I have recently returned from a visit to Tunisia. I went as Chair of the Cities Alliance. We visited an inland city, one of eight with whom we are working and then had a board meeting in Tunis.
Tunisia is of course the original mover of the Arab Spring and the only country where the movement for democracy is surviving. They have had a difficult time situated as they are between Algeria and Libya; and with violent islamist movements trying to destabilize the Country and undermine its income from tourism.These difficulties mean that the people of the interior are yet to see any benefit from the Democratic Revolution.
But despite this history, the visit was inspiring. Tunisia has recently passed a decentralization law and held local elections in a large number of municipalities. They have required that half the new councillors be women and a substantial proportion young. The new councillors are full of commitment to build a better future by working closely with local people and consulting them about their wishes and ideas.
I came away feeling optimistic. I dearly hope that they can succeed in delivering improvements in life particularly for the more deprived. This is really the test of democracy; The economy grew under Ben Ali but the proceeds were not shared and the people became angry and frustrated at the injustice of it all, hence the Revolution. Democracy is not just about expressing opinions, it is most importantly about organising a fair society.