Social cohesion: strengthening trust and implementing inclusive policies in Tunisia

Social cohesion is the extent of trust in government and within society, and the willingness to participate collectively toward a shared vision of sustainable peace and common development goals.

The Tunisian National Counter-Terrorism Commission (NCTC) launched, in partnership with UNDP Tunisia, a survey in Médenine Governorate that aims at enabling public authorities, development actors and civil society organizations in the region to better understand the sources of cohesion and potential factors of tension specific to this South-Eastern region on the border with Libya.

The survey, published in October 2020, was based on a sample of 517 individuals that is representative of the population of the Governorate.

The results of this survey show that, despite a feeling of marginalization, interviewees identify with the values ​​of national unity (83.7%) and fundamental freedoms (83.4% for electoral freedoms by example) acquired by the democratic transition in Tunisia. Family (93%) and tribal (65.7%) affiliations are also an important social capital in this region. The region remains weakened, however, by relationships of mistrust among individuals, especially towards state institutions (11% of respondents trust customs, 23.3% for police and National Guard) while, on the contrary, the civil protection (43.9%) and the army get a better level of trust (57.8%).

In parallel, the survey reveals that corruption is perceived important at the level of customs (49.9%), security forces (46.4%), justice (35.9%), and even healthcare by 55,1% and 42.9% for education.

This trust deficit also includes intermediary bodies such as civil society (17% of respondents trust associations), unions (4.4%), political parties (8.1%) and municipalities. (21.4%), slowing down the real participation of the population in public policies or initiatives. However, 58.3% of citizens consider that they have the capacity, in their neighborhoods, to organize significant collective actions.

This survey provides a series of practical recommendations to support public, local and national decision-makers:

–  Capitalize on the potential of national unity for cohesion through inclusive development policies and consolidation of rights and freedoms.

–  Strengthen the link between citizens and institutions, specifically in the justice and security sectors, through basic public services delivered with efficiency, respect and accountability.

–   Listen to the voice of citizens, even when it is expressed informally, by encouraging spaces for dialogue and collaboration.

The vision promoted behind these recommendations is to consolidate relationships of trust and collaboration between public, private and civil society actors in the region in order to, eventually, promote more inclusive policies.

The survey will be conducted soon in two other governorates in southern Tunisia (Gabès and Tataouine); its results constitute a basis for reflection for the revision of the National Strategy Against Extremism and Terrorism planned for 2021 and supported by ‘Tarabot – Cohesion to prevent Violence’ project of UNDP Tunisia. It aims at reflecting local realities, people’ expectations, but above all to the needs of Tunisian citizens.

TunisianMonitorOnline (UNDP)

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