FACT SHEET: The State Department Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative’s Support for the Democratic Aspirations of the Tunisian People
Since January 2011 and in immediate response to the Tunisian Revolution, the United States has committed approximately $55 million in non-security assistance in support of Tunisia’s democratic transition. The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) at the Department of State is the principal contributor to the overall non-security assistance the United States is providing, leading the U.S. Government’s efforts to support the Tunisian people during this historical transition. After January 14, 2011, MEPI realigned its budget to free up more than $26 million, supporting more than 30 projects in Tunisia working directly with Tunisian society. Through its regional office in Tunis and headquarters in Washington, DC, MEPI has worked with Tunisians since 2002, supporting their aspirations for prosperity and long-term stability. MEPI currently supports programming in the following areas:
Enhancing Tunisian Civil Society
MEPI continues to expand its engagement with local civil society organizations through its unique local grants program, which directly supports civic groups throughout the country. MEPI local grants respond to priorities and proposals from local organizations, ensuring that Tunisians remain in front of their democratic transition and have opportunities to get involved in civic life. Since January 2011, MEPI’s Regional Office in Tunis has awarded more than 15 new local grants to advance the role of Tunisia’s civil society with a focus on women and youth. Grantees such as the Center for Arab Women Training and Research (CAWTAR) are working to increase public awareness about citizen rights, gender equality, and active citizenship. MEPI has awarded two larger grants to Mercy Corps and Search for Common Ground, both working with Tunisian civil society organizations across the country to promote civic engagement with youth from the capital and coastal cities to the interior of the country.
Expanding Freedom of Expression and Strengthening Political Participation
New MEPI projects are empowering citizens, especially women and youth, to share their ideas with national and international audiences and to discuss social issues and governmental actions through blogging and internet-based media sites. MEPI local grantee Club UNESCO created a youth-run web-radio station to cover political events, and the Tunisian American Association for Management Studies (TAAMS) is working with youth to develop their sense of responsibility for the democratic process while instilling the values of tolerance. The Institute of International Education (IIE) is building the capacity of civil society organizations to effectively use new media – such as Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and other internet-based tools – to strengthen constituent outreach, inform and engage communities, and improve communication with government institutions on social and political issues. MEPI is also working with the Institute of War and Peace Reporting to increase the quality of local news coverage by engaging with members of the media and citizen journalists, placing an emphasis on accurate political reporting throughout the country.
Advancing the Rule of Law
MEPI is assisting Tunisians to develop and promote a new legal system that is accessible and fair and that protects the rights of all citizens. In partnership with the American Bar Association (ABA), MEPI is promoting legal reforms across a range of sectors in Tunisia. ABA is partnering with the Tunisian Bar Association and other legal entities to reform Tunisia’s electoral code, address citizen electoral complaints, and improve women’s legal rights and participation in the political process. Later this year, ABA will work with its Tunisian partners to organize a national forum on the role of women in transitional processes focusing on comparative experiences; women’s rights in law and constitutional reform; and advocacy for law reform. Participants will include women jurists, rights groups, civil society organizations, and political party representatives, among others.
Widening Economic Opportunity
Since January of 2011, MEPI has increased its assistance in market-relevant skills training, job placement, and access to start-up business resources. With MEPI support, the Education for Employment Foundation (EFE) recently launched job placement and entrepreneurship programs for youth throughout Tunisia. MEPI’s regional partner Injaz Al-Arab is inspiring a culture of business innovation among Tunisian youth through business plan competitions for hundreds of young entrepreneurs. In addition, the Commercial Law and Development Program (CLDP) and the Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC) are supporting entrepreneurship and franchising, as well as reforms to the country’s commercial legal infrastructure.
The United States is committed to supporting the Tunisian transition and the Tunisian efforts to build strong foundations for democratic growth and economic opportunity. MEPI plans to devote additional resources in the months and years ahead to assist Tunisia in becoming a more pluralistic, participatory, and prosperous society, as well as a stable and successful example of democratic transition in the region. For more information about MEPI, please visit www.mepi.state.gov. Click here to learn about the President’s Framework for Investing in Tunisia, or visit www.whitehouse.gov.
MEPI’s efforts in Egypt focus on supporting the efforts of Egyptians to achieve political and economic reform, expanding civic awareness and participation, and promoting government transparency, opportunity, and fundamental rights. For example, MEPI helps civic activists find new means to express their views to wider audiences, allowing them to expose government abuses and publicize alternative political views in ways previously deemed impossible. MEPI’s programs have helped women expand their participation in all aspects of society, from political campaigning to entrepreneurship. MEPI also partners with Egyptian government and civil society stakeholders on issues ranging from using new technology for judicial case management, to media training, to support for domestic election observers. The bulk of this work is conducted by unregistered non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in-country. In Egypt, MEPI has an important role in supporting civil society organizations, non-profit companies, law firms, trade associations and publishing houses doing pro-reform work.
Here are some of MEPI’s recent projects in Egypt:
In its first year as a member of the MENA Businesswomen’s Network, the Egypt-based Association for Women’s Total Advancement and Development (AWTAD) grew its membership to over 70 women. “We started off very small, and we wanted to work with businesses and other groups in an innovative way,” explains Shireen Allam, President of AWTAD. So far this year, as part of the MEPI BWN program, AWTAD’s activities have reached over 1,000 businesswomen in Egypt. Shireen also “knew we could help in the development of civil society, particularly for women, in the areas of health, education and training, and entrepreneurship.” AWTAD’s signature programs include a professional mentoring program for Egyptian youth, a national breast cancer awareness initiative targeting large companies and health centers, and monthly businesswomen’s networking and skills-building events.
Engy Haddad, former campaign manager for presidential candidate and “Kifaya” movement leader Ayman Nour, left the ruling National Democratic Party when it failed to uphold sexual harassment and sexual assault laws. In 2006 she founded AEHRO, which has since implemented two awards with MEPI funding: one which tackled rampant corruption in Egypt and one that addressed the importance of the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Other notable AEHRO activities include the creation of a network of citizen journalists around the country reporting on human rights abuses and civil society events and developments. These MEPI-funded activities helped build AEHRO’s capacities, enabling it to qualify for and receive a $1 million grant from USAID.
Andalus’ project, Horytna.net news, is an information and entertainment website, which also functions as a webcasting radio station. The project targets a youthful, tech-savvy audience with information technology and social networking tools that sidestep both traditional media and government censorship. Its staff consists of a rotating group of young professionals and university students, most of who work on a voluntary basis. Andalus also has initiated SMS campaigns, which have released both public service announcements to educate people about their civil and human rights and notifications regarding civil society developments (such as local meet-ups) to audiences of thousands of free subscribers.
The Online Activism Institute (OAI) uses an e-learning platform to deliver the “Create Your Activism Plan” curriculum to help participants transform their visions for change into concrete, achievable actions. Nearly 40 Egyptian civil society reformers, ages 19 to 48, have completed training, including writing their own activism plans. The participants came from a diverse array of professional fields, including students, lawyers, council members, journalists, and businesswomen. Their activism plans spanned a wide range of issues: women’s rights, local community development, election monitoring, youth civic education, human rights, good governance, and clean water. Participants said that as a result of their training, they now have clearer goals and a more comprehensive approach to their activism work. As participant Saneya El Fikki said, “It helped me organize my goals and thoughts and gave me tools to help me change these visions into reality.”
The Education for Employment Foundation (EFE) in Egypt launched its first Banking Training Program (BTP) for Egyptian youths in October 2009. The BTP, funded by MEPI and run in cooperation with the Egyptian Banking Institute and Egypt’s Banque Misr, will include 168 hours of workplace success training, 37 hours of English language training, 40 hours of technical banking training, and 28 hours of on-the-job training with Banque Misr. EFE programs in the region place graduates directly into competitive jobs. The BTP is no exception; Banque Misr will employ the future branch professionals upon successful program completion. There are 20 participants in the first class and current funding will allow for 80 more youth to enroll in subsequent classes.