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The partnership between Tunisia and the Congress: a guarantee for local democracy

37th Session Strasbourg, France 30 October 2019
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The partnership between Tunisia and the Congress: a guarantee for local democracy

Mokhtar Hammami, Tunisian Minister for Local Affairs and the Environment, and Souad Ben Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunis and President of the National Federation of Tunisian Towns and Cities (FNVT), addressed Congress members on 30 October 2019 during a debate on the South Mediterranean Partnership. These addresses were given following the Congress’s decision to grant Tunisia the Partner for Local Democracy status. Speakers in the debate expressed their support for the ongoing reforms in the country, and their hope that co-operation with the Congress would help Tunisia to continue on a democratic course in the years to come. The Minister for Local Affairs and the Environment, Mokhtar Hammami, considered as one of the main architects of Tunisia’s the reform of decentralisation reform, underlined that the granting of Partner status to his country confirms the progress made and supports the continuation of the democratic approach which Tunisia has been pursuing since the 2011 revolution. This led, in particular, to the first local democratic elections in May 2018, during which the 350 municipalities elected, by direct universal suffrage, municipal councils in which women represented 47% of the members. The Minister added that Tunisia also adopted a Local Authorities Charter, inspired by the country’s specific needs and inspired by the experiences shared by its European partners, including the Congress.

In the years ahead, citizens and municipalities should take ownership of all the measures provided for in the reform, which included participatory democracy mechanisms. Municipalities would develop their own financial resources and mechanisms for citizen scrutiny of their spending. A tax reform for municipalities should also further empower local authorities.

The Minister repeatedly stressed the fact that the State would continue to assist municipalities, but that it will no longer exercise any supervision as it had done in the past. In the event of disputes between local elected representatives and the government, it will be up to the independent judiciary to resolve the matter. In addition, Tunisian municipalities were now responsible for developing policies in strategic areas such as sustainable development, the environment, human rights, gender equality and combating violence against women, responsibilities that were previously the sole preserve of the State. Mr Hammami said that co-operation with European and Moroccan local authorities allowed within the framework of the South Mediterranean Partnership will help ensure the continuity of democratic reforms in Tunisia in a very tense regional geopolitical context.

Another prominent figure of the new Tunisian democracy, Souad Ben Abderrahim, the first female mayor of the capital Tunis, spoke on behalf of the National Federation of Tunisian Towns and Cities (FNVT). She stressed the importance of Tunisia’s adoption in 2014 of “one of the most forward-looking constitutions in the field of local democracy”, in particular Article 139, which made participatory democracy a constituent feature of Tunisian local democracy. On behalf of the FNVT, an association that represents all of the country’s municipalities, the mayor of Tunis took the opportunity to extend an invitation to the Congress members to attend the Federation’s General Assembly to be held on 22 November in Mahdia, Tunisia. The FNVT’s aim was to become one of the main players in the reform of the devolution process by setting up governance entities involving citizens, civil society and the private sector.

In the debate that followed the two addresses, Piero Fassino, Congress spokesman on the South Mediterranean Partnership, and Xavier Cadoret, President of the Chamber of Local Authorities, underlined the strategic importance of the partnership between the Congress and Tunisia for peace and stability in the Mediterranean region. The South-South partnership between Tunisia and Morocco, which also holds the status of Partner for Local Democracy to the Congress, could prove extremely significant in this regard.

 

** 37th Session of the Congress **

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