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The Carter Center Encourages Increased Transparency and Public Participation in Tunisia's Constitution Drafting Process; Calls for Progress to Establish Independent Election Management Body

CONTACT: Atlanta, Deborah Hakes +1 404 420 5124; Tunis, Sabina Vigani +216 23 63 49 79 

Read the full report (PDF) >

The Carter Center office in Tunisia has found that issues of transparency and participation in the country's recently established National Constituent Assembly (NCA) are coming to the forefront and recommends the establishment of a detailed work plan and timeline to help structure NCA work and increase visibility on the process and accountability to stated objectives.

In a report (PDF) released today, the Center also noted that while there is political will to anchor the principle of an independent election management body in the constitution, there has not been tangible progress toward its effective establishment. 
A summary of key Carter Center findings and recommendations is below.

Key Findings
The constitution drafting process:

  • The Carter Center is concerned that the lack of a detailed and public work plan limits the ability of the NCA and its commissions to plan and structure their work, and simultaneously decreases public understanding of and confidence in the NCA's activities and process.
  • The NCA's Rules of Procedure do not sufficiently detail the prerogatives of the Constitutional Drafting and Coordination Committee to ensure consistency in the methods of work.
  • The short time period between the finalization of the draft constitution and the moment it is voted on jeopardizes efforts to disseminate and explain the text to citizens, as well as to gather opinions and views of the public.

Transparency and accessibility of the process:

  • The Carter Center welcomes the NCA's positive initiative to allow media coverage of NCA work, thereby informing citizens about issues debated in commissions and plenary sessions.
  • While the NCA acknowledges the importance of transparency, it does not ensure civil society organizations' full access to debates and relevant information. Article 54 of the Rules of Procedure state that commissions' meetings are public was interpreted inconsistently and largely restrictively.
  • Queries of civil society organizations to attend NCA plenary and commissions' sessions were met with unresponsiveness.
  • The Carter Center welcomes the publication of reports by two NCA commissions, but notes that publication and dissemination of official documents, including verbatim records and meeting notes, are not systematic.
  • While media campaigns on the work of the NCA might raise public awareness of the Constituent Assembly's work and importance, no such outreach campaigns have taken place.

Public participation and consultation:

  • The Carter Center notes positively that the Rules of Procedure provides time for NCA members to reach out to the general public and inform citizens about the process.
  • However, such outreach initiatives rely almost solely on the individual commitment of NCA members rather than on an institution-driven consultation process. The Carter Center is concerned that no formal mechanisms have been created for NCA members to inform and consult their constituencies and to report back to the NCA.
  • The Carter Center welcomes efforts by civil society organizations to bring together NCA deputies and citizens, but emphasizes that such initiatives should be considered as complementary to and not a substitute for NCA-driven citizen consultation.
  • While commissions have consulted experts on various occasions, the NCA could take advantage of foreign expertise from countries with similar constitution drafting experience to enhance public participation and consultation, and to build on recent Tunisian initiatives with regard to nationwide and diverse consultation mechanisms.

Preparing for the next election cycle:

  • Tunisian stakeholders concur that the country should reflect on these first democratic elections by building upon positive achievements and drawing lessons from weaknesses to improve the next electoral process.
  • The Carter Center welcomes the inclusion in the government program of a proposal for the next elections to be held in spring 2013. However, the Center is concerned that a draft law on the independent election management body has not yet been submitted to the NCA, contrary to previous announcements by the government.


  • Establish a detailed work plan for the NCA, including intermediary objectives, to ensure better planning and structured work as well as to provide the public with greater visibility on the way forward and progresses achieved.
  • Ensure that plenary sessions of the NCA and commission debates are open, and establish a formal procedure to grant access and observer status to civil society organizations and interested citizens.
  • Publish and disseminate in a timely manner all NCA official documents – minutes, reports, decisions, and submissions – including by posting them on its website.
  • Provide support to NCA members in planning and implementing activities during the week devoted to consultations in the constituencies, and develop synergies with local civil society organizations engaged in facilitating such consultations.
  • Establish a formal procedure to receive, analyze, and process submissions, as well as to record comments and suggestions expressed during consultations between NCA members and citizens.
  • Ensure prompt submission by the government of the draft law on the election management body and timely consideration by the NCA to allow adequate time for planning and preparations for the next elections.
  • Ensure that recommendations from relevant stakeholders are taken into account and positive achievements are built upon, while considering the draft law on the election management body.

Following its observation of the Constituent Assembly elections, The Carter Center remained in Tunisia to follow the constitutional drafting process and developments related to the establishment of institutional and legal frameworks for subsequent elections. The Carter Center is assessing these processes against Tunisia's national laws and international treaty obligations to which the country has obligated itself, including, among others, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This report presents the Carter Center's findings and recommendations based on meetings with a wide range of stakeholders including NCA members and administrative staff, political party representatives, civil society organizations, and Tunisian academics. The Center's staff also attended some commissions' meetings and plenary sessions of the NCA. The Center appreciates the commitment demonstrated by all interlocutors in sharing information and discussing potential areas for improvement, and acknowledges that Tunisia's October 2011 election of the NCA tasked with drafting a new constitution is a milestone for the country's transition to democracy.


"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. Visit 
www.cartercenter.orgto learn more about The Carter Center.


Le Centre Carter invite à plus de transparence et de participation publique dans l'élaboration de la Constitution en Tunisie, et appelle à avancer vers l'établissement d'une instance indépendante de gestion des élections

مركز كارتر يشجع على زيادة جھود تعزيز الشفافية والتشاركية في أعمال المجلس الوطني التأسيسي و يدعو إلى التسريع في إجراءات تأسيس ھيئة مستقلة لإدارة الانتخابات

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