The long way towards Social Justice: 5 years since the Arab Revolutions

On 10th December 2015, Tunisia participated to the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony to receive the prize that was awarded on October 9 by the Norwegian Nobel Committee recognising Tunisia's achievements towards achieving a pluralistic democracy.

This prize comes in fact almost 5 years after the beginning of the Arab Revolutions that have started with the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi in Tunisia, and have brought to light the country’s severe socio-economic inequalities that were entrenched in deep-rooted authoritarian rule and neo-liberal economic model.

Since then, a profound democratic transition has taken off led by Tunisian civil society, whose progresses – such as the adoption of a new constitution, democratic and transparent presidential and parliamentary elections and a national dialogue launched in 2013 – have been recognised the Nobel Peace Prize committee. As a result this prestigious prize has been rewarded to key civil society organisations that have largely contributed to ensuring the progress of political transition in Tunisia such as the Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH), Ordre des Avocats, UGTT and UTICA.

Despite this positive recognition, over the past year Tunisia experienced growing security concerns that could threaten the prospects of an inclusive civil and social dialogue, and the implementation of the still needed social reforms. Particularly, the Tunisian labour market continues to suffer from many structural constraints, due to the disruption of economic activity and the decline in growth since 2011. The lack of universality in access to basic health services, disparities in access to education according to the regions, disproportionate labour market marginalisation of women, youth and disabled people, weaknesses in the social protection system and deficiencies in Freedom of Association (FoA) and Collective Bargaining Rights – with regard to vulnerable categories and Tunisian Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) - represent major challenges the country should deal with.

In this context, the side conference “Revolution, Dialogue & Transition: What the World Can Learn from Tunisia” that was organised on the occasion of the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Olso, highlighted the successes and key challenges for Tunisia’s democratic transition. In this regard, Lobna Jeribi, from Solidar Tunisia insisted that “while the socio-economic rights and the principle of social justice are key constitutional assets, there is still stills strong resistance by the political and economic stakeholders, and who are delaying and obstructing the launching of the deep and urgent reforms that the country needs”, highlighting that general economic and political reforms long-promised by parties across the political spectrum, have taken a back seat to security issues.

Regarding the EU’s role in ensuring and promoting a sustainable democratic transition, the revised European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) that will see the re-establishment on cooperation priorities should put the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, inclusive civil and social dialogue at its heart.

SOLIDAR members and partners in Tunisia have closely monitored the impact of the European Neighbourhood Policy in Tunisia, recommend the EU-Tunisia Partnership:

  • Focus more on the access to education, taking into account the non-formal and informal learning, and provide technical support and funding to ensure that the reform of the education system be a social reform and not merely a technical reform. Take into account the Tunisia’s specific needs, by putting in place a bilateral cooperation framework ensuring migrants, refugees and asylum seekers’ rights.
  • Support the Tunisian government to: reform the health sector to ensure universal access to health care facilities, through an upgrading of the Tunisian public sector, intensify efforts to improve women’s access to formal and decent, employment, to effectively combat child labor and integrate Persons With Disabilities, (PWDs) in the labor market,reform the social protection system to face with its weaknesses, intensify efforts to improve women and disabled people’s access to political, economic and social life, and strengthen the CSOs’ capacity to participate in the consultation process.