International Alert has organised a series of citizen forums in the headquarters of the Hay Ettadhamen municipality in Tunisia, aimed at giving local residents a voice in decision-making over the council’s budget spending in 2017.
Two of these citizen forums took place last month, involving approximately 100 residents of the 14 January, 18 January and 4 April quarters. Residents selected four infrastructure projects they felt should be prioritised in their quarters. These related to public lighting, paving streets and roads, and beautifying the city. Three representatives (a man, woman, and young person) were also elected to follow up on the selected projects and monitor their implementation.
Residents in the quarters of Khair Eddine, 2 March, El Shabbi, and Mongi Slim have already identified projects to focus on in their own communities through these participatory budgeting forums, with representatives in place to ensure they are carried out properly. Further forums will also take place in Ettadhamen and Ibn Khaldoun.
The concept of participatory budgeting was developed as part of Alert’s Strengthening youth participation in Ettadhamen and Douar Hicher project. It is the result of a collaboration between various local civil society organizations in Ettadhamen (under the ‘I Change’ network) and its interim municipal council.
The forums are running as part of this wider project, which began with a field study that looked at the conditions and concerns of youth in the neighbourhood. The research revealed that young people experience feelings of powerlessness and exclusion from the democratic process.
Alert has worked to address this by building strong collaborative relationships with local civil society organisations, helping integrate young people into community and political life by training them to map their local area the problems they encounter through OpenStreetMap – a global collaborative mapping tool. An environmental awareness day was also organised in cooperation with ‘Al Berbasha’ - a plastic recycling company.
The participatory budgeting forums are being funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and implemented with organisational support from Local & Global agency. The Tunisian Observatory for Economy provided a number of training sessions and field needs assessments, whilst members of Atid Association have also volunteered to supervise the voting and counting processes during the forums.