1. How the Arab spring has changed the context for civil society, in particular for the associations interested in environment and sustainable development?
A flowering spring has provided radical changes towards freedom of expression, innovation, ideas and projects; indeed, a sense of freedom in which each association get the right to better manage its own business , plans and programmes ; an autonomy and choice of governance without pressure and obligation. However, the challenge is to keep these new assets on sustainable manner.
2. In your opinion, what are the new opportunities and also the obstacles to avoid in order for the civil society to strengthen its initiatives and to be better recognized in the long run?
In my opinion, the greatest opportunity is to get advantage of this new context to create and develop the civil society and its impact towards wetlands. This enables the creation or strengthening of partnership for the benefit of the networking of associations active in environmental and nature activities. This is a favorable opportunity to promote innovative approach such as the Association Network for Nature and Development in Tunisia (RANDET) and the Eco-constitution group, which is an influencing group of ecologists that is preparing environmental and ecological laws to be considered in elaborating the new constitution.
This is also a favorable period to cooperate with other local, regional and international NGOs on environmental and sustainable development issues. The creation of a platform to exchange experiences, ideas and projects would allow promote communication, exchange and dissemination of information among stakeholders about preservation, valuation and sustainable management of natural sites including wetlands.
It is also useful to strengthen the human, financial and physical capacities of the civil society and to ensure the training of their managers and members about the concept of conservation, valuation and creation of projects for sustainable initiatives.
However, there are several obstacles and bottlenecks. Environmental policy framework in Tunisia is not really adapted to field reality and is not always responding to our needs and expectations. Several inconsistencies and gaps impede or do not motivate the willingness of people involved in conservation and lowers of natural environment and nature to pursue their efforts towards conservation. Among obstacles, we can also mention the poor priority given to environment and the lack of specific strategies agreed between all stakeholders involved in conservation and environmental awareness activities.
Other difficulties are the poor awareness of the society about environmental values and the insufficient effort to include environmental matters in the education system in Tunisia. These two dimensions are nevertheless very important strategic lines to speed-up the change of behavior of people, in particular for future generations and then to develop their sense of responsibility and being part of a community or national group with shared responsibility.
3- More specifically for wetlands, what are the challenges the civil society may address, and how?
In front of current environmental challenges facing wetlands, the involvement of all stakeholders and the keeping of regular positive dialogue between them is key, including with economic actors and public services. It is in this context that the civil society can invest in contributing to the elaboration of new legal and strategic documents, in encouraging institutional sponsoring and patronage for abandoned, degraded and poorly maintained wetlands. Civil society can also play a catalyzing role in involving local communities for the management, conservation, maintenance and improvement of wetlands, in creating employment and income generating activities, especially through sustainable tourism that is a favorable entry for both conservation and sustainable development.
An efficient mean to conserve and value wetlands is through sustainable tourism including eco-tourism, we need to join efforts towards this solution…
For further information, please contact Mr. Imed Attig, Chief executive of ETE+ organization: ALET@gnet.tn