions.
  • Participants created a women’s club in Douar Hichar called Lametna (Our Gathering) for social gathering and learning marketable skills.
  • With this newfound confidence, participants are preparing to participate in two dialogue initiatives: one with the municipality to address governance issues and one with local security forces to address certain policing and collective security approaches in the community.

Peaceful Resolution of Socioeconomic-related Tensions in the Governorate of Tataouine

In early 2017, Tataouine residents organized large demonstrations to protest natural resource governance, investment, and revenue allocation practices. The demonstrations forced gas extraction operations to shut down until the government struck a deal in June 2017. ATF and USIP currently work with the key stakeholders in Tataouine—including the Kamour movement, major labor and agriculture unions, political parties, associations, businesses, and local government representatives—to collectively address the governance challenges that continue to fuel this protest movement. 

Key Results

  • Through the implementation of facilitated community-based dialogues, ATF and USIP gained the trust of local stakeholders and helped enable them to collectively address socio-economic governance issues that are driving conflict.
  • New municipal leaders learned conflict management and citizen engagement techniques to mitigate tensions and prevent violence that can destabilize the region.
  • USIP and ATF have gained the trust of local actors so that when political conditions allow, continued progress can be made. 

Improving Relations Between Youth and Security Forces in Medenine

ATF’s work in Medenine addresses one of the major triggers of conflict in Tunisia: the violent relationship between civilians—particularly youth—and security forces in marginalized communities. ATF brought together at-risk youth, city elders, local unions, and police to discuss the cycle of violence and create local mechanisms for communication between youth and police. 

Key Results

  • ATF facilitators built local consensus to form a conflict mediation unit to mitigate tension and violence between police and the community and to foster collaboration in keeping communities safe.
  • With ATF’s guidance, this mechanism has been formalized and has reduced conflict and prevented violence on multiple occasions, proving its efficacy and scalability. 
  • During the COVID-19 lockdown, this conflict mediation unit played a key role in maintaining calm in the community during the crisis and preventing violence between security forces and frustrated community members.
  • The majority of youth who participated in the dialogue activities have become more proactive in civil society and more comfortable engaging with government.

Supporting Municipal Governance at the Maghrebian Market in Ben Guerdane

On the border with Libya, the town of Ben Guerdane was the site of an ISIS insurgency in 2016. USIP’s conflict analysis of Ben Guerdane revealed post-revolution policies affecting informal trade to be one of the main drivers of conflict and fragility in the area. USIP and its local partners are working with the municipal council, the governor’s office, and informal traders to complete marketplace renovations, legally recognize traders in Ben Guerdane’s main market, and develop governance practices that build confidence and reduce violent responses not only in Ben Guerdane, but across the country’s south. 

Key Results

  • USIP and ATF helped informal vendors reach consensus on their top two priorities for their elected officials and helped them articulate these to the government.
  • To draft the new contract between local government and vendors at the Maghrebian Market, ATF and the municipality led an inclusive process that involved the traders in negotiating the terms, improving the chances of a successful outcome to the dialogue.
  • Following a series of ATF-led negotiations, the municipality agreed to renovate the market space and recognize vendors legally—improving governance of a key engine of local employment.

Transforming Conflict into Cooperation Between Secular and Islamist Student Unions

Student unions in Tunisian universities are the primary outlets for political activism among youth, from which many political leaders have emerged. Tunisia’s leading unions, the UGET and UGTE, have a tense relationship rooted in violent conflict and stark ideological differences. Since 2011, two unsuccessful attempts were made by the Ministry of Higher Education to reconcile the two student unions. Starting in 2015, USIP supported the ATF in designing and implementing a pilot dialogue between UGTE and UGET at the Higher Institute of Accounting and Management at the University of Manouba. The results were groundbreaking:

Key Results

  • The representatives of both unions collaborated for over two years to discuss their differences, common challenges they faced in the universities, and a framework of cooperation. 
  • With guidance from ATF, they developed a code of conduct which outlined the ethics and values of nonviolence. The university adopted this document as the official code of conduct for all newly enrolled students.
  • There were active efforts to prevent violence during the 2017 student union elections, as well as the institutionalization of a peace club with a mandate that serves both the unions and all students as a conflict prevention mechanism.
  • The Ministry of Higher Education adopted this model into the national reform strategy in 2018, mainstreaming the code of conduct and conflict resolution as a key theme in the ministry draft strategy.

Latest Publications

South Sudan’s people have spoken on peace. Is anyone listening?

South Sudan’s people have spoken on peace. Is anyone listening?

Friday, April 16, 2021

By: Ola Mohajer; David Deng

The United States played a key role in the emergence of South Sudan as an independent state 10 years ago. Yet today, U.S. policy toward the country is insufficient to address the continued violence or promote sustainable peace. Even so, it is not too late for U.S. policymakers to embark upon a renewed push for peace. To move forward, they should listen to what South Sudan’s people said in the recently concluded National Dialogue and incorporate its recommendations in diplomatic, humanitarian and development strategies for the country.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan: End to an Endless War?

U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan: End to an Endless War?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

By: Scott Worden; Johnny Walsh; Belquis Ahmadi; Ambassador Richard Olson

President Joe Biden formally announced on Wednesday that the United States will withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaida attacks that led to the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban. The decision comes a month after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken looked to jump-start the moribund intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha, Qatar with a sweeping set of proposals. Although the withdrawal would mean an end to America’s longest war, the implications for Afghanistan’s hard-won progress are immense and many fear the possibility of a rejuvenated civil war after U.S. troops leave.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

The Intertwined Futures of Climate Action, Fragility and Peacebuilding

The Intertwined Futures of Climate Action, Fragility and Peacebuilding

Thursday, April 15, 2021

By: Anthony Navone

Crises are often described narrowly; clearly differentiated by the aspect of society they impact, such as the economy or national security. But the COVID pandemic and looming climate crisis have shown that lines distinguishing one crisis from another aren’t as distinct as they may seem, and that underlying issues like COVID can impact a number of sectors simultaneously. Navigating the intersection of health, economic, governance and humanitarian issues has become the defining challenge of the pandemic response...

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Fragility & Resilience

It Is Time to Rethink U.S. Strategy in the Sahel

It Is Time to Rethink U.S. Strategy in the Sahel

Thursday, April 15, 2021

By: Kamissa Camara

Close to 10 years after the French military intervention pushed al-Qaida affiliated fighters out of northern Mali, the Sahel region continues to make headlines with the world’s fastest growing Islamist insurgency and one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises. Across the region, insecurity and socio-political instability continue to reach new heights. Yet, unrelenting setbacks in the fight against terrorism are undermining political support for international actors within a region where a donor “traffic jam” is currently at play. For these reasons, a change in international policy toward the Sahel is not only necessary, it has become inevitable.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Conflict and Crisis in South Sudan’s Equatoria

Conflict and Crisis in South Sudan’s Equatoria

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

By: Alan Boswell

South Sudan’s civil war expanded into Equatoria, the country’s southernmost region, in 2016, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee into neighboring Uganda in what has been called Africa’s largest refugee exodus since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Equatoria is now the last major hot spot in the civil war. If lasting peace is to come to South Sudan, writes Alan Boswell, it will require a peace effort that more fully reckons with the long-held grievances of Equatorians.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

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