On 8th December 2015 ILPI together with the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages (IKOS) at the University of Oslo and the Research Foundation Fafo organised a full day conference titled “Revolution, Dialogue and Transition: What the World Can Learn from Tunisia”.
Politicians, civil society actors, and researchers with Tunisia expertise participated to shed light on three main topics:
- Social dialogue and civil society’s role in promoting democracy;
- Constitutional process and content of what is described as the most progressive constitution in the Arab world;
- Challenges facing the transition process with respect to the economy, corruption, and security.
The opening remarks were made by the State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tore Hattrem.
The first session on Social Dialogue and Democratisation tried to analyse why and how the Tunisian Quartet for National Dialogue succeed and focused on the role of a strong and representative civil society and asked what role social dialogue and trade unions played as actors of democratisation. Could the national dialogue have succeeded without the leadership of strong representative organisations such as the UGTT in Tunisia? And what are the implications of the Tunisian experience for our understanding of democratisation processes in other countries and regions? The panelists in the first session were Tor-Arne Solbakken, Deputy Chairman of the Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions (LO), Hèla Yousfi, Associate Professor at the Paris Dauphine University, and Maria Glenna, Researcher at the American University in Washington. Kristian Takvam Kindt, Researcher at FAO moderated the session.
The second session focused on the 2014 Tunisian constitution-making process and explored different aspects of the Tunisian constitution. The 2014 constitution is celebrated as the most progressive and democratic in the Arab world. The panelists tried to analyse what the major issues of debate were during the drafting process and how the constitution balances different demands with regard to human rights and issues of national identity, religion, and gender. The panelists of the session were Lobna Jeribi, President of Solidar Tunisia, Meherzia Laabidi, Member of Parliament, Ennahdha, Mounira Charrad, Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and Jonathan Murphy, Senior Lecturer at University of Cardiff, Wales. Ragnhild J. Zorgati, Associate Professor at the University of Oslo moderated the session.
The democratic transition in Tunisia can show for remarkable achievements including free and fair elections, a progressive constitution and peaceful transfer of power. However, the country still faces daunting challenges with respect to its economy, endemic corruption, and security issues. Tunisia is currently confronted with high unemployment (especially among the youth) and a growing terrorist threat, which includes a large number of Tunisian jihadists. What is the response of Tunisian authorities, how to effectively deal with these challenges without slipping back to authoritarian rule? And how does the international community respond? These were some of the things discussed on the third session. The panelists included Souhail Alouini, Member of Parliament, Nidaa Tounes, Amine Ghali, Program Director of Kawakabi Democratic Transition Center, and Rikke Hostrup Haugbølle, Ph.D. Middle East Studies, the Royal Danish Defence College. The panel was moderated by ILPI’s Programme Director, Joachim Nahem.
The concluding remarks were made by Tunisian Ambassador to Norway, H. E. Mr. Ammar Ben Lamine.