Viewpoint: President Béji Caïd Essebsi

Tunisia’s 2010 revolution opened a new chapter in the country’s history, as the Tunisian people dared to make a break with the past. In the ensuing years, Tunisians have demonstrated just as much courage by avoiding strife and confrontation, and instead pursuing a path of compromise and dialogue in order to pave the way for a peaceful transition to democracy.

Three years after the revolution Tunisia faced a crisis that threatened to seriously polarise our society and jeopardise the democratic process, so our political and social leaders chose to iron out their differences through peaceful and compromise-based dialogue. This kind of dialogue made it possible for Tunisia to adopt a progressive constitution in 2014 and to hold free and fair elections later that year, thus consecrating the success of the democratic process. Tunisia’s approach to achieving a democratic transition received recognition from the international community when the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet, which comprised the Tunisian General Labour Union; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. The way Tunisia’s political class overcame its differences is a reflection of our people’s moderate and pragmatic mindset, which is reflected in a reformist legacy marked by many pioneering landmarks since the 19th century. In 1861 Tunisia became the first Arab country to abolish slavery and to promulgate a civil political constitution. It also granted women a unique status, with the promulgation of a Code of Personal Status in 1956. Today, we are committed to the open and tolerant model of society that stems from this time-honoured legacy.

We are also committed to meeting our current challenges through an inclusive process, where all political forces can contribute to the building of a democratic and prosperous Tunisia. Last summer, I took the initiative of setting up a national unity government that is led by the younger generation and includes more female members. This government, supported by Tunisia’s main political parties and major national civil society organisations, is working to implement the ambitious reforms our nation needs in order to boost economic growth, reduce unemployment and accelerate the pace of development in underprivileged regions of the country. A key objective of these reforms is to establish a more business-friendly environment for domestic and international investors, which is why we recently adopted a new investment law. The “Tunisia 2020” conference, which took place in November 2016, put Tunisia on the international investment map and showcased the keen interest that governments and private business around the world have in investing in Tunisia and helping with its economic recovery.

With our implemented reforms, we are hopeful international investments can increase by 80% in the next five-year development plan for 2016-20, compared to 2011-15. Tunisia can offer international investors many assets including an advantageous geographic location, a modern infrastructure, highly skilled manpower and an open economy that is well integrated in the global market. This country can be also a gateway for exports to Africa, Europe and the Arab world.

In order to guarantee a safe and peaceful environment for our visitors and investors, we have enhanced the effectiveness of our counterterrorism efforts, in collaboration with our partners in the region and the world. The fight against terrorism also requires the allocation of adequate budgets at a time when we need to muster all available resources to meet the pressing demands for employment and development.

Without economic recovery and without security, our democratic progresses will remain vulnerable. We will never forget that Tunisia’s revolution was a revolution for dignity and freedom. We are also fully aware that our young people, in particular, cannot wait forever. We must provide them with more jobs and better prospects that are commensurate with their legitimate ambitions.