The Australian Government has backed a call by the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation to support democratisation efforts in Tunisia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Council for Arab Australian Relations (CAAR) have given an Institute team led by Professor Fethi Mansouri a $50,000 grant which will use Australian experience as well as lessons from Indonesia’s path to democracy to support Tunisia’s efforts towards stable democracy.

Last year Professor Mansouri called on world leaders to give more support to Tunisia’s transition to democracy arguing world leaders had a successful democratisation model in front of them in an unstable region yet it had received little help on its journey.

“Applications for CAAR/DFAT grants are becoming increasingly competitive, so the fact that our submission focused on Tunisia has been supported demonstrates the importance DFAT and CAAR place on developing democracy in the region,” he said.

Professor Mansouri said the project came at an important time for Tunisia.

“Tunisia has successfully started its transition from dictatorship to democracy with orderly national elections in 2011 and 2014,” he said.

“Tunisia remains the only Arab Spring country that managed this process successfully and transitioned towards permanent democratic institutions.

“The country’s success was further recognised through the awarding of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize to a Tunisia civil society quartet that played a crucial role in the transition process.

“But moving forward, the key will be how to further consolidate these gains with the anticipated 2016 municipal elections looming as another landmark political event for Tunisia.”

Professor Mansouri said Indonesia was further down the path of democratic transition than Tunisia, at least historically speaking, and had experiences it could share from its own journey.

“Indonesia is now consolidating its national democratic transition which began in 1998, through local elections,” he said.

“A critical part of this has been decentralising governance and increasing participation in the democracy process by young people, women and civil society.”

Professor Mansouri said the program developed by the Institute would bring together key civil society figures from both countries to share the lessons learned around youth engagement and consensus building.

Professor Mansouri said another benefit of the project would be that it will bring attention to Tunisia at a critical juncture in its twin fight against terrorism and economic downturn.

“Tunisia, is often overshadowed by the more tumultuous politics of its regional neighbours such as Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Lebanon,” he said.

“The attention this project brings along with awareness of its democratic transition may help rekindle broader international interest in travel to the country.

“It should be remembered tourism is a significant component of Tunisia’s economy and this has taken a hit during the course of the transition as terrorist organisations deliberately targeted key tourism locations in Tunis and the beach resorts of Sousse.”

Contact: Sandra Kingston

Phone: 03 9244 5274