Since the 2011 revolution, Tunisia has enjoyed the most progressive and democratic legal framework for civil society in the Arab world. Decree 88, the 2011 law that governs civil society organizations in the country, properly regulates—rather than restricts—NGO activities. The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) notes that Decree 88 “provides broad protections for the exercise of freedom of association and support for a free and independent civil society sector, including provisions for public funding and prohibitions on state interference in organizations’ operations.” As a result, civil society has flourished.
The government, however, is preparing a new law to replace this decree. A draft is not yet publicly available, but based on their dialogue with the government Tunisian civil society activists worry that the legislation will roll back associational freedoms. The Tunisian government has presented various arguments for why it must issue a new NGO law, while many Tunisian activists question the need for such a change and view the replacement of Decree 88 as a pretext for curbing hard-won rights. A new law would also disrupt the work of the many international organizations operating in Tunisia since 2011, particularly if there are new restrictions on foreign funding. POMED’s analysis concludes that several of the Tunisian government’s claims are questionable, while others represent legitimate concerns that can be best addressed through measures outside of amending Decree 88.
This fact sheet is also available in a PDF version.