Advancing the Implementation Agenda on Inter-Municipal Cooperation in Tunisia Within the Current Decentralisation Process



Approval Date
Core Focus
Secondary Cities
Country Type


2.1. Project Background and Rationale Inter-municipal cooperation is a way of organising local governments that is supposed to allow municipalities and their natural partners to form groups or pool resources to carry out certain actions, provide certain public services or even conduct certain projects fostering sustainable local development and contributing to national, regional or local policy on territorial development and infrastructures. Little progress has been made in making inter-municipal cooperation a concrete reality in Tunisia, despite the incentives issued by the central government for nearly 20 years. Indeed, in order to encourage inter-municipal cooperation, the central government decided in 1997 to put in place financial incentives for projects implemented jointly by two or more municipalities in the form of adjusted financing systems that included notably a substantial increase in grant amounts. This can be explained by the fact that there are multiple barriers to inter-municipal cooperation: the red tape in the procedures to create and manage unions, governing bodies and public inter-municipal establishments; the hesitations and lack of enthusiasm municipalities feel about banding together on the grounds of ‘affirming sovereignty over a territory’; municipalities’ poor capacity to design and manage strategic cooperation projects; the local administration’s culture that is used to waiting for the central government to give the kick-off; etc. The 2014 Constitution engages Tunisia strongly in the decentralisation process. It asserts that local authorities should be able to execute their mandate for local service provision autonomously along the principles of citizen participation and accountability. Article 140 of the Constitution aims to allow local authorities to become real development drivers. In this framework, inter-municipal cooperation becomes a major tool to overcome certain structural weaknesses by, among other things, pooling shared resources and optimising the sharing of funds and the joining of efforts to design and execute socio-economic and environmental development projects or providing certain services. Among other things, a new local government code, which should be submitted to Parliament for validation soon, lays the foundations for operationalising decentralisation. In this regard, municipalities are now called on to play a crucial role in local and regional development. This will be facilitated by the ties they can forge with each other and with other partners active in their territories as part of inter-municipal cooperation, taking on a strategic nature. In other words, municipalities will need to adopt strategies through which all stakeholders (elected officials, government offices, civil society and the private sector) will get involved to optimise know-how and resources by pooling them to ensure inter-municipal territorial development and sustainable development and overcome shared problems. The partner institutions within the present project—specifically the Fédération Nationale des Villes Tunisiennes (FNVT, the national federation of Tunisian cities), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions and its subsidiary, SKL International (SKLi), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ, the German society for international cooperation), are active in Tunisia with various local development and local governance support projects and programmes including actions within the field of inter-municipal cooperation. One of FNVT’s objectives is to strengthen various stakeholders involved in decentralised cooperation and notably local administrations. This objective is achieved by promoting inter-municipal cooperation so that Tunisian municipalities can have opportunities to work together and form partnerships. The UNDP’s ‘Appui au développement local intégré et durable’ (ADL, integrated and sustainable local development support) framework programme in support of the Ministry of Local Affairs and the Environment (MLAE) and MDICI was designed to both contribute to the decentralisation and democratic local governance processes and promote economic, social and sustainable local-level development able to provide rapid solutions to the needs to improve the quality of life of citizens, both men and women. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a major unifying thread in the programme, all the actions of which aim to contribute to their effective implementation on the local level. The ADL supported Djerba Island to show how an accelerated participatory planning process can mobilise and facilitate the coordination of national and local and international cooperation stakeholders interested in implementing local projects that have a direct and immediate impact on citizens’ living conditions. The aim was also to help reduce gaps between places on the island and enhance inter-municipal cooperation to fuel national reflection on the legal and regulatory framework on modes of inter-municipal cooperation operational. The project, entitled ‘Tunisian Local Governance Project’ (TLGP), implemented by SKLi in cooperation with FNVT and the MLAE and financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, intends to support national dialogue on decentralisation. In the framework of its third component, the TLGP project has pledged to elaborate a situational analysis of inter-municipal cooperation in Tunisia and a guide to set up inter-municipal projects in Tunisia. GIZ, through its CoMun project (supporting the MLAE) and notably its Waste Management Network (WaMa-Net) component aims to generate partnerships between small and medium cities in the Maghreb and Germany. In Tunisia, 11 cities are receiving GIZ support to implement an urban development project in partnership with a German partner-city. The proposals include waste management projects. Indeed, waste management interventions are often linked to the topic of inter-municipal cooperation because management challenges often go beyond municipalities’ capacities and city limits (for example, the issues surrounding where to locate waste collection sites), and because a large number of Tunisian municipalities are too small to handle the infrastructure investments necessary to improve the waste situation in the country (for example, composting or sorting sites). It is therefore necessary to explore opportunities for inter-municipal cooperation around waste management. In this regard, the WaMa-Net project has allocated considerable funding to supporting the creation of a green and household waste composting plant in a northern suburb of Tunis. The plant should be run in an inter-municipal manner by the municipalities of Marsa, Sidi Bou Said and Carthage, however additional technical and financial support is necessary to explore and propose various scenarios for inter-municipal running of the plant. These partners have responded positively to Cities Alliance’s (CA) invitation to participate through its Tunisia Country Programme to develop in a concerted manner a project proposal to promote inter-municipal cooperation. The present proposal promotes consultation among development partners with the aim of increasing synergies and developing leveraging effects to spread inter-municipal initiatives. The partner institutions thus pledge to implement the project in a coordinated and coherent manner. - What are the key issues to be addressed? Recourse to inter-municipal cooperation demands that those who put it into practice have a better grasp of the underlying principles and better mastery of the available tools. Similarly, the success of inter-municipal cooperation projects depends on the relevance of the identification process, which must take into consideration the characteristics and shared stakes of human development (economic, social, environmental, urban planning and gender issues) as well as each municipalities’ challenges. Thus, the main aim of the project towards which all activities converge is to promote inter-municipal initiatives. The main challenges are: (i) drawing up an exhaustive report able to contribute to national decision-makers’ thinking on how to make the constitutional principle of inter-municipal cooperation operational by formulating recommendations to foster inter-municipal processes in the application of the local government code; (ii) designing a best practice guide able to help municipalities implement inter-municipal initiatives; (iii) supporting inter-municipal initiatives that may serve as examples to promote the replication of such experiences in other municipalities; and (iv) building and spreading knowledge of the experience with the aim of contributing to the institutional operationalisation of inter-municipal cooperation (development of a regulatory framework). Finally, another crosscutting challenge to consider is that of women’s participation in all stages of the project so that they are fully integrated into the various levels of decision making. - Why is this project needed? The government’s decision to adopt inter-municipal cooperation as an approach to further local development is nearly 20 years old. But results have been slow in coming. The strategic decision to pursue decentralisation and inter-municipal cooperation written into the Constitution is a necessary but insufficient catalyst to successfully change culture and practices and achieve tangible results. From this standpoint, the partnership with the Ministry of Local Affairs and the Environment is crucial. To date, there has been no detailed diagnostics/situational analyses on inter-municipal initiatives in Tunisia showing in an integrated and analytic manner the possible hindrances and barriers to developing inter-municipal cooperation and making it possible to formulate recommendations for the Ministry of Local Affairs and the Environment (a project partner) so that it may promote concrete measures facilitating inter-municipal cooperation. Thus, the project’s interest lies in building knowledge from prior experiences in Tunisia to design, create tools for, and test an approach suited to the current decentralisation context of the country, with an emphasis on the involvement and commitment of stakeholders. In this regard, special attention will be given to the real involvement of women in the project both as individuals and as a social group. - How does the project relate to the Country Programme? The project relates specifically to the guiding principles and goals of Cities Alliance’s Country Programme: - Building strategic and operational partnerships between local urban development stakeholders; - Drawing up and preparing local investment plans and municipal investment plans; - Setting up experience exchange platforms between cities; - Stabilising approaches and methods, and formulating guides for action; - Analysing, documenting and disseminating the experiments undertaken; and - Raising the awareness of elected officials and municipal staff on the national scale in regard to strategic urban planning. The project falls under component 3 of the country programme, ‘producing knowledge for action’.
In the context of the Tunisia Country Programme, the objective of the project is to contribute to operationalizing inter-municipal cooperation in Tunisia.
Component 1. Methodology. The local and national authorities have a best practice guide to make inter-municipal cooperation operational. Activity 1.1: An analysis of inter-municipal practices is produced to provide an exhaustive situational analysis of the legal, institutional, governance and financial framework. Activity 1.2: Meetings and consultation and feedback workshops are held with municipalities. Activity 1.3: Recommendations are issued to make the provisions governing inter-municipal cooperation in the local government code operational. Component 2. Demonstration Initiatives/Case Studies. The local authorities receive support implementing inter-municipal initiatives able to inform elaboration of the best practice guide. Activity 2.1: Identification of target municipalities. Activity 2.2: Inter-municipal cooperation meetings and workshops to formulate and monitor actions. Activity 2.3: Technical assistance in support of Implementation of inter-municipal initiatives. Component 3. Knowledge Building, Dissemination and Replication. The local and national authorities are accompanied in their reflections on inter-municipal procedures. Activity 3.1: Establishment of a coordination mechanism for the technical and financial partners involved in inter-municipal cooperation processes in Tunisia. Activity 3.2: National meetings to share the state of progress, best practices and lessons learned from inter-municipal actions (NCC). Activity 3.3: Discussions between pilot municipalities and other municipalities interested in implementing inter-municipal initiatives to share best practices and lessons learned. Activity 3.4: Final assessment report, best practices and lessons learned. Activity 3.5: Development of an IT platform to help identify opportunities to implement inter-municipal initiatives. Activity 3.6: Dissemination of best practices through communication tools to foster the replication process.
Expected Impacts and Results
Outcome 1: The local and national authorities will have a best practice guide to make inter-municipal cooperation operational. Indicator: Number of inter-municipal cooperation tools including recommendations to operationalise inter-municipal cooperation. Target: 2 (diagnostic + guide). A) Minimum % of women interviewed when conducting the situational analysis/diagnostic. Target: 30%. B) % of women taking part in the workshop presenting the results. Target: 30%. Outcome 2: The local authorities will receive support implementing inter-municipal initiatives able to inform the elaboration of the best practice guide. Indicators: Number of projects designed and implemented by the end of the project. Target: 3. A) Number of projects that integrate gender analysis by specifying the role of women in the project. Target: 3. Number of Inter-Municipal Committees set up to monitor and evaluate projects. Target: 3. A) Minimum % of women’s representation in each committee. Target: 30%. Outcome 3: The local and national authorities will receive technical advice to advance thinking on inter-municipal cooperation processes. Indicators: Number of meetings/discussions with the national authorities to discuss good practices and lessons learned from the processes in municipalities. Target: 2. Number of meetings/discussions with the national authorities to discuss good practices and lessons learned from the processes and encourage their replication. Target: 2. A) Minimum % of women’s representation in each of these meetings. Target: 30%. IT platform available to municipalities to pool information and identify opportunities for inter-municipal cooperation. Target: 1 operational platform.