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The Open Society Foundations in Tunisia

The Open Society Foundations have been working in Tunisia since 2005, when we began supporting organizations promoting freedom of expression and information, as well as entities publishing Arabic literature and making it more accessible to the English-speaking world.

Tunisia, hailed as the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring, has led the way since then in terms of democratic development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Tunisia’s large middle class, though receding, along with the country’s high education standards relative to the region, and its history of cultural modernization and feminist reforms instituted in the 1950s, have all contributed to Tunisia’s unique experience in embracing participatory democracy.

We support a diverse array of civil society organizations in Tunisia working to promote democratic governance, constructive social accountability, research and dialogue on strategic issues, economic reform with a focus on economic justice, and empowerment of youth and women. Despite structural challenges Tunisia faces in its democratic transition, the fulfillment of its democratic potential will not only prove a great asset for the Tunisian people but also serve as a model of progress and prosperity for the wider MENA region.

Open Society opened a regional MENA office in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, in 2014, following the opening of the first regional office in the Jordanian capital, Amman, in 2006.

Infographic showing 2020 expenditures by theme for Tunisia

Nine Facts about Tunisia and the Open Society Foundations

  1. We are committed to helping foster a culture of constructive public debate in the region. Among our grantees is the regional award-winning Munathara Initiative which broke new ground when it exclusively led and designed Tunisia’s first televised electoral debates in 2019.
  2. We support legal entities building mechanisms for justice and human rights protection such as the international NGO Avocats Sans Frontières. In Tunisia, Avocats Sans Frontières provides legal services and advocacy for vulnerable populations including migrants and detainees, among others.
  3. We support The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights which undertakes research and analysis to inform public debates and official policies on social, economic, and environmental rights. Its areas of work include labor law reforms, fighting corruption, and migrant rights.
  4. We are helping nurture a constructive exchange of ideas in Tunisia. Among our grantees is the Global Institute for Transitions, an independent think tank supporting public decision-making on issues that promote transitions towards democratic, plural, and egalitarian societies.
  5. We fund groups advancing Tunisia's participatory democracy such as the Social Accountability Association, which helps establish effective partnerships between civil society and the public sector in preparing and evaluating public policies and spreading awareness about the role social accountability plays in preserving democratic practices.
  6. Our grantee L'institut Maghrébin pour le Développement Durable empowers youth, women, and marginalized groups to become influential actors in their societies. It provides capacity-building workshops for these groups on democratic principles, good governance, and human rights.
  7. We fund entities providing specialized studies on strategic issues in Tunisia and the wider Maghreb region such as the Centre d’Etudes Strategiques pour le Maghreb Arabe, which conducts research and advocates for sustainable public policies in diverse fields including health, security, migration, and energy.
  8. We support feminist organizations in Tunisia such as Aswat Nissa (Women’s Voices), which is successfully leading advocacy campaigns for gender inclusion in public policies and tackling gender-based violence as well as socio-economic challenges faced by rural women.
  9. We support the Tunisia-based Arab Institute for Democracy, which brings together entities aspiring to democratic change in the Arab world by peaceful means, and raises awareness on democracy and human rights by producing research reports and organizing events including conferences, workshops, and trainings.


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