Research consortium

  • Main applicant: Mr David Alpher (Saferworld, United Kingdom)

Project information

In the wake of two terrorist attacks in 2015, the role of security sector reform (SSR) in Tunisia’s democratic transition has become more pertinent. The security forces’ capacity to prevent and respond to such attacks is a subject of both local and international concern, while steps taken by the government in the aftermath – including declaring a state of emergency and passing a new Counter Terrorism law – have triggered debates on trade-offs between security and freedoms.

The research, “Civil Society Involvement in Tunisia’s SSR Process”, funded by N.W.O. with additional contribution from Saferworld, sought to shed light on the involvement of Tunisian civil society organisations (CSOs) in SSR, since the 2011 revolution. It took the starting point that CSO involvement is important for ensuring the responsiveness of security and justice institutions, and that CSOs can play a key role in contributing to ‘bottom-up’ political pressure to ensure democratic reform. It also considered the role of international actors, as a significant number are involved in training Tunisia’s security forces, supplying equipment and promoting reform programmes.

The research took place from August - November 2015, comprising 29 key informant interviews, a literature review, and a consultation workshop with Tunisian civil society hosted by the Kawakibi Democracy Transition Centre in Tunis. Findings included that key challenges for civil society have been the increasingly hostile political atmosphere in Tunisia, and lack of public information available about the Ministry of Interior and its legislative framework. Additionally, CSOs were critical of the efficacy and impact of international SSR programmes. Ways for advancing CSO engagement on SSR include: creating a civil society-led platform for coordinating lobbying on SSR; broadening CSOs technical knowledge on SSR; increasing government transparency; and ensuring that human rights remains a strong focus for international actors’ diplomatic and security cooperation with the Tunisian government.

Project results