Tunisia was, since independence, ruled by an authoritarian regime that mutated into a closed police state under the country’s second president, former Minister of Interior Zinelabidine Ben Ali. Public space was closed and political participation became inexistent. Nonetheless, the country’s strong institutions, the spread of education among the population, the limited political bloodshed in Tunisia’s recent history, among other things, gave Tunisia’s transition to democracy in 2011 a unique path.
The democratic system that Tunisia adopted in 2011 is an originality that attracted global scholarly attention. CGC Tunis can facilitate studying Tunisia's democratic transition, which would benefit Columbia faculty and students, especially from the departments of Political Science and Sociology, the Middle East Institute, MESAAS (the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies) and SIPA.
Political Science, as a discipline, was partly banned in Tunisia during dictatorship. The interest of Columbia faculty and graduate students in Tunisia will lead to frequent visits to CGC Tunis. Through our future MoU's with Tunisian universities, we can make use of these visits to foster the study of Political Science.
A study-abroad class was organized in 2015 by the Global Centers, the Office of Global Programs and Columbia's Department of Political Science: Democracy and Constitutional Engineering in the Middle East, It was a three-week summer program taught in Tunisia - and partly in Turkey - that provided Columbia students, and a select group of students from the region, with tools to understand the democratization process ongoing since 2011, and introduced them to Political Science. The class did not take place since 2016, but it will hopefully restart in 2019 with Tunis and Nairobi as its centers. CGC Tunis and CGC Nairobi will work together on this project.