Tunisia Country Programme

Promoting strategic urban planning in secondary cities, strengthening local democracy, and undertaking innovative studies on urban public policy.  

Tunisia city
The Country Programme supports Tunisia's cities. Photo: Charlotte Hallqvist

Tunisia is at a turning point in its history, and cities are at the heart of these changes. Since 2011, it has been experiencing a unique societal change embodied by the rise of an active civil society, a new Constitution, and a vigorous decentralisation process.

Despite these political developments, Tunisian cities and regions continue to face multiple challenges, such as a lack of autonomy and the human and financial resources to foster local development. Other challenges include: a high unemployment rate; limited access to basic services (such as public transport and waste management); climate and environmental risks and stresses; urban sprawl; a lack of effective urban and land use policies; and low citizen participation in political, economic and social issues, especially among youth and women.

Tunisia is one of the most urbanised countries in the region, with an urbanisation rate of 70%. The three metropolitan regions of Greater Tunis, Sfax, and Sousse account for 85% of GDP, resulting in important regional disparities.

Over the years most investment has gone to Tunisia’s coastal cities, where 75% of the country’s urban population lives and the bulk of its industry exists. Many smaller inland cities and towns have largely been left behind, with unemployment rates far higher than those of coastal cities. The result has been large regional disparities in infrastructure, access to services, investment and job opportunities.  

Jendouba, Tunisia.
Poverty and unemployment rates are up to three times higher in Tunisia's interior cities compared to the coastal areas, with women and youth the most severely affected.

The Cities Alliance Tunisia Country Programme is committed to help bolster the democratic process and the decentralisation initiatives begun by the national government, strengthening the new civil society, and positioning cities as the engine of local democracy and inclusive urban development, with a particular focus on secondary cities in lagging regions.

Launched in 2016, the programme aims to strengthen decentralisation and promote inclusive, sustainable local development through technical assistance in key areas: 

  1. Participatory strategic city planning;
  2. Developing urban policies and strategies;
  3. Capacity building for local authorities in municipal planning and management; and
  4. Developing, implementing and financing infrastructure projects.
  5. Promoting gender equality and women's participation in decision making.
  6. Integrating labour migrants into Tunisia's secondary cities.

Cities Alliance coordinates the Tunisia Country Programme through a Steering Committee that currently comprises national public institutions and the Federation of Tunisian Cities (FNVT). 


Photo: Charlotte Hallqvist


The Country Programme is primarily implemented by Tunisian government agencies, local authorities, and civil society organisations in partnership with Cities Alliance, other international organisations, and NGOs. 


Tunisian Partners 

Ministry of Local Affairs and the Environment (MALE)
Ministry of Development, Investment and International Cooperation (MDICI)
Ministry of Public Works, Housing and Land Management (MEHAT)
The Foresight and Decentralisation Support Authority (IPAD)  
Local Authorities Loan and Support Fund (CPSCL)
National Federation of Tunisian Cities 
Centre for Training and Decentralisation Support (CFAD)
Association of Tunisian Urban Planners (ATU)
Local authorities of participating municipalities

International Partners 

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)
The German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ)
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)
The World Bank
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
SKL International 


The Cities Alliance Tunisia Country Programme is funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

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Cities Alliance is working to develop synergies and encourage coordination among actors, for more coherent national policies.
Claire Azzabi, World Bank Tunisia Country Office

The Country Programme features activities at the national and municipal levels. It is being implemented in two phases: Phase I (2016-19), which focused on inclusive planning; and Phase II (2020-23), which builds on the activities in Phase I and moves to delivering impact for citizens through investments and projects.

Tunisian women.
Promoting gender equality is a focus area of the Country Programme, and Tunisia's cities have a key role to play in supporting democracy and empowering women. Photo: Charlotte Hallqvist


National-level activities

The Country Programme is supporting the Tunisian government to formulate a National Urban Policy that aims to provide a unified urban development framework to manage urban spread efficiently and coherently at the regional, national, and local levels. It is also producing innovative studies in the field of urban public policy.


  1. Towards A National Urban Policy (begun in Phase I and continued in Phase II)
  2. A spatial analysis and typology of lagging regions undertaken by the World Bank that identified priority areas for government action and provided specific recommendations (Phase I)


Municipal-level activities

The programme supports secondary cities to develop and implement city development strategies (CDS), including building capacity in strategic urban planning and gender-sensitive approaches. Activities also focus on intermunicipal cooperation,  municipal investment planning, and project implementation. 

In Phase II, the programme is coordinating with other Cities Alliance programmes in Tunisia in support of migration and gender activities.

Phase I Projects:

  1. The Madinatouna (Our City) strategic city planning initiative
  2. Municipal investment planning and project implementation for Madinatouna partner cities
  3. Advancing inter-municipal cooperation in the context of decentralisation reforms

Phase II Projects:

  1. Madinatouna II (implementing and financing for projects identified in Phase I)
  2. Advancing inter-municipal cooperation (ongoing)
  3. Promoting Responsible Tourism for Better Economic, Social and Cultural Integration of  Migrants in Jendouba and Kairouan, Tunisia (with the Cities and Migration programme)
  4. Mainstreaming gender in local governance (with the Cities for Women programme)
  5. Femmedina: Inclusive City Programme in Tunis (with the Cities for Women programme)

Towards a National Urban Policy in Tunisia (Phases I and II)

Cities Alliance, in partnership with UN-Habitat, is supporting the Tunisian government to formulate a National Urban Policy (NUP) that aims to provide a unified urban development framework to manage urban spread efficiently and coherently at the regional, national, and local levels.

The project has brought stakeholders together for consultations to gather the necessary political support to develop a joint vision for the future development of Tunisian cities. The Steering Committee has produced a road map for developing the NUP, and UN-Habitat has completed a stakeholder mapping exercise and the initial strategic outline of a policy. 

To make the NUP sustainable, inclusive and based on an analysis of cross-cutting realities, UN-Habitat prepared regional dialogues across the country. These dialogues were instrumental in helping to collectively identify urban development priorities and challenges and set future development goals. They also provided guidelines for improved articulation between urban planning and the provision of public infrastructures and services and how to optimise the value of local, national and regional investments.


A Spatial Analysis of the Potential of Lagging Areas for Regional Economic Development (Phase I)

The World Bank produced a study that systematically identifies and analyses development constraints and opportunities for improving outcomes for residents of Tunisia’s lagging regions.

The study also addresses reducing regional disparities by focusing on the role of cities and local economic development. Undertaken in support of the Ministry of Investment, Development and International Cooperation, the World Bank assisted in closing knowledge gaps and informing and prioritising key investments, policies and programmes for future interventions. 

To this end, “deep-dive” analyses of three Tunisian lagging governorates (Kasserine, Le Kef, and Tataouine) were undertaken and concrete recommendations formulated. The economic potential analyses and the policy note suggest the following three priority areas for national government action:  

  1. Strengthening the institutional environment by operationalising the Local Government Code;
  2. Enhancing economic connectivity, such as through the promotion of development corridors across administrative boundaries (inter-municipal cooperation); and 
  3. Improving conditions in specific lagging areas through targeted interventions that leverage each region’s differentiated territorial assets, such as promoting the key economic sectors identified in the respective region.  

The innovative tools developed by the World Bank based on the study have reinforced the skills of the Ministry of Development, Investment and International Cooperation (MDICI) in territorial development planning in disadvantaged regions. They have also helped the MCICI  prioritise public investments in a more targeted manner so that they have a greater impact on the development of the regions.

Phase I

Strategic City Planning and Implementing Municipal Initiatives Through the Madinatouna (Our City) Initiative 

From 2016-20, the Country Programme supported eight mainly inland secondary cities to adapt to decentralisation. The cities were Béja, Gabès, Jendouba, Kairouan, Medenine, M’saken, Sidi Bouzid and Tataouine. A ninth city, La Soukra, used its own resources to participate in the programme.

Through the Madinatouna strategic city planning initiative led by UNDP and implemented by the National Federation of Tunisian Cities (FNVT), all nine cities produced city development strategies to serve as roadmaps for long-term development planning. Local officials developed an understanding of the improtance of strategic planning for their cities, and municipal technical teams were trained in participatory planning approaches.

The CDS process strengthened the nine cities’ approaches to urban management, strategic planning, and service delivery. It has helped them better identify priorities and use a strategic planning process that aligns urban planning with the provision of public services. 

The Madinatouna initiative was funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

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Municipal Investment Planning and Project Implementation 

This project increased access to, and the quality of, public infrastructure and services in municipalities by enabling them to efficiently plan for and implement municipal projects. It strengthened participatory governance by involving citizens and businesses in the planning process, increasing their understanding of urban management, and enhancing the municipality's transparency as well as responsiveness to stakeholders.  

The project was implemented by Cities Alliance.


Advancing Inter-municipal Cooperation in the Context of Decentralisation Reforms (Phases I and II)

This project promotes inter-municipal collaboration between neighbouring cities in critical areas such as service provision, in the context of decentralisation reforms.  Three partners – GIZ, SKL International, and UNDP – are working closely with the FNVT and the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment to operationalise the project.

Three pilot projects have pioneered inter-municipal cooperation between 12 municipalities that have put mechanisms in place to jointly make local governance, public management, and municipal service delivery more sustainable and efficient. 

These joint projects addressed green waste collection and environmental protection initiatives that are anchored in newly created planning units. They include:

  1. A new green waste composting facility established in northern Tunis, following a feasibility study and conceptualisation of the composting site. 
  2. On the island of Djerba, a new Intermunicipal Planning and Monitoring Unit will formalise current short-term intermunicipal practices in the medium- to long-term and strengthen the strategic planning capacities of Djerba’s three main municipalities (Ajim, Houmt El Souk, and Midoun) for integrated development of the island. The municipalities have also developed a joint parking plan to improve access and traffic on Djerba. 
  3. The seven partnering municipalities of Tunis-South have jointly developed a campaign for containing insects to improve public health. 

The project has also produced a diagnostic study and best-practice guide on inter-municipal cooperation that provides practical guidance to national and local authorities on implementing inter-municipal initiatives and technical advice to stimulate increased collaboration between secondary cities. The production process brought national and local authorities together to jointly reflect and exchange on common challenges and foster coordination across government levels – an emerging concept in Tunisia. 

Multi-stakeholder discussions on lessons learned, value, and challenges are informing the national debate on how to operationalise inter-municipal cooperation. The guide’s recommendations are also contributing to operationalising the provisions governing inter-municipal cooperation in the Local Government Code. 

The project is implemented by UNDP.


Phase II

Madinatouna II 

The second phase of the Madinatouna project (2020-23) supports four partner cities (Béja, Jendouba, Médenine and Tataouine) in adopting strategic planning tools for their territories and implementing the projects identified and prioritised through the CDS process. 

It also aims to create a framework for consultation at the national, regional and local levels to facilitate the implementation of the decentralisation process in Tunisia. 

Activities include: 

  1. Elaborating Local Development Plans (LDP) based on the city development strategies developed during Phase I.    
  2. Strengthening cities' capacity to prioritise investment projects using a participatory approach and elaborate local development plans through planning tools that integrate sustainable and inclusive development.
  3. Elaborating and implementing projects identified through the CDS and LDPs, including financing medium-term infrastructure projects and searching for external funding sources.
  4. Supporting the decentralisation process by harmonising, disseminating, and institutionalising the planning tools developed under the programme . 

Expected results

  1. Four cities have Local Development Plans based on an approach validated by COPIL as well as communications plans and a guide for preparing the LDP. 
  2. Capacity of municipalities strengthened through training, coaching and support in participatory approaches; development and investment planning; technical and financial set-up and implementation of projects; and fundraising and monitoring-evaluation of projects. 
  3. Cities elaborate and implement projects from the CDSs and the LDPs that meet the needs of citizens, including women and youth, and the procedures required by donors. These projects must have a recurrent impact on quality of life and economic development of the city. Cities also have systems for monitoring, follow-up, evaluation and learning at the municipal level, in order to guarantee the proper implementation of projects resulting from the LDP. In addition, the cities are able to raise funds for the projects.
  4. Urban planning tools are harmonised, institutionalised, and disseminated. This is accomplished through a coordination committee that facilitates consultation among stakeholders; transdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder forums on strategic urban development; planning tools to strengthen national urban policy and urban management; studies and advocacy to strengthen local democracy; gender-sensitive mechanisms to involve citizens in improving community services ; and innovative planning and management tools such as guides and manuals to disseminate international and national best practices in planning and local governance.

The Madinatouna II activity is funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

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Jendouba and Kairouan: Promoting Responsible Tourism for Better Economic, Social and Cultural Integration of Migrants

Internal labour migration is both a symptom of and catalyst for exacerbating regional disparities. Secondary cities in lagging regions face a dual challenge: they have lost, and continue to lose, skilled labour as aspiring youth leave for better opportunities elsewhere, while rural low-skilled migrants come to the city in pursuit of work opportunities. These cities are facing pressure to improve access to basic services and infrastructure as well as create livelihood opportunities for their populations.

Projects in the towns of Jendouba and Kairouan will enable the city stakeholders to work together to receive, manage, and integrate labour migrants and, at the same time, promote responsible tourism in the city.

In a partnership between local and regional authorities, civil society and the private sector, young labour migrants will be trained and guided through tourism-related activities that will help them improve their economic situations.

This experience, combined with an urban forum and dialogues at the regional and national levels, will inform citywide strategies to integrate labour migration into local policies and institutionalise the multi-stakeholder partnerships developed through the projects. 

Partners include the National Union of Tunisian Women in Kairouan and the Association of Women, Youth and Children in Jendouba, in collaboration with the tourism sector. 

The project is expected to last from December 2019 – November 2021.

The activity is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

SECO logo


Mainstreaming Gender in Local Governance 

With regards to gender equality and women’s rights, Tunisia is a pioneer in the Middle East-North Africa region. Though the government is taking proactive measures to foster gender equality, persistent social norms are a major obstacle to progress.

The Ministry of Women, Family and Children states that only 4% of women occupy decision-making positions in the country. They also report that 60% of the women in Tunisia are victims of domestic violence, with 70-90% having experienced sexual harassment.

One way cities can improve gender equality is through gender-responsive budgeting. This involves establishing a city budget that works for everyone -- women and men, girls and boys -- by ensuring that resources are distributed equitably and equal opportunities are available to all.

Gender-responsive budgeting is an important mechanism for ensuring greater consistency between economic goals and social commitments. In this context, Cities Alliance is building capacities in Tunisia's secondary cities to ensure that municipal budgets are used to advance gender equality. 

This project is implemented by Cities Alliance's Cities for Women Global Programme.


Femmedina: Inclusive City Programme in Tunis 

Public spaces in Tunisia have been instrumental in providing avenues for women to be equal participants in the cultural and political transformation of their country and community. In this sense, looking at public space through a gender lens allows for greater insight on how half of the world's population participates in community and cultural life. ​

​An opportunity for doing this is the Medina of Tunis. Urban services in the Medina are lacking and almost all the housing stock and public spaces need to be rehabilitated. The poor conditions in which most of the Medina's population live prompted a move towards the periphery of Tunis, and the Medina started losing its inhabitants. Some historic rehabilitation projects have been undertaken in recent years with a strong focus on tourist facilities and services.

Often, efforts to clean up and revitalise neighborhoods are accomplished through a combination of city beautification measures and the displacement of people whom the public perceive as carriers of crime, disorder, and disease. Regeneration projects end up destroying social networks and having a negative impact on women, as they are more likely to rely on local community networks than men.

The involvement of the local community and women in the process of urban renewal is necessary in order to create spaces that reflect stories and needs of people who live there. In addition to ensuring adequate consideration of gender equality and the socially vulnerable, women should also participate in the projects with a sense of agency. Therefore, the Medina needs to make ‘woman-friendliness’ a central part of its urban regeneration.

Programme Description

First Component

A participatory assessment of the economic, politic-institutional, spatial and civic-cultural aspects of women’s participation in the Medina of Tunis and the definition of policy and planning recommendations. ​

In this phase, representatives from local institutions and organisations (i.e. technical teams from the municipality, business representatives and professional networks, NGOs, advocacy groups’ representatives, women’s associations and groups) collectively assess the level of engagement of women in the Medina on four main levels: economic, political-institutional, social and spatial. 

Second Component

The creation and construction of women-led public space projects in the Medina of Tunis. ​

This component will test an innovative and comprehensive approach for planning, implementing, and managing safe and inclusive public spaces in Tunis. The location and vocation of the public space will reflect the directions identified during the participatory assessment of the first sub-component. The specific uses and facilities of the space will be defined through a participatory and iterative process.

​Third Component

A city-to-city exchange to share the approach and result of the Tunis activities with other Tunisian cities.​

In the long term, the successful implementation of the action will rely substantially on the women-led, public space pilot projects being replicated at scale and informing future interventions in Tunis and other Tunisian cities. 

The Femmedina project is being undertaken through the Cities Alliance Cities for Women programme in partnership with USAID.

USAID and CA Logo
If women and girls felt safe in public spaces… women would be more active, more productive.
Salma Belhassine, Activist, Tunisia

These preliminary results are from Phase I of the programme. Three projects remain ongoing.  

Highlights of Phase I 

  1. US$3 million budget (including US$1.15 million in co-financing by Cities Alliance members, other international partners, and municipalities)
  2. US$3.45 million in additional funds mobilised from members and partners to implement city development strategies
  3. Five projects implemented or under implementation 
  4. Twenty municipalities benefiting from interventions in 12 regions
  5. More than 10,000 citizens involved in the consultation process through municipal committees, workshops, and satisfaction surveys on local development in the cities benefiting from the Madinatouna CDS project 


Tunisian market
The CDS process has strengthened cities' approaches to urban management, strategic planning, and service delivery while helping to make planning more gender responsive. 

National Level 

A National Urban Policy, currently in the diagnostic phase, that offers a multi-scale, inclusive vision of the future development of Tunisian cities in the framework of the New Urban Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Objectives.

Capacity building for national and municipal officials to support the decentralisation process in Tunisia, operationalise municipal cooperation, and promote strategic urban planning in cities.

Innovative analytical tools in the form of 26 analyses and diagnoses of territorial development issues (such as local economic development, the environment, the capacities of partner municipalities, and their facilities and services) that have helped prioritise public investments in a more targeted manner so that they have a greater impact on the development of the regions. 


Municipal Level 

Eight city development strategies prepared, a process that has helped cities develop a shared vision for urban planning,  prioritise and raise funds for projects, facilitate collaboration and dialogue among national and local authorities and citizens, and share knowledge.

Capacity building: 40 municipal executives trained in strategic urban planning and participatory approach, and 32 municipal executives trained in local finance. More than 1,000 national, regional and local government officials and civil society representatives participated in round tables, thematic consultations, learning workshops, inter-city meetings, and policy dialogue sessions. Training for the  National Federation of Tunisian Cities (FNVT) so that it can provide technical assistance to municipalities

Eleven pilot projects in preparation for implementation in various fields, including  waste and rainwater management, renewable energies, digitalisation of administrative services, inclusive public spaces, public health, and public transport.

Technical support to 12 municipalities for the identification and the technical and financial set-up of intermunicipal projects


The Cities Alliance Tunisia Country Programme has worked with members and partners to build coherence of effort and bring various stakeholders and groups together around concrete projects for more effective cooperation.