New Publication: Gender equality in Tunisia: The EU’s tripartite dialogue

By Sarah Wolff


To what extent is the EU projecting democratic norms in the area of gender? Gender equality and women’s empowerment have been at the heart of the EU’s external action since the Arab uprisings. This article is an in-depth study of how the EU interacts with non-state actors in practice, and beyond the recipient-donor relationship, in the format of tripartite dialogue whereby the EU, civil society and the Tunisian government consult each other before any major EU meeting. First, this article reviews what EU democracy projection involves in the field of gender equality. Then it offers a mapping of the local, active participants on feminism and gender equality. Third, the article focuses on an innovative practice of trust-building, that of the gender sub-group of the tripartite dialogue. The main argument is that the dialogue has provided a new venue to project trust-building practices that are central to the consolidation of democracy. Yet this practice is weakened by the lack of considerations of major divides around gender in Tunisian society. Interaction on democratic norms thus remains secluded to a very selective venue. Democracy projection is, however, not fully ‘transversal’ as the Islamist-secularist cleavage, socioeconomic inequalities and divides of the rural peripheries constrain the impact of the tripartite dialogue and subsequent democracy projection.

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