Doubt and hope: young people’s views on local governance in Tunisia

TunisiaAccess to justice and developmentBusiness & human rightsNews

Tunis, 22 May 2018 – For nearly three years, ASF and I Watch have been assisting the involvement and constructive participation of Tunisian citizens in local governance relating to natural resources. A survey of young people’s views was carried out in the mining regions of Tataouine and Medenine. Analysis of the results reveals their lack of trust in political institutions in the run-up to the municipal elections that took place on 6 May. The wave of unrest that struck Tunisia in 2011 continues to affect the country, especially the southern regions, which still face many social, economic, and environmental challenges. Despite their vast potential in terms of natural resources, they are experiencing high levels of unemployment and pollution, as well as the worrying phenomenon of desertification. Young people, who stand to suffer the most from this situation, have started numerous social movements demanding more transparency and accountability from companies, both public and private, and fairer distribution of the wealth derived from the exploitation of natural resources. Through this field survey, they expressed their vision, hopes, and expectations. The survey had two objectives: to give a voice to young citizens of Tataouine and Medenine on the subject of local democracy and the sustainable management of resources, and to make local elected officials aware of the level of trust that young people have in local and national institutions. Between November and December 2017, 650 people aged 18 to 35 were surveyed in the two governorates. One thing that emerged from most of the answers was the serious lack of trust that those surveyed have in state institutions and political parties, the sole exception being those at a local level, in which their trust is relatively high. Though young people feel a strong sense of belonging to their regions and to their nation, they are not very optimistic about the future of their country. The majority of them have little hope that their living conditions will improve over the next three years. Despite the low rate of registration for the municipal elections (45%), they are conscious of the importance of participative democracy. The dubious transparency of the elections, however, and the shortage of information due to the lack of debate in public and in the media, hinder their involvement in social and political matters. Despite natural resources being the most important sector in terms of economic development, there is a widespread lack of knowledge about them. Among young people, 69% have a negative view of the way resources are currently managed and think that the government is failing in its duty to control and oversee extractive activities. Despite this general mistrust, the vast majority of young people surveyed still have faith in collective action and civic engagement. 58% of them indicated that they were prepared to be personally involved in the struggle for transparency in the energy sector. ASF and IWatch advocate putting in place mechanisms for participative democracy and open government, in order to improve knowledge and promote involvement by all. The Tunisian state must toughen its controls on the management of extractive activities, while civil society organisations, trade unions, and political parties must have more of a presence and be more accessible in the southern regions, in order to provide young people with a structured framework for political participation and community involvement.
The survey was officially presented in Tunis on 27 April © ASF
>> Download the survey Les élections municipales dans les régions extractives : le regard de la jeunesse sur la gouvernance locale (“Municipal elections in mining regions: young people’s views on local governance”)
Cover picture: the survey took the form of a questionnaire and was carried out face-to-face © ASF