From 30 March to 3 April 2014, the Constitutional Transitions Clinic travelled to Tunis, Tunisia. The clinic’s student researchers participated in a full-day conference on 1 April, presenting preliminary findings of research on issues of constitutional design in the wake of the Arab Spring, which the students have been investigating since September 2013. Working in three teams, the students’ research reports focus on issues of combating corruption, decentralization, and managing oil and gas resources in the Middle East and North Africa region. The reports are being prepared for the clinic’s client for 2012-14, the West Asia and North Africa Office of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).
The conference was attended by over 50 Tunisian academics and graduate students, who engaged energetically with the clinic’s students in the questions and discussion sessions that followed the presentations. The conference was organized by International IDEA.
Additionally, the clinic students met with Ahmed Ouerfelli, Legal Adviser to President Moncef Marzouki, at the Presidential Palace in Carthage. Students were able to ask questions in a discussion that focused on tensions in the constitutional transition process through the Arab Spring and the adoption of the new Tunisian Constitution in January 2014. Mr. Oeurfelli spoke on his role in the President’s Office, as well as the important political history leading up to the county’s transition. The meeting also covered the challenges of transitional justice, which Mr. Ouerfelli noted as perhaps the most difficult issue in the wake of the Tunisian revolution.
Clinic students also met with Zied Ladhari, member of the Tunisian Constituent Assembly, to discuss the process of collaborative constitution writing process in the Tunisian Constituent Assembly. The meeting covered matters of drafting the Constitution, finalizing electoral law, challenges of the current government structure, and issues pertaining to transparency. Mr. Ladhari noted that promoting transparency and measures against corruption is important to the Assembly, and to Tunisia at large for attracting new investment to the country. This is especially relevant to the clinic’s focus areas of combatting corruption and regulating oil and gas resources in the region. Indeed, the Assembly has established its own energy committee to focus on these issues.
Constitutional Transitions also met with our partner Democracy Reporting International (DRI) at their Tunis office, which provided students with exposure to the field and to the organization’s work. DRI aims to serve as a resource of support for those engaged in building democracy, focusing on the institutional aspects of democracy including elections, parliaments, constitutions and democracy standards. The organization provides specialist policy advice on potential improvements to democratic governance. The meeting covered the organization’s history, its role and relationships in Tunisia, and DRI’s experience of constitutional advising in the country, as well as the perceived successes and failures of the Tunisian Constitution.