Tobias Ellwood, MP and Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Interview

Tobias Ellwood, MP and Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Interview: Tobias Ellwood

What role can Tunisia play in encouraging and contributing to regional security and stability?

TOBIAS ELLWOOD: Tunisia has shown that long-term stability can only be achieved through peaceful dialogue and building legitimate and inclusive institutions. This, together with a clear determination to continue to cement its democratic foundation, are probably the most significant ways in which Tunisia can contribute to encouraging security and stability in the region. Its achievements have been rightly recognised, such as by being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 and being nominated as The Economist’s country of the year in 2014. For our part, we are using our diplomatic influence, practical programming assistance, training and capacity building to support Tunisia and other countries in the region. For example, with the allocation of £136m from the Conflict, Security and Stability Fund in FY 2015/16, we are working to tackle conflict and support reforms to build more open and inclusive government. That funding supports projects in areas such as conflict management, security sector reform and civil society capacity building. The UK also aims to foster prosperity and stability by working with international partners through the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy Programme and the Deauville Partnership to support political and economic development programmes in Arab Countries in Transition.

How can the UK help support inclusive growth and job creation in Tunisia?

ELLWOOD: The UK has been supporting job creation, vocational training, economic governance and transparency, and private sector development in Tunisia since 2011, through the Department for International Development’s Arab Partnership Economic Facility (APEF). As part of the APEF, the UK has also supported vital economic reforms in Tunisia, for example through our £32m contribution to the regional Deauville Partnership Transition Fund. Additionally, the UK is helping with the English language, which is a core skill for employment. Through the British Council, the UK is offering support directly through its on-site teaching programme (2000 students per week) and by providing access to UK examinations (7000 candidates expected in 2015/16); indirectly through its teacher training programmes in schools, universities and vocational training centres. Providing quality careers information and advisory services is important to enable Tunisian university students to access job opportunities, and to help employers recruit the best people. The British Council is supporting Tunisian leaders in higher education through study visits for leaders and master classes in Tunisia led by UK experts. Resilience against the extremist narrative is strengthened by engaging young people in activities that give them a sense of self-worth, provide alternate pathways and encourage critical thinking. Therefore, the UK is providing alternatives such as the Young Arab Voices debate programme, involving more than 10,000 young people.

What can be done to help increase trade volumes between Tunisia and the UK?

ELLWOOD: The UK Trade and Investment team is working hard to realise the potential to diversify and increase UK-Tunisia trade. I attended the Tunisian Investment Forum in London on October 19, 2015, and welcome this initiative to boost our trade relationship. An EU-Tunisia deep and comprehensive free trade agreement would give Tunisia the opportunity to increase trading volumes with the EU and to enable greater integration into the global market, although the effects on UK-Tunisia trade volumes would likely only be felt in the longer term. Another key element is the structural reform of the economy. We have offered UK support and expertise to help the Tunisian government carry out the reforms necessary to boost the economy and incentivise foreign investment.

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Cover of The Report: Tunisia 2016

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