30 November 2018

In a recent article for Open Democracy, Brumley NextGen Senior Fellow, Maro Youssef shared her analysis of the relationship between the state and civil society in Tunisia. Youssef’s Brumley research project centralizes around civil society, democracy, and women’s participation in Tunisia. Last spring Youssef travelled to Tunisia to perform interviews with leaders of Tunisia's women's movement.

“A murky state-civil society relationship in Tunisia” details her findings and reports, “the Tunisian state appears both open and cautious to accommodating civil society.” Youssef analyzes the recent wins and losses of Tunisian civil society. Since 2011, the number of civil society organizations (CSOs) has increased dramatically, and new and veteran organizations are working together to aid the transition to democracy. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi has appointed female cabinet members, called for equal inheritance rights, and lifted restrictions on Muslim women’s marriage to non-Muslims. However, Youssef points out, “these ‘wins’ for civil society are counterbalanced by other actions by the state.” In particular, the parliament has been very cautious of CSO’s evolving role in domestic politics, and though Essebsi has supported progressive legislative reforms, a number of women’s rights activists are skeptical of his efforts to genuinely improve women’s lives. Youssef’s diagnosis casts the relationship, on the whole, as cautiously positive. Ultimately Youssef states, “for Tunisia to reach its full democratic potential, the state must continue to strengthen its relationship with civil society and build trust with its leaders.”

Read the full article here.