65 Former Officials, Experts Call on Kerry to Bolster Support for Tunisia

kerry, tunisia, democracy, middle east,

On March 24, 2014, a diverse group of 65 former diplomats, Middle East experts, and former members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to follow through on U.S. commitments to Tunisia by increasing support for its economic, political, and security needs. The letter was signed by four former U.S. Ambassadors to Tunisia and eight former members of Congress including former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Senator Joe Lieberman, and former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman.  Other signers of the letter include former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair, former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department Anne-Marie Slaughter, and former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.

“This letter demonstrates a strong consensus among a wide variety of policy voices who believe the U.S. government must do more to support Tunisia’s democratic transition,” said Stephen McInerney, Executive Director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, “as well as a strong consensus on several specific steps that Washington should take to do so.”

The letter notes the historic political progress that Tunisia has made since 2011 and the potential positive impact that a successful democratic transition in Tunisia could have on the entire region, while also noting the significant challenges the country still faces.  It also outlines seven specific policy recommendations for the Obama administration, including steps the U.S. can take to help bolster private sector investment, support institutional reform of the security and judicial sectors, and strengthen the U.S.-Tunisia relationship through increased exchange and partnership programs and a strengthened framework for bilateral trade.

Secretary Kerry will have the opportunity to discuss these recommendations during the launch of a Strategic Dialogue with Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa during his upcoming visit to Washington April 2-4.

“Obama administration officials have recently declared support for Tunisia’s democratic transition to be  a ‘top priority,’ and President Obama and Secretary Kerry are likely to repeat this during Prime Minister Jomaa’s visit to Washington next week,” said McInerney. “But it is essential that Tunisians see more than just rhetorical support from Washington.”

Currently, the United States has allocated only $30 million in bilateral economic aid for Tunisia in the FY15 budget, while continuing to depend on funds from multi-country accounts to address the shortfall in funding.  An increased and sustained investment can demonstrate a more serious commitment to the country and provide the support needed to ensure the success of the Arab world’s first genuine democratic transition.

Click here for the full text of the letter as a PDF.