GFDD Global Roundtable presents Tunisia

March 21, 2011

As part of its ongoing program to encourage global knowledge and understanding, in particular in light of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Global Foundation for Democracy and Development hosted a roundtable discussion with Tunisia’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Ghazi Jomaa with a
special focus on the challenges and opportunities that the country faces in light of the departure of long-standing President Ben Ali by popular force last January.

The roundtable began with a brief overview by GFDD Executive Director, Natasha Despotovic of Tunisia’s population, recent history and geographic location followed by questions on: 1) the recent changes that have taken place in the country, 2) the economy, 3) the tourism industry, 4) women issues and
5) Tunisia’s progress towards the UN’s MDGs.

Ambassador Jomaa explained that over the past two months, Tunisia has made significant strides towards normalcy and stability, having established its security and affirmed that it is on the right political track towards democracy. He confirmed Tunisia will hold an election on July 24 to choose a constituent assembly that will rewrite the constitution and chart the country’s transition in to a new

The country’s key economic challenge has been to boost job-generating growth and lower unemployment, particularly among the educated youth in a country where 55% are under the age of 25. In that regard, Tunisia is actively encouraging investments from, and partnerships with, the international Community. It was a fact highlighted in a trip by
Hillary Clinton on March 19 to Tunis during which she discussed the importance of boosting investment, particularly in the high-employment technology sector. In this connection, an agreement was arrived at on the participation of the American Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in establishing an action strategy based on various mechanisms notably (1) granting preferential credits to small- and medium-sized enterprises, (2) instituting guarantees for American investors to
encourage them to settle in Tunisia and (3) developing a promotional and media plan describing Tunisia’s investment advantages to the international community.

Concerning the status of tourism in Tunisia, which has been cited as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa, the Ambassador said that Tunisia has expanded into a new phase of tourism development. Tunisia has historically attracted a large number of visitors lured by its proximity to Europe,
its mild, temperate climate, affordable prices and the quality of services provided. But, in recent years, the beaches of Hammamet and the antiquities of Carthage are no longer Tunisia’s main attractions and the country is now seeing a large increase in the fast-growing area of “health tourism” – followed by France, Tunisia is the world’s second destination for spas and thalasso therapy. Moreover, the Tunisian ecotourism sector is
also currently experiencing a new momentum thanks to the setting up of a number of ecotourism centers around the country.

Tunisia continues to set the bar for Arab women’s rights in the 21st century. Tunisian women were among the first in the Arab world to obtain the right to vote, shortly after independence in 1956. They have a greater share of seats in Tunisia’s Parliament than women have in the French Parliament, polygamy is banned, and marriage is
conditional on female consent. Perhaps most importantly, Tunisian women are well-educated: their literacy rate, at 71 percent according to UNESCO, is higher than that of women in any other North Africa country.

With regard to the Millennium Development Goals, the Ambassador pointed out that 6 of the 8 MDGs had already been achieved by mid-term, and that the figure should actually be increased to 7 when taking into account the significant strides Tunisia has made in
reducing child mortality. It seems that there are two methods of calculating the rate and a recent report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) did not reflect the reality of the situation. However a study by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, which has committed $1.5 Billion for integrated women’s and children’s health programs, has confirmed Tunisia’s progress toward Millennium Development Goals for reducing maternal and child mortality by

Ms. Despotovic, thanked the Ambassador for coming and on behalf of President of the Dominican Republic, Dr. Leonel Fernández, and invited him to the DR to continue discussing possible partnership opportunities between institutions in the Tunisia and the DR.


GFDD organizes regular meetings with UN Ambassadors and other prominent figures in the international community in an effort
to spread the news, knowledge and understanding of other countries, global issues and work of different United Nations bodies to its audience in the Dominican Republic, the US and around the world. The monthly series, GFDD Global Roundtable is also a part of GFDD’s program to support the work of the United Nations and, as a non-governmental institution affiliated to it, contribute to the visibility and understanding of its work.

The Global Roundtable is made
possible in close association with the United Nations, the Mission of the Dominican Republic to the UN and South South News.