As the Arab Spring’s birthplace and its sole fledgling democracy, Tunisia represents an encouraging yet incomplete victory against authoritarian rule and violent extremism. Tunisia’s progress since the revolution in 2011 makes it an important democratic partner in a volatile region. However, a persistent economic crisis, political disaffection, and the inherent difficulties of a major political and social transition continue to threaten the country’s stability. 

Elections in late 2019 swept in a new mosaic of smaller political movements reflecting the public’s deep dissatisfaction with the status quo and the stalled transition. This broad array of new parties has struggled to form a cohesive government capable of overcoming complex partisanship. 

USIP’S Work

Since 2012, USIP’s peacebuilding programs have empowered Tunisians to safeguard their democratic gains, reduce violent extremism, and address fragility. USIP fosters inclusive governance, dialogue, and security sector reform. The Institute also conducts research that informs future programs and analyzes ongoing efforts. This research is used by USIP, U.S. policymakers, and international partners to develop new interventions. From its offices in Washington, D.C. and Tunis, USIP convenes thought leaders, government officials, and international visitors.

Localized Peacebuilding Processes with National Impact

Drawing from its pioneering work in local conflict resolution and violence prevention, USIP established the Alliance of Tunisian Facilitators (ATF) in 2014. Together, USIP and ATF develop and implement field-tested peacebuilding processes in locations where local conflicts have national and international implications. The ATF includes lawyers, journalists, civil society leaders, and other professionals who understand local conflict dynamics and the causes of tension. USIP empowers these leaders to constructively and inclusively resolve underlying conflicts that affect the community’s and nation’s stability. Examples of ATF’s peacebuilding work include:

  • Douar Hichar: In this marginalized community, high levels of recruitment by extremist organizations have been met with a heavy-handed security response that is often cited as contributing to the community’s fragility. USIP and its local partners are building resiliency by empowering women from the community to reintegrate families who have been alienated due to ties with extremists, reduce social stigma, and to work with local authorities on the drivers of radicalization.
  • Medenine: ATF’s work in Medenine addresses one of the major triggers of conflict in Tunisia: the violent relationship between civilians and security forces in marginalized communities, particularly youth. USIP and ATF facilitators led a youth and police reconciliation and training process that has resulted in them coming together to form a conflict mediation unit that is actively preventing violence and improving security in Medenine.
  • Tataouine: ATF and USIP have worked with municipalities, regional authorities, major unions, political parties, and businesses to collectively address the governance challenges that led to the 2017 uprising at the Kamour oil field and that continue to drive conflict, marginalize citizens, and threaten stability.

Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (SNAP)

Civil society activists are critical to Tunisia’s transition. Activists can improve their effectiveness through strategically employing a mix of nonviolent action and peacebuilding approaches. But which approaches, and in what sequence, are most effective? The SNAP program builds bridges between peacebuilding and nonviolent action practitioners in Tunisia and equips them to determine the most strategic and effective methods from both fields in order to advance justice, promote human rights, and build sustainable peace.

USIP works across Tunisia, and the capital Tunis is home to the Institute’s regional office, which implements programs, convenes

Supporting Community-Focused Policing

Internal security forces are on the front lines of Tunisia’s political transition. They are critical to protecting communities and deepening their trust in elected governance after decades of authoritarian rule. To sustain Tunisia’s democratic institutions, the nation’s security forces need to become inclusive, citizen-centric, skilled in handling emerging security challenges such as violent extremism, and proactive in institutionalizing reforms.

With these objectives in mind, USIP supports the Tunisian National Police and the National Guard in reforming their training management, pedagogical approaches, and curricula. The Institute conducted a comprehensive assessment of training systems and is providing technical assistance as they transform their training systems to develop a professional, community-oriented security service.

USIP’s Justice and Security Dialogue program works in Tunisia to build trust and cooperation among Tunisian citizens and security providers. This transparent, participatory dialogue allows Tunisian citizens and security forces to jointly identify and address local and national security challenges.

Improving Regional Border Security

Across the Maghreb, USIP has worked with leaders to enhance border security cooperation. The Institute brought together ministry officials and border guards from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia for a series of workshops to develop a strategic action plan. The final document was disseminated to the U.S. State Department and the Global Counterterrorism Forum.

Related Publications

Elie Abouaoun on Tunisia’s New Constitution

Elie Abouaoun on Tunisia’s New Constitution

Thursday, July 28, 2022

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun

On Monday, Tunisians voted on a new constitution proposed by President Kais Saied that vastly expands the powers of his office. While turnout was low, many Tunisians “support what the president is doing … they are voting based on one specific objective, which is to improve economic and social conditions,” says USIP’s Elie Abouaoun.

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Tunisia’s new constitution expands presidential power. What’s next for its democracy?

Tunisia’s new constitution expands presidential power. What’s next for its democracy?

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A year after Tunisian President Kais Saied began a series of moves that expanded presidential powers, a new constitution further empowering the presidency has been approved by referendum. Amid a dire economic crisis, many Tunisians expressed support for Saied’s moves, as the promise of the 2011 uprising evaporated over the last decade. While the referendum passed with 94 percent of the vote, only 30 percent of Tunisians participated. Once heralded as the sole democratic success of the Arab uprisings, Tunisia’s democratic future trajectory is more uncertain than ever following the constitutional referendum.

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Tunisia's Twin Democracy and Economic Crises Push it to the Brink

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Last July, Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended parliament in what many observers called a bloodless coup. Saied’s supporters — of which there are many — claim that this extreme executive action was necessary to root out rampant government corruption and ineffectiveness. Polling at the time showed widespread dissatisfaction with the performance of parliament and the prime minister; many Tunisians felt that their high expectations following the 2011 popular revolution were not realized and that the country was heading in the wrong direction.

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