Decentralisation experts, civil society and citizens called on the Tunisian Parliament to adopt the new Decentralisation Law (Code des Collectivités Locales) before the municipal elections at public debates on local governance organised by DRI Tunisia as part of the celebrations of the International Day of Democracy. With the drafting of a decentralisation law underway since 2015, it is clear that the dispersion of powers from central government to local authorities is complex.
Dr. Jinan Limam, a decentralisation expert highlighted that “the first step towards decentralisation is territorial division”. While 86 additional municipalities were created between 2011 and 2016, bringing their total number to 350, the constitutional provisions on the transfer of powers and resources to local authorities have not been implemented. “Tunisia is going slowly but surely towards a decentralised government”, affirms Dr. Limam, “but it is really important to take into consideration the specificities of the different municipalities, especially those newly created.”
The lack of financial resources at the level of the municipalities is one of the major challenges that the Tunisian decentralisation process is facing. “The transfer of powers and responsibilities should go hand in hand with the transfer of financial resources”, explained Prof. Bernard Dafflon, a Swiss expert working with DRI on advising the Parliamentary Commission in charge of drafting the new decentralisation law. Some of the newly created municipalities do not have proper financial resources, which hampers their ability to fulfil their new role.
Effective decentralisation also requires the citizens’ participation. To make the abstract concepts of decentralisation and participatory democracy more tangible, graffiti artists performed live-drawings in the downtown of Tunis in the context of a DRI-organised street debate with civil society representatives and interested citizens.