Participatory budgeting in Tunisia has been implemented in four municipalities: La Marsa, Menzel Bourguiba, Tozeur and Gabès. It is a popular initiative among citizens as a move away from the oppressive authoritarian regime and toward a more integrated state-citizen relationship.
Problems and Purpose
Participatory budgeting (PB) in Tunisia has been implemented in four municipalities: La Marsa, Menzel Bourguiba, Tozeur and Gabès. This case will focus on La Marsa, as there is very little information on the use of PB in other municipalities. The PB in La Marsa began in 2014 and is ongoing. The participants received 5% of the local governments budget in the first year of the PB, and 10% in the second year.
The main purpose of participatory budgeting in Tunisia is to allow the citizens to allocate certain funds to the areas they see as most important. Moreover, due to Tunisia’s authoritarian past, the PB can also be seen as promoting a more integrated relationship between the state and citizens.
However, the main problem with the use of PB in Tunisia is the municipalities are limited in the areas they can allocate funds as many important policy areas such as sewage, roads, and environmental issies are under the control of national government agencies and the municipalities cannot allocate funds or change these areas (Schugurensky, 2015). This is problematic for PB in Tunisia as it seemingly allows citizens to become involved in decision-making processes but in actuality participants are very limited in what they can change.
Background History and Context
Tunisia was under a dictatorship for 23 years, which was overthrown in 2011, creating a new democratic regime in which the citizens of Tunisia have more freedoms and power. Given Tunisia's authoritarian past, this innovation is particularly interesting. PB in Tunisia has become popular among citizens as a way to move forward from the oppressive regime implemented by Ben Ali form 1987-2011.
Participatory budgeting was introduced in 2014 in order to promote citizen participation and to promote decentralization of power. Tunisia has a very centralized government inherited from being under colonial rule by France from 1881-1956 (Schugurensky, 2015).
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
This innovation was introduced and funded by Associative Action, an NGO (non-government organization) that was founded in 2012. The main aim of Associative Action is local development and strengthening relationships between citizens and the state. Associative Action was involved in the first cycle of PB in Tunisia. The NGO provided training for facilitators and was involved in the running of the innovation, and is now trying to spread PB into other areas of Tunisia (Schugurensky, 2015). The Tunisian government invited Associative Action to be involved in the PB in La Marsa, Tunisia.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
This innovation is open to all who live in the municipality; no particular participant selection method is used.
Methods and Tools Used
This initiative is an example of participatory budgeting, an increasingly common method of democratic innovation broadly described as "a decision-making process through which citizens deliberate and negotiate over the distribution of public resources." There are many benefits associated with participatory budgeting including increased civic and democratic education; increased government transparency; and an increased opportunity for participation by historically marginalized populations. 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Participatory budgeting in Tunisia, specifically in the municipality of La Marsa, began by having a meeting that was specifically meant to educate participants about participatory budgets and how the budgeting process works in La Marsa. After participants had been educated and informed, meetings were held on both Saturdays and Sundays over several weeks. During the Saturday meetings participants had a chance to raise their grievances with the current system. The Sunday meetings were used to build upon these grievances and move forward with policy recommendations (Schugurensky, 2015). During the Sunday meetings, participants split into small groups of around 5-6 people and decided which issues they thought where most important to present back to the municipality. From this, all participants voted on the issues they felt were most important. Due to Tunisia’s authoritarian past, this process was not straightforward, as many participants were not used to grassroots decision-making. However, trained facilitators were used in order to make the process of decision-making run more smoothly.
Participants were limited in the areas to which they could allocate funds. Nevertheless, participants made decisions on street lighting, generally proposing projects that would benefit the poorest areas in their municipality, including lighting areas of La Marsa that had high crime rates, improving lighting in areas such as schools and public baths, and focusing on making it safer for women and children at night (Schugurensky, 2015).
After the final proposals were voted for, participants then voted for delegates who would represent each district in the public assemblies that would approve their proposals. Each district had three delegates. This was mainly to insure transparency and improve trust among the participants that their proposals would become implemented (Schugurensky, 2015).
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The influence of PB in La Marsa, and Tunisia more broadly, is slightly limited as the participants could only allocate funds to certain areas. However, the process of PB has had positive effects on the participants by making them feel empowered and involved in decision-making in their municipality (Bouziri, 2015). The outcomes of the PB in Tunisia are currently hard to measure. As a relatively new innovation the decisions made by participants were to be implemented in the summer of 2015 (Bouziri, 2015)
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The ongoing participatory budget in La Marsa, Tunisia was in its early stages as of 2015. Therefore, it is difficult to tell if the innovation has been successful. However, it can be seen that the PB in La Marsa has gone some way in empowering its participants by giving them responsibility in the municipality, and also allowing them to become part of the decision-making process. In addition, Smith’s (2009) framework for the success of an innovation can be applied to La Marsa. Smith’s (2009) framework consists of measuring how much popular control is given to citizens. When participants are enabled to apply considered judgment, the transparency and the efficiency of the innovation improves. Participatory budgets as an innovation are generally transparent, as it is the participants themselves who make decisions, and therefore can all be accountable for the outcome of decisions. In addition to this, another aspect of this innovation that can be seen as successful is the way in which it allows participants to have considered judgment by having some meetings dedicated to learning about PB and the budgeting process in their municipality. The efficiency of this innovation can be seen in the way that it was facilitated. The NGO Action Associative insured that facilitators would be available to make the process as efficient as possible. However, the participants in the PB in La Marsa can be seen to be lacking in popular control, as the participants were limited in which areas they could allocate funds.
Bouziri, B (2015). Participatory Budgeting in Tunisia [email]. Sent to Flora Day 20/6/15
Schugurensky, D (2015). Bedis Bouziri on Tunisia's Participatory Budgeting Initiative. [Online] Available <from http://www.shareable.net/blog/bedis-bouziri-on-tunisias-participatory-budgeting-initiative> Accessed 10/06/15
Smith, G., (2009). Democratic Innovations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Organizing NGO - Associative Action [FRENCH]
Map by Free World Maps - www.freeworldmaps.net/africa/tunisia/map.html
Lead Image: Participatory Budgeting Tunisia https://goo.gl/83RQMk
Secondary Image: Bedis Bouziri on Participatory Budgeting in Tunisia https://goo.gl/5dMbe5