Opportunities and Obstacles facing Political Decentralization in Tunisia: Security Provision and Local State Authority in a Time of Transition

Principal Collaborator: Souhaïl Belhadj

 

Tunisia’s new Constitution envisages wide-ranging reform measures targeting a significant devolution of power to local government. Researchers, politicians, and analysts are struggling to ascertain the possible effects of this decentralization process on the Tunisian political transition – not least in light of a highly fragmented body of literature focusing on local governance in Tunisia specifically, as well as in the Arab World more generally. In light of these developments, the project aims to provide an in-depth analysis of Tunisia’s on-going process of political decentralization from the viewpoint of security provision. It aims to explore the complex relationships between public administration, human security, and local governance from the interdisciplinary perspective of political sociology. Tunisia’s new Constitution of 2014 foresees far-reaching reform measures targeting a significant devolution of powers to local government, but who are the potential “spoilers” of the envisaged reforms, and how do (or should) the implementation modalities reflect variations in the ways in which the state relates to, or is “present”, at the sub-state level?

Methodologically, this proposed study constitutes small-N qualitative case studies of four municipalities chosen to represent a variation in state authority on the local level. By comparing and contrasting de facto modes of sub-state political rule in light of the de jure decentralization measures currently being implemented, the project seeks to investigate the existing institutional practices of security provision at the local level, and the ways these are linked to the transformation of public administration as envisaged by the Constitution. Hence, this project aims to offer a complementary perspective which provides an in-depth understanding of the socio-political modalities of the decentralization process by asking:

  • What are the existing institutional practices of security provision at the local level, and how are they linked to the transformation of public administration in the post-authoritarian era, as well as in the devolution of power and authority foreseen by the new Constitution?
  • Who are the potential “spoilers” of the envisaged reforms, and how do (or should) the implementation modalities reflect variations in the ways in which the state relates to, or is “present”, at the sub-state level?

The project is supported by the Special Programme on Security, Society and the State of the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

 

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