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Tunisia

Implement Initiatives to Apply the OGP at the Local Level (TN0046)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Tunisia Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Municipalities involved within the OGP initiative in cooperation with the civil society coalition for Tunisia’s OGP program

Support Institution(s): Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment

Policy Areas

E-Government, Local Commitments

IRM Review

IRM Report: Tunisia Transitional Results Report 2018-2020, Tunisia Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: No

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Implement initiatives to apply the OGP at the local level
Beginning of October 2018 – End of August 2020
Lead implementing agency/actor
Municipalities involved within the OGP initiative in cooperation with the civil society coalition for Tunisia’s OGP program
Commitment description
This commitment comes within the framework of the exercise of local governance, which has become possible thanks to the several articles in the 2014 Constitution that promote this approach, as well as the provisions related to the transparency and open government included in the Code on Local Authorities adopted on May 2018. This commitment aims to establish initiatives on open government at the level of ten (10) municipalities, in a similar fashion to the OGP initiative launched at the national level, through adopting the same participatory approach. The specificity of this initiative is its potential to enable municipalities to develop commitments more in line with the region's characteristics and requirements, as well as rendering the administration more accessible to citizens by involving them in defining commitments and following up their implementation. This will occur through regular meetings of a joint committee comprising of representatives of the administration at the municipality level and representatives of the region's residents.
Moreover, a communication action plan will be established to further disseminate information about initiatives that will be implemented within the framework of this commitment, in addition to involving all active government and civil society stakeholders.
Problem/Background
The OGP action plans have often focused on reforms at the national and sectorial levels in addition to some fields related to the open government concept. However, it was not possible to achieve reforms in line with specific needs and basic requirements of each region.
Thus, this commitment is intended to establish reform goals that are sensi- tive to the characteristics of various regions, while being in accordance with national strategic visions in the related fields and also drawing on international best practices.
Identification of commitment objectives/expected results
Develop a comprehensive action plan comprising region-specific reforms and enables the implementation of projects that contribute to achieving development and improving services provided to citizens. It should be noted that these reforms should be based on key OGP principles, particular- ly transparency, participation, and accountability, while employing ICT to promote these principles.
How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?
- Implement projects and initiatives serving the region and having a positive and direct impact on citizens' life;
- Approximate the open government concept to citizens and enable them to contribute to embedding this concept in their respective regions. This will improve the quality of services and contribute to building solid foundations to ensure good governance of public affairs at the local administration level.
Relevance with OGP values
This commitment is relevant with all main OGP's main axes considering that local action plans will focus on commitments that concern all OGP axes. Moreover, this commitment has been included in the participation and local governance chapter as it aims at providing further freedom and independence for municipalities and citizens at the local level to draw their programs and visions for enhancing the open government and its princi- ples. Source of funding/
Relation with other programs and policies
Source of funding: World Bank / Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
Steps and execution agenda
Beginning of October 2018
End of October 2018
Contact Information
Name of the responsible person from implementing agency
1. Mrs. Aicha Karafi
2. Mrs. Asma Cherifi
Title and Department
1. Tunisian Association of local governance
2. TACID Network
E-mail address
1. presidente.atgl.tunis@gmail.com
2. tacid.network@gmail.com

Other Actors involved
State actors involved
- Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment
CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups

IRM Midterm Status Summary

11. Implement initiatives to apply the OGP at the local level 

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

"This commitment comes within the framework of the exercise of local governance, which has become possible thanks to the several articles in the 2014 Constitution that promote this approach, as well as the provisions related to the transparency and open government included in the Code on Local Authorities adopted on May 2018. This commitment aims to establish initiatives on open government at the level of ten (10) municipalities, in a similar fashion to the OGP initiative launched at the national level, through adopting the same participatory approach.

The specificity of this initiative is its potential to enable municipalities to develop commitments more in line with the region's characteristics and requirements, as well as rendering the administration more accessible to citizens by involving them in defining commitments and following up their implementation. This will occur through regular meetings of a joint committee comprising of representatives of the administration at the municipality level and representatives of the region's residents.

Moreover, a communication action plan will be established to further disseminate information about initiatives that will be implemented within the framework of this commitment, in addition to involving all active government and civil society stakeholders."

Responsible institution: Municipalities involved within the OGP initiative in cooperation with the civil society coalition for Tunisia’s OGP program, Tunisian Association of local governance, TACID Network

Supporting institution(s): Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment.

Start date: October 2018                               End date: August 2020

Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text from the Tunisia national action plan, see here.

Commitment Overview

Verifiability

OGP Value Relevance (as written)

Potential Impact

Completion

Did It Open Government?

Not specific enough to be verifiable

Specific enough to be verifiable

Access to Information

Civic Participation

Public Accountability

Technology & Innovation for Transparency & Accountability

None

Minor

Moderate

Transformative

Not Started

Limited

Substantial

Completed

Worsened

Did Not Change

Marginal

Major

Outstanding

Assessed at the end of action plan cycle.

Assessed at the end of action plan cycle.

                                       

Context and Objectives

This commitment aims to apply the OGP at the local level, dovetailing with Tunisia’s ongoing decentralization process. The country’s first local elections took place in May 2018. According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, this decentralization process has the potential to address long-standing issues of dramatic regional disparities in healthcare, education, poverty, and infrastructure by empowering local actors to make decisions regarding their regions’ specific needs. [47]

This commitment intends to develop open government plans at the local level in 10 municipalities through regular meetings of joint committees consisting of representatives of the municipalities and the region's residents. The Tunisian Association of Local Governance plans to support participating municipalities and local CSOs by providing training on the co-creation process. [48] The commitment also entails a communication plan that will disseminate information about initiatives to be implemented, in addition to involving all active government and civil society stakeholders. These milestones are specific enough to be verifiable.

This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of civic participation, as the local open government plans are meant to be developed by joint committees including local citizens. It is also relevant to the OGP value of access to information due its communication plan.

This commitment could have a transformative potential impact on involving local actors in the OGP process. During the co-creation process, the focus on leveraging commitments from the local level to serve the national action plan led the multi-stakeholder forum to realize that there was a need for action plans tailored to the local level. [49] Considering the highly centralized structure of the Tunisian government and the need for decentralization, this commitment offers a first-time opportunity for local actors to facilitate this shift. Action plans created at the local level with participation of local actors have the capacity to better reflect local needs and can build stronger collaboration of local citizens in the implementation phase.

Next steps

Given the opportunity this commitment represents to introduce open government principles at the local level, the IRM recommends that specific strategies are put in place to ensure participation from groups such as women, youth, and other marginalized groups to reflect their needs in the resulting open government local actions.

[47] Sarah Yerkes and Marwan Muasher, "Decentralization in Tunisia: Empowering Towns, Engaging People”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 17 May 2018, http://bit.ly/2SEHoIA.
[48] Asma Cherifi, Tunisian Association of Local Governance and TACID Network, interview by IRM Researcher, 2 April 2019.
[49] Asma Cherifi, Tunisian Association of Local Governance and TACID Network, interview by IRM Researcher, 2 April 2019.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

11. Implement initiatives to apply the OGP at the local level

Substantial:

For details regarding the implementation and early results of this commitment, see Section 2.3.

Aim of the commitment

This commitment aimed to apply OGP at the local level. It complemented Tunisia’s ongoing decentralization process and the country’s first local elections which took place in May 2018. [86] It also builds on Commitment 4 in Tunisia's previous action plan, which resulted in a guide on open government principles and best practices for the local level. [87] In the current iteration, the first milestone asks representatives of 12 municipalities, along with residents, to develop open government plans. The second milestone creates a communication plan to disseminate information about the local plans’ initiatives.

Did it open government?

Major

The commitment was substantially implemented as eight municipal councils each adopted a local OGP action plan. However, this occurred in early 2021, after this action plan’s cycle. According to government, [88] the delay was due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Implementation of the commitment brought a major opening of government, specifically at the local level. Tunisia's OGP multistakeholder forum appointed a municipal committee from its members, comprised of an equal number [89] of CSOs [90] and government representatives. This committee devised the 10 criteria [91] to select municipalities to develop plans. Among these criteria were: access to information and online transparency infrastructure, active publication of financial and public procurement documents, maintaining a complaint register and processing system, organizing open government trainings, and municipal councilmembers' filing of asset declarations with the Anticorruption Authority. This committee assessed 72 applications and initially chose 12 municipalities, which later came down to 10. [92] The chosen local administrations satisfied all the criteria and received trainings on open government by the government and other organizations. [93] As the criteria required, all participating local administrations had already made some steps in opening government, but the future OGP action plans were to be their first comprehensive strategic documents in this policy field, which prompted the need for specific trainings on open government. [94] In each municipality, five CSOs were also engaged in the process. [95] In the end, eight municipalities submitted OGP local action plans drafted with local civil society and the support of the national government. [96] Civil society and the municipalities organized a series of both online and in-person public consultations on the plans and citizens’ opinions were taken into account. [97] The action plans were adopted by the municipal council after a consultation with the central government in January 2021, thus completing the first milestone after the end of the 2018–2020 OGP cycle.

During the selection of the 12 municipalities and then while creating the action plans, CSOs, the government, and the World Bank's Multi-Donor Trust Fund enacted a communication plan to further disseminate information. [98] This communication plan involved a social media campaign, three round tables, information days in five universities, meeting with decisionmakers from both national and local levels, OGP week events, and an online consultation. [99] These activities were carried out before the end of the action plan cycle, hence the second milestone was completed on schedule. The government added that there were a number of communication events and activities organized for the benefit of these municipalities by the e-Government Unit and with the cooperation of a number of technical and financial partners, namely the GIZ, AFD, and OECD. These events supported municipalities throughout the drafting of their action plans, by promoting open government values and sharing methodology and tools. [100]

Aicha Karafi Hosni, president of Association Tunisienne de Gouvernance Locale, and participant in the criteria design and selection of the municipalities, explained that merely designing the action plans were an improvement in itself. [101] It brought local government and civil society to the same table, working together as partners instead of as adversaries like in the past. [102] However, Hatem Chakroun from the independent think-tank, Observatoire Tunisien de la Transition Démocratique, criticized the low levels of ambition and precision in the local plans. [103] The eight action plans published on the OGP Tunisia government portal share mostly the same content: improving access to information; developing open data; digitalizing services for citizens; developing a communication plan; and organizing trainings on open government for civil servants. [104]

Chakroun noted that the Gabès and Zriba action plans both have a commitment on gathering and publishing geographical and natural resource data at local levels, which he considers ambitious and having a high potential to open government. [105] Asma Cherifi, president and founder of TACID Network, [106] who helped design and implement these commitments, commented that Tunisians are very interested in transparency and public participation, as covered in these commitments. However, Chakroun notes the lead government agency is the E-Government Unit and not the Ministry of Local Affairs and the Environment, which would be a more suitable institution for the commitments’ goals. Implementation challenges include a lack of specific financing, [107] weak local leadership, and the need for national and local government to promote OGP initiatives instead of relying on CSOs. [108]

Tunisia's adoption and cocreation of eight local OGP action plans are a major step to open government in terms of transparency and public participation. Tunisia’s Constitution [109] and the Local Government Code [110] provide for all municipalities to enact development programs based on open government principles. Both the central government [111] and civil society actors [112] see the OGP local action plans as an implementation of some of these legal obligations by the respective municipalities.

Looking ahead, challenges include the need for strong ownership and leadership by local and central government, and implementing ambitious reforms that extend beyond the legal obligations already in place.

[86] Sfaxi, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Tunisia Design Report 2018–2020, at 45.
[87] Government of the Republic of Tunisia, “Commitment 4: Improve transparency and Openness of Local Governments” (OGP Tunisia, accessed 8 Jul. 2021), http://www.ogptunisie.gov.tn/en/?p=750; see also Mettre en place les principes du gouvernement ouvert (Establishment of open government principles) (Presidency of the Government and Ministry of Local Affairs and the Environment, Oct. 2018), http://www.ogptunisie.gov.tn/en/?p=1451.
[88] Garnaoui, interview, 16 Apr. 2021.
[89] Aicha Karafi Hosni (president of the Association Tunisienne de Gouvernance Locale), interview by IRM researcher, 28 Apr. 2021.
[90] CSOs included TACID network, Association Tunisienne de Gouvernance Locale, and OpenGov.tn. Khaled Sellami (Dir. Gen. of the e-Government Unit), interview by IRM researcher, 7 Apr. 2021.
[91] Asma Cherifi (president and founder of TACID Network), emails with IRM researcher, 16 Apr. 2021.
[92] Asma Cherifi (president and founder of TACID Network), interview by IRM researcher 12 Apr. 2021.
[93]Id.
[94] Cherifi, interview; Asma Cherifi (president and founder of TACID Network), emails with IRM researcher, 25 May 2021.
[95]See nn. 41 and 43.
[96] Garnaoui, interview, 16 Apr. 2021.
[97] Cherifi, email, 16 Apr. 2021; n. 40.
[98] Cherifi, interview; n. 41.
[99] Cherifi, email, 16 Apr. 2021; n.40.
[100] Information provided by the Government of Tunisia to the IRM during the prepublication comment period of this report. June 2021.
[101] Karafi Hosni, interview.
[103] Hatem Chakroun (Observatoire Tunisien de la Transition Démocratique), interview by IRM researcher, 28 Apr. 2021.
[104] Government of the Republic of Tunisia, “Final versions of the Open Government action plans at the Local Level” (OGP Tunisia, accessed 8 Jul. 2021), http://www.ogptunisie.gov.tn/en/?p=2212.
[105] n. 52; Hatem Chakroun (Observatoire Tunisien de la Transition Démocratique), email to IRM researcher, 28 May 2021.
[106] Cherifi, interview.
[107] Karafi Hosni, interview.
[109] Government of the Republic of Tunisia, Tunisia's Constitution of 2014 (constituteproject.org, 2014), art. 139, https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Tunisia_2014.pdf.
[110] Ministry of local and environmental affairs of the Republic of Tunisia, Codedescollectivitéslocales (Local Authorities Code) (9 May 2018), chap. 1, §5, http://www.collectiviteslocales.gov.tn/fr/code-des-collectivites-locales-2/.
[111] Sellami.
[112] Cherifi, interview.

Commitments

Open Government Partnership