Tunisia has inspired the world with its peaceful, steadfast march toward a more democratic, prosperous society. As Tunisia continues in this critical phase of its history, the United States remains a committed partner in working with the Tunisian government, private sector, and civil society to develop democratic institutions in supporting the growth of an independent civil society and free media, and in laying the economic foundations for Tunisia to thrive as a 21st century democracy. Since the January 2011 revolution, the U.S. has committed more than $300 million to support Tunisia’s transition, focusing heavily on technical and financial assistance to Tunisia’s economy and private sector.
Supporting Economic Growth and Opportunity
The United States is providing technical and financial assistance to support the growth of Tunisia’s economy and private sector, while ensuring that our aid is both economically and socially inclusive. U.S. programming includes elements that specifically target the interior parts of the country. U.S. assistance responds to Tunisian requests to promote fiscal stabilization; expand economic and employment opportunities throughout the country, particularly for youth; and encourage investment and growth-minded reforms.
Promoting Fiscal Stabilization
Critical Budget Support – The United States provided $100 million to pay directly debt that Tunisia owes the World Bank and African Development Bank, allowing the Government of Tunisia to instead use an equal amount for its priority programs, and to accelerate economic growth and job creation.
Sovereign Loan Guarantee – The United States will guarantee bonds that the Tunisian government will issue to raise funds to support its stabilization and economic reform plans. The United States has committed $30 million for this purpose which can support several hundred million dollars in new financing for the Tunisian government.
Expanding Economic and Employment Opportunities
Information Communications Technology (ICT) Sector Development Project – This project will position Tunisia’s ICT sector as a catalyst for private-sector growth and job creation. The program will train and support thousands of Tunisians across several skill sets using job-placement initiatives while improving the overall business environment for ICT firms, and helping the ICT sector to export more.
Return of the Peace Corps – Twenty Peace Corps volunteers will be on the ground in Tunisia in late 2012. Volunteers will provide English language training and youth skills development programs to help prepare students and professionals for future employment, build local capacity, and foster citizenship awareness.
Youth Entrepreneurship and Employability – The United States is providing assistance to more than 4,500 Tunisian youth in market-relevant skills training, job placement, and access to start-up business resources.
Women’s Entrepreneurship Program – The United States continues to work with women entrepreneurs, providing them with the resources to enable them to contribute to Tunisia’s economic development and to the direction of the country’s overall development. The U.S. is partnering with Microsoft Corporation, other technology companies, and eight local Tunisian women’s organizations to provide technological, social media, entrepreneurship and leadership training. Tunisian women entrepreneurs also have the opportunity to participate in professional mentorship and exchange opportunities at leading companies in the U.S..
Encouraging Investment and Growth-Minded Reforms
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) Franchise Facility – A $50 million OPIC franchising facility will provide working capital to Tunisian franchisees interested in working with American, European, and Tunisian franchisors; ultimately creating an estimated 10,000 local jobs for Tunisians.
Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund – The United States will establish a Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund with an initial capitalization of $20 million. The fund will foster stronger investment ties between Tunisia and America, leverage other investors, and help Tunisians launch the small and medium enterprises that will be engines of long term growth.
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Threshold Program – Tunisia was selected for an MCC Threshold Program in September 2011. As a first step, the United States and the Government of Tunisia are jointly identifying Tunisia’s primary constraints to economic growth. A $20 million Threshold Program will be designed based on the results of this analysis and will target policy and/or institutional reforms that the Government of Tunisia decides to implement to increase economic growth.
Regulatory Reform to Improve Access to Capital and Business Enabling Environment – The Departments of Commerce and State are supporting entrepreneurship and franchising regulatory reform, as well as reforms to the country’s commercial legal infrastructure. The U.S. Treasury is deploying a resident advisor to Tunisia to provide technical assistance to the Central Bank on financial stability issues.
Public-Private Partnerships –In addition, the U.S. is partnering with the Microsoft Corporation to provide business and software skills training to 20 new Tunisian startup companies in 2012 and 2013. At the conclusion of this training, Microsoft will match these startups with local and international venture capitalists. The U.S. has also partnered with the Coca-Cola Corporation to send 100 university students from the throughout the MENA region, including ten Tunisian students, to a summer entrepreneurship program at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2012.
Democracy, Governance, and Civil Society
The success of Tunisia’s transition to a healthy democracy depends on its ability to develop mechanisms for government transparency, accountability, and the existence of thriving civil society and media sectors. In support of the Tunisian people’s aspirations for democracy, prosperity, and long-term political stability, U.S. assistance bolsters efforts to develop institutions of democracy and governance; enhance the capacities of civil society; promot transitional justice and the rule of law; and build capacity in the education, culture and media sectors.
Strengthening Political Participation – The United States is working to build on Tunisian-led efforts to increase citizen engagement in democratic life and support political participation. In the fall of 2011, the U.S. provided assistance to organizations in Tunisia that were organizing and administering what were widely hailed as free and fair multiparty elections for a Constituent Assembly, which is drafting a new constitution this year. Following the elections, the U.S. is continuing its support by linking newly elected representatives and their constituents to help encourage engagement in the transition and to help build a positive, communicative relationship between government and citizens. Additionally, the United States sponsored a Constitutional Program that brought U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg into contact with members of the Constituent Assembly, political party representatives, and legal scholars as they prepared to debate and draft the new Tunisian constitution.
Enhancing the Capacities of Civil Society – The U.S. is partnering directly with local civil society and community organizations to enhance their capacity to actively participate in the political transition and advocate for their causes. Responding to requests from Tunisian civil society organizations, the U.S. is providing assistance in the form of training, information-sharing, physical space for organizations to conduct business, and funding – in their efforts to advance women’s empowerment, freedom of expression and an independent media; promote civic awareness and peaceful expression of differences; and hold their new democratic leaders and institutions accountable.
Building Capacity in the Education and Media Sectors – Building on the success of ongoing university linkages facilitated by grants from the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, the U.S. plans to establish eight additional linkages between U.S. and Tunisian higher education institutions. Two of these linkages will focus on business and entrepreneurship skills and will include new joint dual-degree programs, while another will introduce an investigative journalism master’s degree program at the Tunisian Press Institute. When access to Tunisian higher education institutions opened up after the revolution, the Fulbright Program quickly responded and sent 11 Fulbright Specialists to build new relationships with universities for curriculum development and other activites. The United States has also substantially increased its investment in English-language classes for youth from disadvantaged sectors by expanding its English Access Microscholarship Program to include approximately 1,000 students in eight cities across Tunisia since the program’s inception in 2004. The U.S. has also supported the development of free media by providing training to approximately 200 journalists and editors and linking Tunisian journalism students with internships at American news
Advancing of the Rule of Law – In cooperation with the Tunisian government and civil society, the U.S. will launch a program to support the development of transparent, responsive, and accountable criminal justice institutions that respect human rights, combat corruption, and promote the rule of law.
Peace and Security
The United States stands ready to partner with the Tunisian government to address the high-priority security concerns, which can directly affect the development, stability, and sustainability of the Tunisian economy. The U.S. will assist with promoting regional stability, countering terrorism, preventing the proliferation of illicit items, building law enforcement investigative capabilities, providing military equipment, and enhancing border security efforts. In addition, active Tunisian participation in U.S. professional military education courses strengthens our countries’ military-to-military relationship.
Security Assistance – Due to a nearly fivefold increase in operational tempo since the January 11 revolution, Tunisia’s need for assistance to maintain its military equipment and to train its personnel has never been greater. U.S. assistance, in the form of Foreign Military Financing, International Military Education and Training and funding from the Counter Terrorism Program 1206, have helped to address its needs, providing wheeled vehicles, patrol boats, and educational opportunities to military personnel.
Anti-Terrorism Assistance Training Program – ATA training began in 2011 after a seven-year hiatus. In 2011-2012, nine courses were held and more are planned for next year. ATA assists in developing counterterrorism capabilities to strengthen border security to detect and intercept terrorists, and build capacity for investigating terrorist activity pre- and post-incident. ATA also provided equipment and is facilitating the purchase a mobile command post and mobile crime lab.
Enhancing Border Security Efforts – The United States will provide technical assistance, equipment, and related training for front-line Tunisian enforcement personnel at airports, sea ports, and land borders. The U.S. will also provide support in the development and strengthening of comprehensive strategic trade control systems that meets international standards.
Humanitarian Assistance programs reaffirm the commitment of the U.S. government to assist pockets of need in Tunisia. The programs bolster the ability of Tunisian civil society and other governmental organizations to provide humanitarian relief to underprivileged, disaffected, and disabled members of the population. Highlights of our assistance in this area include:
Assisting Flood Victims in Jendouba – U.S. Embassy in Tunis donated emergency humanitarian assistance to the Comité Regional de Solidarité Social in Jendouba to support their efforts to provide victims with relief supplies.
Ambulances for Hospitals in Southern Tunisia and Tunisian Red Crescent – New ambulances were purchased for the Tunisian Red Crescent to assist in responding to humanitarian needs on the Tunisian-Libyan border. The U.S. also donated eleven ambulances to improve emergency medical transport conditions in the governorates of Tataouine, Medenine, Kebili, and Gabes.
Construction of an AIDS Prevention / Testing Center in Tunis – The center was completed with U.S. assistance and serves youth in Tunis in the vicinity of the university campus.
Extensions to Hospitals in Southern Tunisia – Emergency, maternity and out-patient clinics will be added to hospitals in disadvantaged populations of Remada, Dhiba, and El Faouathat that lack adequate health facilities.
Installation of Air Conditioning at the Burn and Trauma Center in Ben Arous – This center for critically injured patients will be entirely equipped with air conditioning.
Eye Care Clinic for Disadvantaged Populations in Sidi Bouzid – The clinic will provide necessary infrastructure for a Tunisian Association of Ophthalmologists to perform free eye care for the impoverished population in the remote, town of Sidi Bouzid.
Vocational Training Center for Disabled Youth in Ariana – This center will provide training and job placement for youth who, due to learning disabilities, were unable to finish secondary school. The project promotes disability rights and address problems of unemployment for marginalized young people.
Center for Muscular Dystrophy Patients in Tunis – This center will provide socio-medical support to persons suffering from muscular dystrophy and will serve as a distribution center for wheel chairs and medical equipment needed by patients in Tunisia.
Training Center for Rural Women in Makthar – A vocational training facility to train rural women in crafts and agricultural production/micro-enterprise and agribusiness management will serve those in the vicinity of the Governorate of Siliana.
Construction of a Drug Rehabilitation Center in Sfax – Funding was provided to build the first socio-medical substance abuse rehabilitation center in Tunisia. The center assists the integration of marginalized and disaffected youth into mainstream society.