Oral history interview with Emna Jeblaoui, 2015
Born in Tunis, Emna Jeblaoui is the President of the International Institute in Human Development, which promotes multiparty dialogue and recently launched the Women for Peace and Security Project. Since 1999, she has taught translation and Islamic studies at the University of Manouba. From 2013-2015, Emna served as a consultant and coordinator at the Training Center of the Tunisian Assembly managed by UNDP, where she advised on civil society and multiparty democratic dialogue and suggested different scenarios of mediation and confidence building. Emna is a recognized expert on Tunisian civil society and human rights, sits on the advisory board of different NGOs, and is a founding member of various organizations working on transition issues.
Scope and Contents
In the interview's first session, Emna Jeblaoui describes the NGO landscape prior to and immediately following the Tunisian Revolution. She relates her own research on and support for civil society actors, including the Forum of the Democratic Transition and several training programs. In 2011, she focused on strengthening organizations' initiatives for human rights. Once the transition was under way, she participated in NGO involvement in constitution writing. Jeblaoui then speaks to challenges to NGO operations during the Ben Ali dictatorship, including her own obstacles as a university professor and human rights advocate. She narrates her view of the transition as a United Nations worker and adviser to Mustapha Ben Jaafar. She discusses the collaboration between the National Constituent Assembly and civil society actors in drafting the new constitution. Jeblaoui has faith in the constitution but believes that its implementation is a long-term project. Finally, she sketches the dynamics between political and civil society actors more generally.
In the second session, Jeblaoui recalls the events of the Tunisian Revolution, including the role of Internet communication and other ways in which the demonstrators mobilized. She describes the emergence of thousands of new NGOs following the revolution, and compares the older ones to the newer ones. They are now starting to merge because funding has decreased. She believes that NGOs have a very close relationship with Tunisians, but NGO leadership has to appease both political leaders and the grassroots. Jeblaoui explains that the Mohamed Ghannouchi government's attempt to incorporate NGOs was a meaningless gesture. She speaks to the role of digital tools in mobilizing Tunisians before and after the revolution. She discusses the difficulty of maintaining revolutionary momentum among youth and NGOs. Jeblaoui then explains the role of civil society in drafting Tunisia's new constitution, especially in terms of local advocacy. She opines that the Tunisian Quartet of the National Dialogue averted a political crisis, and evaluates the Troika and technocratic governments. She concludes by describing NGOs' current challenges.
Copyright by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2015.