Competition for Control of the State and the Transitional Justice Agenda Among Tunisian Civil Society Organizations
Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm, “Competition for Control of the State and the Transitional Justice Agenda Among Tunisian Civil Society Organizations”, Peacebuilding 9:2 (2021) 149-163.
Posted: 18 May 2021
Date Written: May 15, 2021
Often, the transitional (TJ) and peacebuilding literatures treat the State and civil society as monolithic actors that have definable interests that can help us explain their policy preferences. However, this masks the diverse, sometimes contradictory, policy views present within both the State and among civil society organisations (CSOs). This article examines how Tunisian CSOs have positioned themselves vis-à-vis the State and each other with respect to TJ since the 2011 revolution. In post-revolutionary Tunisia, among other things, CSOs are divided based upon religion, their status under Ben Ali, their TJ preferences, their geographical location, and their access to and willingness to engage international experts and donors. In a country with a strong State, rather than ‘letting the state off the hook’, CSOs have both pressured the State to deliver on justice and competed over control of the State to achieve their policy goals. Groups that represent secular, youth perspectives outside of Tunis, in particular, feel left out of the conversation. Having failed to coopt the State, most CSOs continue to desire government-led action on TJ. Theoretically, the article calls for a more thoughtful dissection of the CSO category and a questioning of the divide between CSOs and the State that existing research often at least implicitly assumes to exist. It also reflects on the strategies non-state actors use when they are excluded from TJ debates.
Keywords: Tunisia, transitional justice, civil society, truth commission
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