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Supporting vulnerable groups and the continuity of local and critical services during the Covid-19 pandemic

Context

Vulnerable groups in Tunisia face a wide range of challenges: 
  • Lack of access to appropriate social safety nets, safeguards and protection services to support them when they are the most vulnerable;
  • Lack of access to quality public service delivery due to municipalities’ limited means and capacities for municipalities as well as low coordination across levels of government;
  • Lack of means to keep public service providers accountable and ensure that they are responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable.
The COVID-19 global health emergency and its economic and social impacts have disrupted nearly all aspects of life. This has created new needs for vulnerable groups while simultaneously further exacerbating pervasive structural challenges.
 
This project supports Tunisia’s efforts to address these challenges by promoting an inclusive, equitable and responsive governance with a specific focus on the local level in six priority municipalities: Sidi Ali Ben Aoun and Cebalet Ouled Asker in Sidi Bouzid, Enfidha and Sidi El Heni in Sousse, and Ghomrassen and Bir Lahmer in Tataouine. 
 
The project action is designed and implemented in cooperation with local authorities, local civil society organisations as well as the central government, especially the Presidency of Government, the Ministry of Local Affairs and the Environment, the Ministry of Women, Family and Senior, and the Ministry of Social Affairs, with the financial support of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.

 

Objectives

‌The project supports Tunisian central and local authorities in their effort to better address the needs of vulnerable groups and provides capacity building to local civil society and citizens to contribute to this mission.   

The project will achieve this by:

 
  • Objective 1: Supporting the delivery of social protection services for vulnerable groups
  • Objective 2: Ensuring the continuity of and access to critical local public services for vulnerable groups
  • Objective 3: Securing the efficient procurement and delivery of critical goods, services and assistance to the most vulnerable

Outcomes

Better social protection services

The COVID-19 crisis has profoundly changed people’s lives, causing tremendous human suffering and affecting people’s sense of personal security. The impact of COVID-19 has been particularly severe for the most disadvantaged and has compounded existing socio-economic divides. Lockdowns and mobility restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus measures have notably led to a global surge in domestic violence and have compromised the effectiveness of protection systems and safeguards for vulnerable children, youth and women.

Hence the need for stronger social protection services for at-risk children and youth, victims/survivors of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence as well as rural women lacking social security coverage, especially in marginalised communities and regions.

  • At-risk children and youth: social workers from the Centres for Defence and Social Integration (CDIS) are better equipped to support at-risk children and youth through coaching on the implementation of conflict and health-sensitive measures.
  • Victims/Survivors of intimate partner and  sexual and gender-based violence: the quality and access to protection services is improved by strengthening alert mechanisms, making communication material on support services more readily available, and supporting the effective functioning of the newly established Instances of Regional Coordination responsible for combatting violence against women through new working tools and on-site coaching.
  • Marginalised rural women lacking social security: the access of rural women to social security is extended through a diagnostic report on the Ahmini programme. The report identifies weaknesses in the design and implementation of this social security coverage programme and provides survey data on rural women’s needs in Sousse, Sidi Bouzid and Tataouine. The diagnostic also presents concrete recommendations to the various partners in order to improve the management of the social security system for rural women.

Better continuity of and access to critical local public services

Subnational governments are at the frontline of the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Regional and local authorities are responsible for effectively implementing infection prevention measures and continuing to deliver critical public services. However, they struggle from a lack of equipment, human resources and skills.

The project thus supports the continuity of and access to critical local public services through improved waste collection, local public communication and digital skills, as well as inter-stakeholder coordination.

  • Waste collection: the continuity of waste collection services is ensured through an epidemiological report providing business continuity plans according to different scenarios, the vaccination of waste collectors, the delivery of sanitary and personal protective equipment and coaching to waste collectors to implement infection prevention measures.
  • Local public communication and digital government: municipal agents are coached on practical public communication tools and techniques, the elaboration of municipal communication strategies and the adoption of digital service delivery skills to ensure a more open, transparent and inclusive local government.
  • Inter-stakeholder coordination: coordination between central as well as local stakeholders, including municipal staff, civil society and citizens, is strengthened through the development of a coordination platform promoting the identification and support to proposals of municipal development as well as a coaching on dialogue and coordination tools for more efficient local coordination mechanisms.

Better procurement and delivery of critical goods, services and assistance

Public procurement in Tunisia represents 15% of the country’s GDP and 40% of the national budget and is at the forefront of the crisis response to ensure the urgent and rapid supply of critical goods, as well as the delivery of public services, particularly health services. The COVID-19 crisis creates, however, challenges of responsiveness, accountability and equitability for governments in terms of public procurement and delivery of critical goods and services.

To that end, the project works to enhance the resilience of Tunisia’s public procurement system and processes and to empower citizens to keep their local public services accountable. In parallel, it supports civil society-led initiatives to help address the needs of the most vulnerable.

  • Public procurement: public service delivery is improved thanks to enhanced public procurement procedures at the municipal level, greater resilience of emergency procurement processes in pilot entities (Sahloul Hospital and SONEDE), and the creation of e-learning modules for public buyers and supplier to encourage the uptake of the e-procurement platform TUNEPS. 
  • Citizen feedback: citizens are empowered to provide their feedback on local public service delivery and ensure its responsiveness to vulnerable groups’ needs through mechanisms including citizen charters, a digital application for citizen reporting on the respect of sanitary measures, and a survey conducted by local CSOs about citizens’ satisfaction with the quality of local public services and procurement. 
  • Civil society: The capacities of local civil society organisations are strengthened and they are empowered to participate to the national effort in support of vulnerable groups in response to the COVID-19 crisis through technical and financial support to initiatives that deliver vital assistance to the most marginalised. See brochure.

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For more information about the project, please contact Amira TLILI, Policy Analyst and Project Co-ordinator, amira.TLILI@oecd.org 

For more information about the OECD’s past cooperation with the United Kingdom in Tunisia, please visit the Good Governance and Anti-Corruption in Tunisia and the Youth Policy Shapers project pages.