The birthplace of the Arab Spring, Tunisia is often referred to as the lone democratic success that emerged from the series of uprisings that spread across the Middle East in late 2010 and early 2011. After the downfall of long-time authoritarian leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, a fragile democracy did take root in Tunisia. Since then, multiple elections have successfully been held. Peaceful transfers of power have occurred. And Tunisia’s democratic roots have grown, despite serious challenges such as terrorism, slow economic growth, and high youth unemployment.
Central to this story is the emergence of civil society in Tunisia, an amorphous grouping of actors – both domestic and international – who work on a variety of issues from electoral support, to women’s rights, youth empowerment, education, political party training, justice reform, national reconciliation, and human rights. The positive influence of civil society in Tunisia is so crucial for the country’s democratic success story that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to civil society groups in 2015, in recognition of their ability to press politicians forward toward democratic reconciliation and peace.