FFF Brings Tunisian Society Together for Discussion on Eradicating Political Violence
April 22, 2013
On April 1st, the Foundation for the Future held a meeting on political violence in Tunisia and how civil society can combat it. The meeting welcomed 50 participants from a variety of civil society groups and political ideologies and was an opportunity for the representatives to meet their counterparts, sometimes for the first time. Ms. Nabila Hamza, President of the Foundation for the Future, opened the session with a speech on Tunisia’s failure to achieve pluralism, a failure that threatens the country’s post-revolutionary unity and encourages violence. She warned that Islamic discourse was not the only one calling for further fanaticism and violence, and pointed to dialogue between civil society and politicians as well as within civil society itself as the only means to combat social violence. While there have been some examples of successful partnerships between the government and trade unions, much more must be done to create national dialogue and encourage respect for diversity. Finally, Ms. Hamza emphasized that civil society must play more of a government watchdog role to ensure that all transgressions are punished by law.
Next, Mr. Abdessatar Ben Moussa, the President of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights, one of the oldest human rights organizations in the region, compared the violence seen today to that experienced under the previous regime. In the past, the regime had a monopoly on violence, but after the revolution, violence has become diffused throughout society and former victims are now perpetrators as the process of revolution continues. He pointed out that civil society has made many achievements since the revolution, but that it could do better in terms of investigating and publicizing acts of violence. It must also pressure the government and NCA to stand up against violence, by strengthening the police’s power to intervene, ending the practice of torture in jail, and enshrining citizen’s rights in the constitution. In addition, civil society must not ignore transgressions against any citizen’s human rights. Finally, civil society must be more open to working with new partners, from young people and women to those with ideological differences.
Later, Mr. Radwan Masmoudi, President of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, spoke next on the importance of pluralism to the democratic process. If all of society thought the same, he said, democracy would not be necessary, but instead we must hold dialogue and build a consensus that will satisfy a variety of interests. However, he warns that 5 dangers must be addressed first. First, he says, civil society has become partisan when it should be neutral, independent, and distinct from political parties. Secondly, there is a mutual attitude of fear and reluctance to work together between Islamists and seculars. Thirdly, there is an absence of a culture of peaceful existence. Next, young people are particularly susceptible to joining or being affected by societal violence. Finally, there is a lack of dialogue and respect for the election results, both of which are necessary as Tunisia moves forward.
The event was well-covered by national media, including 4 television stations, 4 radio stations, and several newsletters. Though the meeting was meant as a place to debate and formulate recommendations for civil society’s fight against political violence, beyond the speakers, few attendees agreed on how best this fight should go forward. Some even questioned the necessity of dialogue and collaboration between secular and Islamist civil society. In spite of this disagreement, the meeting did succeed in bringing a number of different stakeholders from all ideologies together, giving them a chance to ask each other questions and look beyond the organization to the individual. The Foundation for the Future is confident that this is only the first step in building a dialogue process, unifying Tunisian society, and ending political violence, and looks forward to participating in future efforts.
Newly Booming Tunisian Civil Society Focus of Recent Mapping Study
March 28, 2013
On March 25th, the Foundation for the Future launched its civil society mapping study at an event held in Tunis, Tunisia. After the fall of the Ben Ali regime on January 14th, 2011, a new national law of associations was passed that decriminalized participation in un-recognized organizations . Since then, approximately 5,000 CSOs have registered themselves, bringing the total of organizations in the country just under 15,000. To add to the recent research conducted since the revolution by organizations like the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights, UNDP, the Commission of the European Union in Tunisia and the African Development Bank, the Foundation surveyed a representative sample of nascent Tunisian NGOs about their strengths, weaknesses, focus, and relationship with the government. This information will serve useful for future funding efforts that are beginning to pour into the country, particularly the Foundation for the Future as it formulates future capacity-building and grant-making strategies.
The study showed that while the revolution has brought with it a spread of civil society organizations to areas beyond Greater Tunis, most organizations outside of the capital suffer from a larger capacity-deficit than their urbanized counterparts. They are beginning to benefit from a flood of international funding in the post-revolution, but need to develop their ability to apply for and absorb such funding with improvements to internal governance and project management. In addition, these new organizations represent new causes like democracy, human rights, women’s rights, local development, and the environment. Finally, CSOs need to learn to collect citizen’s needs and lobby the government, though there are few formal CSO-government collaboration mechanisms up to this point.
The event welcomed 50 representatives of local CSOs, donors, INGOs, and consultants and was covered by three newspapers and one radio station. Speakers included the Foundation’s president, Ms. Nabila Hamza, Ms. Anne Margrethe Rasmussen of the Danish Tunisian Cooperation office, Mr. Mokhtar Hammami of the Tunisian government, study consultant Mr. Hafedh Zaafrane, and Ms. Neila Akrimi of VNGi’s International Development Center for Innovative Local Governance. Read More
Local Coverage (FR)
FFF Tunisia Office Springs into New Activities
After the Foundation’s Board Meeting in January, the Foundation for the Future’s Tunisia office set off to implement the decisions reached by the Board Members. A five day training on strategic planning, communications, and FFF procedures was held with 27 representatives of the 14 newly approved seed grants, kicking off with a presentation of case-study projects on local governance, elections, and women’s rights. In addition, a number of new and old Tunisian grantees held events this spring.
1) Associations Members de Reseau Madinaty held a focus group in Menzel Bourguiba, Banzart on internal governance, networking, and associations; local influence
2) Chaababnet Kasserine held a two day training workshop on writing techniques
3) Organization Volonte et Citoyennete held a two day training session on electoral observation in Gabes
4) La Ruche de la Citoyennete Active a Tozeue held a session focusing on good governance and building partnership between civil society and local officials in Tozeur, Tawzar
Foundation President Attends the 9th Annual Forum for the Future in Tunisia
January 17, 2013
This year from December 12th through the 13th, the US and the Republic of Tunisia hosted the 9th Annual Forum for the Future that brings together over 100 representatives from the 31 member countries of the G8 BMENA Initiative plus two non-member countries, senior government officials as well as 45 civil society activists and private sector representatives to discuss developments in women’s empowerment, economic governance, entrepreneurship, and freedom of expression and association.
This year, in a historic move, all ministers in attendance approved the Forum’s Final Declaration, which addressed the past year’s violence; democratic transitions; and the need for further economic development, gender equality and anti-corruption measures. Most importantly, the Declaration captures the reaffirmation by the ministers to strengthen the respect for rights to peacefully assemble; the importance of respecting the rule of law; and full and equal participation of all people regardless of race, sex or religion.
Since the first Forum in Rabat in 2004, civil society groups and lead partner countries have collaborated to make significant advances in transparency and good governance, democratic participation, women's empowerment, legal reform, and human rights in the BMENA region. This year, the meeting specifically sought to make progress on past civil society recommendations, create more meaningful civil society-government interactions and the regional and national level, and seek more specific actions and commitments from member states and organizations.
Past civil society recommendations have included requesting the G8 countries work towards the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, condemn human rights violations, support the efforts of regional civil society and youth, and devise a follow-up mechanism to evaluate the Forum’s efforts. The regional civil society organizations in attendance had also pledged to work towards gender equality in their national constitutions; accede to international human rights treaties; empower youth; match skills and employment; encourage corporate social responsibility; build and open and fair system of economics, justice, and association; ease immigration restrictions; and bolster legal protections for journalists, bloggers, and other advocates for freedom of speech.
The Foundation for the Future was proud to participate as a civil society representative in the Forum, especially given that the Foundation itself was chartered during the 2nd Annual Forum for the Future meeting in Manama, Bahrain 7 years ago. Today, the Foundation operates autonomously from the Forum’s processes but works on similar goals as the Forum and shares its intimate knowledge of regional civil society.
Emerging Civil Society Actors Build Consensus on Nonviolent Methods to Support Democratic Transitions in MENA:
From the 1st to the 3rd of November, the city of Tunis will host an international conference entitled, “the Democratic Transition in the MENA Region: From Revolution to Active Citizenship, Nonviolence, and Regional Solidarity.” This conference will bring together key civil society players in post-revolutionary MENA to participate in a dialogue in order to define a regional strategy to support non-violent activism and democratic transition. Social leaders hailing from Morocco, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, and Yemen will all share their experiences with the European experts in attendance.
Participants will address the following questions throughout the course of the three-day event: how can we achieve real dialogue and inclusive democracy between people with different political and social ideologies? Where does the freedom of expression intersect with the limits placed to uphold cultural diversity? What does it mean to apply non-violent methods when the opposition uses violent methods?
Through the discussion of these questions, the conference hopes to create a space for Arabs and European civil society to share their experiences and build a joint regional strategy to support the transition from authoritarianism, non-representative regimes, and occupation, to a true inclusive democracy that respects human rights and social justice. This inclusive democracy will also be home to a civil society that allows different ideologies to exist in common spaces of understanding. Finally, the meeting will seek to amplify support for non-violence and to use the exchange of experiences to broaden the horizons of the participants.
The conference will discuss the evolution of citizens’ democratic movements, civic participation and nonviolent struggles in MENA countries and why the movements in Libya and Syria turned to military, armed struggles. In Europe too, new actors are emerging and using some of the tools learned from the Arab Spring, including physically occupying public spaces and fighting against police repression. The meeting will strengthen real solidarity and partnership between nonviolent civil society actors in both regions, identify the key challenges to inclusive democracy and social justice, consolidate local civil society principles and objectives, and exchange examples of successful strategies to strengthen the impact and effectiveness of nonviolent movements.
The Foundation for the Future (FFF), Training and Research Institute in Romania (PATRIR) and the International Institute for Nonviolent Action (NOVACT), are jointly organizing this conference with the support of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Anna Lindh Foundation. Several other Mediterranean and European organizations have formed a coalition in support the event and its objectives, including the Peace Operations Department of PeaceAction, iWatch, the Nonviolence Network in the Arab Countries (NNAC), the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC), IKV Pax Christi, Beyond Reform and Development (BRD), the Permanent Peace Movement (PPM), Un Ponte Per (UPP), and Solidarity Interational (SI).
Join Our Social Debate
[or those unable to attend the conference in person, a number of virtual tools will be made available. There is already an open event hosted on Facebook as well as a Twitter hashtag called #MENADialogue. The online debate will begin on October 23rd at 12pm (UCT +3) and will allow all interested in the topic to reflect upon the concept of nonviolence and enrich the debate prior to the November event.
Seed Grant Program Funds 12 New Tunisian CSOs
July 22, 2012
In the wake of the Arab Spring in countries like Tunisia, the number of civil society organizations (CSOs) has ballooned. In Tunisia, for example, the 9,600 organizations existing pre-uprising have now grown to an estimated 13,000. To respond to the needs of so many nascent organizations, the Foundation for the Future established a Tunisian office in February 2012. Based on the feedback given by this office, the Foundation realized that it needed to supplement its biannual grant process in order to better provide for emerging needs, like election monitoring trainings in transitioning countries and building the capacity of nascent CSOs. The Foundation partnered with generous Swiss and Danish donors to establish a fund for seed grants, which are 2 to 6-month grants targeting small or new CSOs, particularly outside of the capital. Invitations to apply for these new seed grants were sent to 400 organizations throughout the country and 76 chose to apply. After studying the project proposals covering topics like civic education, media trainings and promotion of women’s rights, the Foundation awarded a total of over $130,000 to 12 CSOs in 9 governorates.
Project proposals were as varied as the local community organizations that sent them. For example, Beehive for Civil Society in the Tozeur governorate was approved for a 4-month grant towards a project that will build cooperation between 30 CSOs and 30 public officials. The project consists of three workshops held during a 4-month period, resulting in the drafting of a Citizen’s Charter of Good Governance and the selection of 10 CSOs and 10 public officials who will work together to implement pilot projects in their local communities. Another organization, Reseau d’associations “Madinaty,” in Nabeul will focus on building the capacity of 10 CSOs in Menzel Bourguiba with 12 training sessions that will cover topics like management, communication, and networking.
Each project will benefit from capacity training held at the beginning of their award period. There, a Foundation trainer will construct a strategic plan for the project and then will meet with the organization frequently for further support. This sustained interaction is intended to transform the archaic donor-grantee relationship into one of true partnership and mutual contribution. After seeing the positive response to the seed grant approach in Tunisia, the Foundation plans to call for proposals from new Libyan CSOs soon.
The New Office in Tunis Sheds More Light on the Foundation’s Work in the Country
The newly established office in Tunis brings more dimensions to the work the Foundation has been undertaking in the country. To this effect, a call for proposals was launched to give fair chance of support to all active CSOs in line with the Foundation’s mandate and priorities.
In addition, and within the Foundation’s strategy to support relevant CSOs, an advocacy training workshop was organized in Sfax during the 13th and 14thApril with the active involvement of the new office. The training seeks to build the CSOs technical capacities in in communication skills as clearly recognized requirement in order for them to be able to address Tunisians, other civil society actors and decision-makers in a better approach. As a result of this workshop 17CSO representatives will be able to develop the communication skills necessary for carrying out a successful advocacy campaigns for civic participation, Human Rights, local democracy governance and women empowerment.
In the course of this workshop, four groups worked on mock advocacy campaigns on various topics of civic participation and democratic governance. One of these groups prepared a campaign tackling the issue of achieving corruption-free elections. These exercises were proved very useful and formative, where participants extended their profound gratitude to the Foundation for initiating this important and relevant training workshop and felt enthusiastic to share their knowledge with other civil society actors.
To elaborate more on the Foundation’s overall activities in Tunisia in general and the recent training workshop in particular, the Country Liaison Officer in Tunis, Hosni Mouelhi, gave an interview on the national Radio Express FM. After introducing the Foundation he explained its significant role in promoting the principles of Human Rights and democratic environment in the region and how its visibility has particularly gone up with increased credibility as an efficient partner for CSOs, committed to enhance the role of Tunisian civil society in support of the on-going political change.
Needs and challenges facing CSOs in Tunisia were vividly highlighted in the mentioned radio broadcast, as a result of the integrated work the Foundation has promptly initiated on the ground. The Tunis office simultaneously promotes and spreads the Foundation’s core values and expertise by implementing workshops such as the advocacy training workshop.
The Foundation has finally advertised about the recent launch of a call for proposals to support Tunisian CSOs for the implementation of projects promoting democracy, Human Rights and citizenship, etc. Through the call for proposals, the Foundation has decided to focus on approving small grants, as those constitute a practical support to nascent associations which impact on Tunisia may prove crucial.
Foundation for the Future Launches the Call for Proposals in Tunisia
As part of its Tunisia initiative, FFF recently launched a call for proposal which aims at offering a financial assistance (through its grant-making mechanism) to support Tunisian civil society organizations in the implementation of projects promoting democracy, human rights and citizenship. The call for proposal has been published on the website of the Tunisian Center for Information, Training, Studies and Documentation on Associations.
To know more about the call for proposal, please click here for Appel à Projets and Formulaire de petite subvention en appui à la société civile.