USAID/Tunisia’s 2022-2027 Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) goal is “Foundations for a resilient, prosperous, and democratic Tunisia developed.” Over the course of this five-year strategy period, USAID expects to make evidenced and impactful contributions to Tunisia’s core development foundations, with a particular focus on resilience, prosperity, and democracy- three aspects of Tunisia’s overall development vision. By reinforcing the foundations for development in Tunisia, particularly in those three areas, USAID, the Government of Tunisia, and other development partners and stakeholders can ensure that development investments sustainably support the fundamental principles, capacities, and people needed to carry Tunisia through the next decade.
This CDCS comes at a crossroads in Tunisia’s history. Growing citizen frustration and disappointment with the lack of social reforms and worsening economic conditions led to protests across the country in 2021. This also contributed to widespread support for President Saied’s July 2021 steps to freeze and ultimately dissolve Parliament and begin rule by decree. In 2022, President Saied proposed, via referendum, a new constitution consolidating power at the executive, which Tunisians approved. Subsequently, less than 12 percent of Tunisians turned out to vote for the members of the first chamber of the new Parliament, which was seated in 2023.
Although unexpected and a troubling setback to progress made over the last decade to consolidate democratic ideals and improve the economy, the 2021 political crisis was not an isolated event. Tunisians were, prior to July 2021, and continue to be, frustrated that their government has been unable to find sustainable or stable solutions to a long series of economic and social crises since the Revolution. Despite these challenges, the new constitution, eventual reinstatement of parliament, and demand for other major reforms offer potential opportunities to address long-standing or fundamental gaps in Tunisia’s development. This CDCS recognizes those gaps, links them to U.S. foreign policy priorities, and identifies the areas in which USAID’s comparative advantage and investments can bear significant returns.
Democracy: Despite Tunisia’s steady progress on many governance fronts, reliance on consensus politics to form governments and parliamentary majorities has stymied reforms, failing to address some of the key economic grievances and stability issues that date back to the revolution and its immediate aftermath. Tunisians demand meaningful participation and inclusion in governance, public services that respond to citizen needs, greater accountability from their leaders, and political stability. In response to these gaps and in support of the U.S. Government (USG) foreign policy priority to realize and defend democratic values across the world, this CDCS will strengthen the social contract between citizens and government, addressing the key gaps in the foundational democratic values and systems needed to define the formal and informal interactions between citizens and the state in Tunisia. By strengthening the social contract in Tunisia, USAID aspires to create equilibria in state-society relationships, increase predictability in and accountability of the governance system, and reinforce social stability, ultimately building trust. Additionally, by strengthening the social contract, this CDCS will mitigate some of the key gaps that exacerbate drivers of conflict in Tunisia, particularly exclusion, lack of citizen-government dialogue, distrust, and disaffection.
Prosperity: Despite Tunisia’s integration into the global economy, macroeconomic vulnerabilities, declining investment, and business-enabling environment challenges have decreased economic opportunities for many Tunisians. Moreover, class, age, gender, and geographic inequalities hinder sustainable economic growth in Tunisia. Tunisians identify the economy as the single biggest issue in Tunisia. Tunisia’s economic and fiscal crisis continue to deepen, and the country has limited options to confront growing inflation. Without major structural reforms, the economy cannot achieve a growth rate that will meet the employment demands of a large and growing youth population, sustain a growing debt burden, and tackle energy and food shortages. In response to these gaps and in support of the USG foreign policy priority to expand global economic prosperity and opportunity, this CDCS will accelerate and sustain inclusive, private sector-led economic growth, developing the foundations for a prosperous Tunisia where all are able to participate and reap the benefits of the Tunisian economy. By addressing structural problems and impediments to private sector growth, this CDCS will make direct contributions towards improving the business enabling environment, increasing investment, expanding trade, and strengthening economic planning.
Resilience: Tunisia was the first country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and third in the world, to integrate climate change into its constitution and one of the best performing countries in terms of pandemic preparedness prior to the emergence of COVID-19. Despite recognition of these crucial issues, Tunisia remains one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the Mediterranean and at one point during 2021 had one of the highest per capita COVID-19 death rates worldwide. It is crucial that Tunisia take immediate action to shore up its institutions, private sector, and communities against the various shocks (social instability, climate change, food insecurity, pandemics) that are likely to occur over the next decades and which threaten Tunisia’s development investments. In response to these needs and the USG foreign policy priorities of responding to climate change and COVID-19, this CDCS integrates resilience as a crucial element of social and economic reforms. By integrating resilience, this CDCS ensures that development investments are protected, that stakeholders are included in potentially difficult decision making, and that individuals feel empowered to act in the face of uncertainty. This CDCS also reinforces resilience by fully embracing: 1) USAID’s localization agenda that supports consideration of local voices, actors, and capacity in the development process; 2) USAID’s inclusive development policies that seek to include all marginalized and vulnerable actors in the development processes that USAID promotes, and; 3) the Progress Beyond Programs agenda, which seeks to leverage the entirety of USAID’s power and strength to promote harmonized development impact in the countries it serves.
Despite its small size and relatively limited natural resources, Tunisia has the human capital necessary to re-establish its foundations and meet the emerging development challenges over the next 50 years. This CDCS will leverage those strengths with investments and partnerships in key institutions, policies, and individuals so that Tunisia has the tools necessary to deliver the opportunities, services, and responsiveness that all Tunisians desire and deserve.