On Wednesday, the Minister for Foreign Action and European Union, Meritxell Serret i Aleu, travelled south of the Tunisian capital to visit the towns of Sousse and M’Saken. During her visit, she was able to see first-hand the impact of several development cooperation projects financed by the Catalan Government in the area. Serret highlighted the feminist approach and the emphasis on youth in development cooperation in Tunisia, where “we carry out cooperation projects while supporting Tunisian civil society and local authorities,” hand in hand with Catalan cooperation partners, which in this case is MedCities.
In M’Saken, “we learned about a flagship project, which has supported the creation of a youth council and a space to support young local entrepreneurs.” “What we are doing in Tunisia is another example of Catalan cooperation that not only builds good relations in the social sphere, but also supports development based on the promotion of democratic culture, with a particular emphasis on young people and women,” she added.
A broad social consensus
Speaking to the media in M’Saken, the Minister for Foreign Action and European Union once again took the opportunity to highlight development cooperation as a “priority policy” for the Catalan Government, and reminded them that the Master Plan 2023-2026 is currently going through the Catalan Parliament, where it should soon be passed. Serret is confident that “the social consensus” on this policy “will lead to a broad consensus among all the parliamentary groups.” “I am convinced that Parliament will soon give it the green light so that this national policy can be consolidated further,” she said.
Minister Serret also announced that an event will be held in Barcelona on 3 July to promote Catalan cooperation and to present the results of a survey carried out by the Government of Catalonia to find out the Catalan public’s perception of development cooperation. “We will emphasise that it is a broad consensus across society, based on the values of defending and promoting human rights, promoting relations and exchanges at an international level and based on mutual benefit and respect,” said Serret.
Today is the second day of Minister Serret’s institutional trip to Tunisia, where this week, among other items on her agenda, she will officially open the headquarters of the Delegation of the Government of Catalonia to North Africa, hold meetings with Tunisian institutional and civil society stakeholders, and visit cooperation projects on the ground. Tunisia has been one of the countries prioritised by the Catalan Government’s cooperation policy since 2015, where over the years it has supported the promotion of youth participation, support for women victims of gender violence, and the regeneration of the social and solidarity economy, among other projects.
In the town of M’Saken, Minister Serret met the municipal council team, and learned about projects financed by the Catalan Government and implemented by the MedCities organisation. An example is the M’Corner space providing co-working, information, training opportunities and support for young people. Through MedCities, the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation contributes to enhancing young people’s skills and local authorities’ capacity for a more participatory management of local affairs, with training activities and the creation of a Youth Council. The aim is to foster employability and entrepreneurship among young people.
At midday, Serret met Governor Nabil Ferjani and Director of International Cooperation Ikbel Kerkeni in Sousse. She also learned about a project receiving Catalan Government funding amounting to 150,000 euros, managed by the Governorate with the National Union of Tunisian Women, which aims to enhance the role of women in the regeneration of the social and solidarity economy in the region. The project will continue until August 2024.
The delegate of the Government of Catalonia to North Africa, Ahmed Benallal, the Director General for Development Cooperation, Yoya Alcoceba, and the Secretary General of MedCities, Josep Canals, accompanied the Minister today.
Meeting with UNDP Tunisia
Until this point, the agenda of the Minister’s institutional trip to Tunisia focused on finding out about the projects by Catalan cooperation partners on the ground. Last night, Serret met the representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Tunisia, Céline Moyroud, and in their discussions, she followed up on the agency’s projects financed by the Catalan Government. The Government of Catalonia has been working with this United Nations agency in Tunisia since 2019 on projects to progress towards the integration of young people and supporting victims of gender violence, among others. During this period, it has funded three projects for a total amount of €642,000.
After the bilateral meeting, Serret met several representatives of Catalan cooperation partners present in Tunisia, such as NOVACT, the Assembly of Cooperation for Peace, MedCities and MedWaves at the offices of the Delegation of the Government of Catalonia to North Africa. At the reception, she also met prominent stakeholders in Tunisian civil society, including the National Union of Tunisian Women and the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights.
Catalan co-operation in Tunisia
Tunisia has been one of the countries prioritised by Catalonia’s cooperation policy since 2015, due, among other reasons, to its importance in the democratisation process in the Mediterranean region and the importance of the country’s civil movements. In total, since 2019 the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (ACCD), on behalf of the Catalan Government, has provided €3.7 million in Official Development Aid (ODA) through Catalan cooperation partners in both Catalonia and Tunisia, which have undertaken projects in various fields with a local and regional perspective.
Inequalities, economic development models, the urban agenda and the need to strengthen local governance are essential and central issues on the agenda of Catalan cooperation in the region, as is the need to make further progress on an agenda that defends and promotes equality and women’s rights and prevents gender violence. Catalan cooperation has also been active in the country in areas including the promotion of the social and solidarity economy, conflict prevention and support for government decentralisation processes.