Tunisia’s constitutional court: The institutional arbitrator put on hold

Since the Tunisian Constitution was adopted in 2014, DRI has accompanied the democratic transition process in Tunisia and continually monitored the implementation of the constitution.

According to Article 148 of the constitution, the constitutional court should have been put in place within a year of the first parliamentary elections, which took place in 2014. Yet, it still remains absent to this day – an absence that has significant negative effects on Tunisia’s judicial order and the functioning of its political system.

DRI Tunisia recently organised a colloquium to discuss the obstacles to the creation of the court as well as potential ways forward. Read the full story in French.

Evaluating local democracy in Tunisia

Democracy Reporting International recently completed an effort to evaluate the state of local democracy in the Tunisian communities of Ariana and El Hencha. The results of this work, brought together in two reports, were presented to four national institutions, including the Ministry of Local Affairs and the Environment, along with recommendations for how the central government can help improve local democracy, the regulatory framework and further decentralisation efforts.

Meeting with the Executive Director of the Decentralisation Support and Training Centre, Mr Ridha Saadi, on 28 October 2020.

As part of our efforts to strengthen links between civil society and the local governments of these two communities, DRI Tunisia organised workshops on 21 and 27 October 2020.

Workshop in El Hencha on 21 October 2020, led by DRI’s Aly Mhenni

The workshop held in El Hencha led to the adoption of a key recommendation to reinforce political participation through better cooperation between local government and civil society as part of a joint working group that will also include youth participants.

Workshop in Ariana on 27 October, led by DRI’s Emna Mouelhi

The workshop held in Ariana also recommended closer cooperation between the municipality and civil society. Concretely, the municipality committed to working with a local NGO to raise awareness of people’s right to access information and with private enterprises to improve access to parking in the municipality.

Together, these three advocacy efforts helped put local players at the centre of decentralisation and political participation efforts. This is part of the process of handing over ownership of the local democracy assessment to those best placed to move these measures forward through concrete measures and the creation of a favourable environment and help build the realisation of local development through sustainable efforts.

This work was part of DRI Tunisia’s project “Support to Constitution Implementation in Tunisia – Phase III”, which is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

DRI Tunisia meets with Speaker of the People’s Assembly

Rashad Khriji Ghannouchi, Speaker of Tunisia’s Assembly of the Representatives of the People, received representatives from DRI Tunisia on 21 October. DRI Country Director Mohamed Wassim B’chir, Project Director Josselin Léon and Legal Adviser Amine Thabet met with the speaker in the parliament building.

“I appreciate what Democracy Reporting International has done since you supported the National Constituent Assembly fostering national dialogue and drafting the 2014 constitution, as well as your contribution to promoting a democratic transition in our country,” said Speaker Ghannouchi.

The Speaker and Jamila Ksiksi, responsible for relations with citizens and civil society, emphasised the role played by DRI in the country since 2011. This work has continued since in supporting legislative reform and in the creation of a charter for cooperation between the Assembly and civil society.

The meeting was also an opportunity to present DRI’s work, values, and ongoing projects in Tunisia and across our seven country offices. Finally, the Speaker and DRI Tunisia also discussed the opportunities for continued cooperation between our organisation and the Assembly.


Meeting of DRI Tunisia representatives with the Speaker of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People and his assistant responsible for relations with citizens and civil society.

The DRI Tunisia Country Director presents DRI reports to the President of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People.

Tunisia: Access to information – a prerequisite for managing crises

On Monday, 28 September 2020, Tunisia celebrated this year’s International Access to Information Day under the theme “The Right of Access to Information in Times of Crisis”. At a time characterised by the intense global spread of covid-19, access to information remains a fundamental right for citizens and a necessity for the successful management of this health crisis.

Together with the official Access to Information Authority (INAI), UNESCO and Article 19, DRI Tunisia held an event to mark the occasion, gathering political figures, members of independent public bodies, civil society and journalists.

Read the full story in French here.

Tunisia: Work continues, pandemic or not

By Yasmine Chaouch, Communications Officer, DRI Tunisia

We have been working with local authorities and civil society groups in Tunisia, strengthening the country’s democratic transformation and supporting the implementation of the Local Government Code, which frames how municipalities can operate. We have been able to lay the groundwork for collaboration between civil society groups and local governments through workshops, publications and several reports monitoring the implementation of the constitution.

This year, a notable focus of our work has been working with four civil society groups from the municipalities of Ariana and Hencha to help improve how they manage projects and support their work in partnership with their local municipalities.

This work was to start on 12 March 2020, continuing throughout March and April. Little did we know that the whole country would go into a national lockdown after our first day, on 13 March. We had to think fast and adapt to the situation as there was no crisis plan for the four civil society groups or their municipal partners.

 

“Lockdown or not, Ramadan or not, the work continues. It was a great experience to collaborate and work online with DRI,” said participant Aicha Karafi Hosni.

 

With a little coordination between our team and our partners, we set up a virtual training room via visio.tn, a Tunisian platform, complete with separate workshop spaces for every civil society organisation to work on their strategy and brainstorm on how to deal with the current situation with the local authorities.

While the main pillars for the training were kept, on drafting project proposals, choosing the right work plan, identifying indicators, and other elements, we also had to improvise with new themes, such as how to respond quickly to a crisis and widening the risk assessment matrix that needs to go with every project.

“The training is vital for anyone who claims to want to make a change, even small. It was an intense and deep reflection on the purpose of citizen engagement, on what we want to do, on what we can do and especially on what we cannot do,” said Elyssa Amara. “A real intellectual confinement, in addition to the physical confinement, which taught us to be very careful in the choice of our project and very precise in the way making it alive.”

Thankfully, despite the physical limitations, participants easily joined and took part in the workshops and plan to keep working online to finalize and present their projects.

This activity took place as part of the third phase of the “Support to the Constitution Implementation in Tunisia” project, funded and supported by the German Federal Foreign Office.

Young civil society leaders work to strengthen local democracy in Tunisia

Twenty-three young leaders of different professional backgrounds gathered from across five governates for the third session of the Young Leaders for Local Democracy programme delivered by DRI Tunisia. For four days, from 24 to 27 October, the participants were able to deepen their knowledge of human rights, rule of law and democracy.

The young leaders learned about the fundamentals of human rights and were able to study real life examples from history, from the First World War to the new Tunisian Constitution. They also put their knowledge into practice in simulations inspired from their everyday work to promote youth participation in local democracy.

Young leaders learning more about the history of Human Rights during a simulation

Participants were exposed to situations that can challenge them professionally, such as the state of emergency and the absence of a Constitutional Court in Tunisia. This was followed by a debate about the role of justice and its independence to guarantee the rule of law. Amal Chtourou from Sfax highlighted the importance of the simulation to better dive into the topic and Wissem Omrani from Tozeur gave real examples from his work with “The Hive”, a local civil society group working to promote youth participation in the democratic process.

This session was also an opportunity for the DRI team to present and talk about subgrants that will be given to participants to support their small projects promoting local democracy and youth participation in their respective cities. The small projects will be implemented from January 2020 onwards and will go on for approximatively four months.

The DRI team presented a subgrants information session

DRI Tunisia promotes youth participation in local democracy initiatives and wants to give young civil society leaders the right tools to better support Tunisian democracy.

This activity is part of a series of training sessions targeting young civil society leaders all over Tunisia and is part of a project supported by the Swiss Cooperation Agency.

Tunisian Audit Court prepares for its enhanced role

The organic law governing the Tunisian Audit Court (AC) will be applied from 1 January 2020 onwards. This law defines the new powers of the AC and affirms its crucial role of providing financial accountability and jurisdiction. The AC is one of a number of independent institutions that provide additional checks and balances to Tunisia’s democratic institution.

Meeting on 19 and 20 October 2019, more than 70 members of the Audit Court (magistrates, commissioners, administrative and financial staff, members of the financial jurisdiction of the High Judiciary Council) reviewed the new framework. The first plenary session was an opportunity to shed light on the novelties of the law and to clarify any additional tasks conferred on the Court in order to better anchor its central role as a high financial jurisdiction respecting the principles of accountability and transparency.

Several workshops have allowed participants to dive deeper into five themes addressing directions to be taken for the proper implementation of the organic law. The main objective of the working groups was to determine a roadmap for each of the selected topics in particular: Management shortcomings, Reporting follow-up, Assistance to the executive and legislative powers and certification of accounts, Administrative and financial management, Jurisdictional procedures.

 Participants worked in groups to focus on different topics addressing the new organic law

These various working sessions allowed members of the Audit Court to meet and formulate their needs with a participatory approach and to draw up a general plan of action for the effective implementation of the law. Other sessions supported by DRI Tunisia will be planned to deepen each theme and thus implement the actions to be undertaken as soon as possible.

DRI supported the event in the framework of its project “Support to Constitution Implementation in Tunisia – Phase III”, funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Broad coalition of observers and partners to monitor Tunisian elections

Broad coalition of civil society observers to monitor Tunisian elections, emphasise barriers to social media monitoring

With Tunisia facing presidential and parliamentary elections this Autumn, cooperation between the numerous observation groups and their partners in Tunisia is vital for successful monitoring. To address this, representatives of 40 electoral observation groups agreed to form a coalition that will monitor the upcoming elections.

This decision was made at an event that brought together over 100 Tunisian observers, civil society partners and international stakeholders from 1 to 4 September 2019 in Hammamet. The event, organised by I-WATCH, the local chapter of Transparency International, and supported by DRI, was focused on ensuring local election observation organisations have the capacity and tools they need to contribute to transparent and fair elections.

Participants engaged in discussions, plenary debates, and various electoral observation workshops. They also took part in clinics, short sessions with small groups that focused on the specific challenges civil society observers face, covering issues such as project design and financial management.

DRI, the National Democratic Institute and I-WATCH also discussed the progress made in monitoring electoral campaigning on social media, highlighting that data-access issues remain a significant challenge to their work. Participants agreed that services such as Facebook, Tunisia’s most widely social media platform, need to share more data with researchers, civil society actors as well as election monitoring bodies to allow for more transparent elections.

DRI will continue supporting local organisations engaged in election observation in Tunisia, for example cooperating with the Association Tunisienne pour l’Intégrité et la Démocratie des Elections (ATIDE) throughout the election campaign and the period leading up to it. DRI also assists ATIDE with its electoral observation mandate and enhancing its ability to monitor the campaigns on social media.

DRI supported this event as part of the “Support to Constitution Implementation in Tunisia – Phase III” project funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Jenny Piaget, political advisor from the Swiss embassy, with Hamza Samti, representative of the Tunisian association “WE Change” (partner organisation of I-WATCH) and Hervé de Baillenx, DRI North Africa Representative.

Panel on social media and election observation. Members from NDI, I-WATCH and DRI

 

 

What impact will the death of President Essebsi have on Tunisia’s democratic reform process?

What impact will the death of President Essebsi have on Tunisia’s democratic reform process?

The death of President Beji Caid Essebsi on 25 July 2019 highlighted the institutional jam Tunisia has been facing for some time. According to the Tunisian Constitution, a presidential vacancy needs to be acknowledged by the Constitutional Court, but this court is not yet in place.

On the day of Essebsi’s death, swift action was taken following emergency discussions between the Prime Minister and the President of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People, which lead to the swearing in of the President of the Assembly as interim President of Tunisia. Early presidential elections will take place this Autumn.

How did we get here?

The Tunisian Constitutional Court is responsible for the protection of the country’s republican regime and for the respect for the Constitution. Although it was created by law in 2015, the court never became active because of the continued absence of consensus in the Assembly over the selection of four members of the court.

The Constitutional Court is responsible for checking the constitutionality of bills and in regulating how state institutions function, notably in times of crisis. A provisional organization, the Instance provisoire de contrôle de constitutionnalité des projets de loi (IPCCPL), was made responsible for checking the constitutionality of draft bills prepared by the legislature, but other important roles have been left unattended.

The lack of a Constitutional Court has had a damaging effect on political institutions in Tunisia, notably during the former president’s illness and subsequent death. While the measures taken by the Prime Minister and the President of the Assembly have enabled the country to overcome the gap, this clearly demonstrates the urgent need to find a long-term solution.

What are the next steps?

Legislative elections were initially planned for 6 October 2019, with presidential elections to follow on 17 November, but the death of President Essebsi led the election commission to move the first round of the presidential elections to 15 September.

The election commission highlighted that the results of the elections are likely to be determined outside of the 90-day interim period for the presidency stated in the Constitution, considering the delays built-in for judicial recourses after the first and second rounds. This delay, predicted to be 47 days or so, could be avoided by reducing the time for judicial recourses or unifying both rounds, according to the election commission.

Holding early presidential elections should not lead to a date change for the legislative elections, although having these two elections closer in time could burden the election commission. This could also burden administrative and accounts tribunals, as well as the audio-visual communication regulator.

What challenges remain to holding elections?

Electoral reform remains a contentious issue in Tunisia. Bill 2018/63 amending the electoral law was declared constitutional by the IPCCPL and was presented to the President before his death.  According to the constitution, the president had three options:

  • Approving and publishing the bill in the official gazette within four days of the bill’s approval by the IPCCPL;
  • Sending the bill back to the Assembly for a second reading and adoption by three-fifths of legislators within five days of the bill’s approval by the IPCCPL;
  • Submitting the bill to a popular referendum within five days of the bill’s approval by the IPCCPL.

The delay expired without the President choosing any of the three alternatives, as such the bill was not adopted and cannot be published in the official gazette.

This situation has led to differing opinions on adopting the bill. Some argue that the bill should be published into the official gazette in violation of the constitution, others that the interim President can still adopt the bill, while others believe that the bill cannot be published without its adoption.

It should be noted that the proposed bill introduces conditions for candidacies to the legislative and presidential elections. These conditions would notably exclude people involved in political communication or having led charitable organizations in the year preceding elections. If they come into force, these conditions would be applied retro-actively and considerably disturb the elections, the work of the election commission and the arbitration of judicial contestations.

How will this impact Tunisia’s democratic reform process?

The introduction of the proposed amendments to the electoral law a few weeks before the elections risks disturbing the democratic transition as it is in clear contradiction to best practices and international standards recommended by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, among others.

Rejected by a part of public opinion , many civil society groups and major labour unions such as the Union générale des travailleurs tunisiens (UGTT) and the Union tunisienne de l’industrie, du commerce et de l’artisanat (UTICA), argue the modifications to the electoral law would risk exacerbating political divisions and deteriorating the overall environment for the elections.

There needs to be a functional Constitutional Court for the country to finalize the implementation of its judiciary following the 2014 constitution. This is also crucial to establishing true rule of law in the country, one which respects human rights and is regulated by constitutional justice. It is now fairly certain that the new Constitutional Court will not be sworn in before the presidential and legislative elections. Finding a consensus to elect the final three members of the Constitutional Court will be a priority for the newly elected legislators. This should be followed by the selection of the remaining members of the Superior Council of the Judiciary, and the selection by the president of the remaining four members.

How is DRI responding? 

DRI Tunisia will continue to monitor the evolution and implementation of the Constitutional Court in the upcoming months – indeed during 2020 as well. In addition, will continue training Tunisian lawyers on constitutional justice until 2022.

We will also provide technical support to civil society groups observing elections throughout the electoral cycle. This will include the preparation of practical guides on electoral disputes, on monitoring electoral disputes, on writing election reports and on writing reports on social media monitoring during elections.

Gains for access to justice in Tunisia: regional chambers frequented more often

Access to justice is improving in Tunisia: An increasing number of appeals are being filed to the regional chambers of the country’s Administrative Tribunal (AT) and the judgement period set against the central chambers has been shortened. These positive developments were discussed during a meeting of regional chamber representatives from Kairouan, Sousse, Monastir and Sidi Bouzid, organized by the AT and Democracy Reporting International on 9 and 10 July.

More than 120 participants, including magistrates, municipal representatives, lawyers, members of civil society, students and scholars took part in the various working sessions of this workshop on “The Jurisdiction of the Administrative Tribunal in the Local Authorities Code”. The meeting allowed for fruitful discussions on the different responsibilities of the regional chambers as stipulated in the new legal framework for decentralization in Tunisia. The participants also developed recommendations on the way forward.

Statistics and participants’ testimonials confirmed that important progress has been made already.  Several attendees still voiced concern about specific provisions of the Local Authorities Code and the need to revise and clarify them, especially regarding the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. Participants also suggested to expand the advisory competence of the regional chambers, a view that was not shared by some representatives of the AT. DRI will consider offering a second workshop to allow for further reflection on this topic.

DRI supported the workshop in the framework of its project “Support to Democratic Governance in Tunisia”, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

DRI Annual Report 2018

Our Annual Report 2018 is out. It gives an overview of our activities and our organisational development.

In 2018 we continued our work on local governance, constitutions, human rights, rule of law and human rights. Social media monitoring during elections has become an important part of our activity across the countries we work in. Last year we worked with different actors, including government, civil society, election administration and universities.  We regularly consulted and engaged them in discussions to identify their needs and support them in their work to strengthen democracy.

Download the DRI Annual Report 2018

Read the 2018 annual audit report here.

Stagiaire chargé(e) de communication (Tunisie) (Extended Deadline)

Titre de la position :                    Stagiaire chargé(e) de communication

Type de travail :                            Plein temps

Date du début de stage :            1 juillet 2019

Durée du stage:                            entre 3 et 6 mois

Lieu :                                                 Tunis

Description brève du projet :

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) met en œuvre en Tunisie un programme de soutien à des organisations de la société civile (OSCs) et des acteurs politiques sur les questions liées à la transition politique. Le programme a pour but de soutenir leurs capacités à se développer et à répondre aux défis du processus de transition, avec un accent particulier sur les réformes électorales, le processus de mise en œuvre de la Constitution, l’état du droit, l’accès a la justice ainsi que la décentralisation et la démocratie participative.

 

Tâches et responsabilités :

Sous la supervision du chargé de suivi et évaluation, le/la stagiaire chargé(e) de communication soutient le programme de DRI en Tunisie en renforçant sa communication sur ses activités et sa capacité à informer ses interlocuteurs et les acteurs présents dans le domaine de la gouvernance démocratique, réforme des institutions et engagement citoyen ainsi que sa contribution aux débats sur ces sujets.

Tâches principales :

  • Contribuer à la préparation, l’organisation de l’impression et la diffusion des publications ;
  • Préparer les mises à jour, les communiqués de presse et les informations sur le travail et les événements organisés par DRI ;
  • Réaliser des mini-interviews, reportages, communiqués durant les évènements et les campagnes de la sensibilisation ;
  • Identifier les opportunités de communiquer les activités de l’organisation ;
  • Maintenir la présence de DRI sur les réseaux sociaux à savoir la page Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et contribuer à la mise à jour du site internet de DRI concernant les informations sur ses activités en Tunisie ;
  • Gérer les listes des contacts pour diffusion des informations sur le programme de DRI ainsi que les contacts des principaux médias ;
  • Préparer des notes d’information et success stories ;
  • Assurer la visibilité des bailleurs de fonds dans les évènements et la communication du bureau de DRI ;
  • Assurer les prises de photos et préparation de comptes rendus durant les ateliers, formations et réunions ;
  • Contribuer à l’élaboration d’un plan stratégique de communication pour DRI ;
  • Entreprendre toute autre responsabilité assignée par le Représentant régional pour l’AN ou le Directeur Pays.

 

Qualifications/Expérience :

  • Etudiant(e) en journalisme, relations publiques, communication ou disciplines apparentées ;
  • Excellente maîtrise de la communication sur les réseaux sociaux ;
  • Maîtrise des principaux logiciels tels qu’InDesign, Photoshop et Illustrator ainsi que les outils de montage de vidéos ;
  • Connaissance des principaux équipements audio et vidéo ;
  • Excellente capacité de rédaction en arabe et français ;
  • Bonne maîtrise de l’anglais ; bonne capacité de rédaction en anglais fortement souhaitée ;
  • Expérience de collaboration avec une association ou ONG ;
  • Excellente capacité de communication (verbale et écrite) et capacité à s’adresser à des publics variés ;

 

DRI est un employeur qui valorise la diversité et souscrit au principe de l’égalité d’accès à l’emploi. Les femmes sont encouragées à postuler.

En plus, DRI vous propose des horaires de travail flexibles, des opportunités de formation et un travail au sein d’une équipe internationale et multiculturelle.

Le (la) stagiaire aura droit à une rémunération forfaitaire mensuelle.

Veuillez envoyer un Curriculum Vitae (y compris les contacts de trois références professionnelles) en langue française et une lettre de motivation, en indiquant les termes de référence « Stagiaire Chargé(e) de communication » à l’adresse e-mail suivante : [email protected]

Date de clôture de réception des candidatures: le 30 juin 2019.

Seul(e)s les candidat(e)s retenu(e)s pour un entretien seront contacté(e)s.

Il est possible que la position soit pourvue avant la date de clôture. Nous vous encourageons à soumettre votre candidature le plus tôt possible.

 

Organisation responsable de ce poste :

Democracy Reporting International gGmbH

Prinzessinnenstraße 30

10969 Berlin, Allemagne

Tel +49 30 27877300

Fax +49 30 27877300-10

 

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