Post-Arab Spring Tunisia, session 3: decentralisation and intercultural practice

Saber Houchati, National Federation of Tunisian Cities
Constitutional Transition, Decentralisation and Local Electoral Processes in Tunisia
This presentation went into more detail about the process of decentralisation currently under way in Tunisia. The 7th chapter of the constitution sets out three levels of elected bodies: municipalities, regions, and districts. Subsidiarity is, Houchati noted again, a key principle of decentralisation. He framed this as based on service delivery: the authority that is near the citizen is responsible for managing services.

As work continues in Tunisia, there are efforts to build administrative and financial autonomy at the local government level. Part of this is the need for local governments still need to consider partnerships and foreign relations (which were previously controlled by a higher level of government). Challenges include low public support and a lack of instruments for participatory democracy, and limited resources. In Tunisia, local governments get only 4% of GDP in funding (compared to Morocco, 11% and Turkey, 20%). Another issue is that many people don’t want to work in the municipalities – they want to work in ministries and other areas.

There were a number of short term measures taken after the revolution to work on developing democracy, including the nomination of special delegations (which means that most services have continue to work throughout the period after 2011), and capacity building of local managers. Shifting to the medium term, there’s been the incorporation of participatory budgets, attention to gender issues, and other attempts to deal with inequality.

Now, there’s a need to work on decentralisation, broad participation, and promoting transparency and communication about the process of decentralisation. This needs to bring together those in government, international experts, and civil society. Civil society has played an important role in managing the dialogue around decentralisation.

Lynda Ford, iGen Foundation
The Role of Local Government in Leading Social, Technological and Entrepreneurial Innovation

Ford notes that Australia has a long multicultural history. Before European settlement, there were more than 160 language groups, and today a high proportion of people living here have at least one parent born oversees. Now, shifting towards an intercultural perspective is useful (in tandem with multiculturalism).

iGen’s Getting Down to Business is a statewide program for young entrepreneurs bringing together those working across a range of areas and backgrounds. Many young people in the program already employ others, including contracting others in supply chain management, the sharing economy, and employing people direct. iGen tries to ensure gender and cultural diversity within this group through specific recruitment strategies.

The program uses a hybrid model of coaching, webinars, mentoring, and networking. Organisers also consider broader ecosystem development (eg. coworking spaces, access to investment).

iGen also run a variety of other programs supporting intercultural connections. They ran the ‘techfugees’ hackathon in Melbourne. Since then, they’ve been working on an ideas incubator to develop projects from the hackathon and seek funding. They’ve also been developing an online magazine to help with practical program and service design and implementation around intercultural practice, and a desktop intercultural training to help people working in local government. An important part of this work involves connecting people in people in local government to international networks.

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