7th BMW Foundation Global Table

Three Problem Solving Approaches in Tunisia


02.12.2016 | BMW Foundation | Europe and the Emerging Powers

A sense of urgency accompanied the 7th BMW Foundation Global Table "A New Social Contract: The Responsibility to Prevent Failure", which in the fall brought together some 30 participants in Sidi Bou Said near Tunis.

With “global disorder” having become the new normal, the BMW Foundation decided to hold with its Global Table conference for the first time in the fragile democracy of Tunisia. Looking back, it was this sense of urgency and the participants’ desire to “not just talk but act” that resulted in three initiatives which have already taken very concrete shape two months later.

Jobs for Tunisia

Tunisia suffers from high unemployment, especially among young people and university graduates. The Maghreb Economic Forum (MEF), a young Tunisian think tank and cooperation partner of the Global Table, has looked into this phenomenon for some time, identifying as one of its main causes the widening gap between an outdated university system and the demands of the modern work world. To prepare IT graduates for the international labor market, one working group developed the idea to create a digital marketplace designed to connect international project tenders with Tunisian software programmers, web developers, and web designers. This idea has since been further developed during a number of follow-up meetings between Global Table participants and other key actors, including from the Federal Foreign Office and GIZ. In order to successfully integrate young jobseekers into the so-called “gig economy” (workers are not regularly employed but hired per job, or gig), the platform is to be complemented by a hub where initially 10 to 20 “outlancers” will be trained and supervised. The hub is to be created in Kairouan, a town some 150 kilometers southwest of Tunis. The pilot project is currently implemented by the Tunisian Ministry of Vocational Training and Employment, represented at the Global Table by State Secretary Saida Ounissi, and the initiative Think.IT. Its co-founder, Mehemed Bougsea, also participated in the Global Table in Tunis.



The BMW Foundation Global Tables want to offer a space for cross-sector and cross-cultural dialogue outside of traditional big conferences. With a view to the long term, we support and advise project or study ideas that come out of the Global Tables and are initiated by individual participants. For more information on the initiatives described here, please contact  Inna Rudolf.

Prosecuting White-Collar Crimes

Transitional justice commonly refers to the prosecution of war crimes and human rights violations after a war or the collapse of a dictatorship. In recent decades, much has been done in conflict regions to come to terms with the past, and a whole new research area has developed around this issue. But what about dealing with white-collar crimes such as nepotism, corruption, and embezzlement, which are often especially pronounced in authoritarian regimes? Practically nothing happens on this count, said the participants of a second working group, summarizing their experiences in this field. Countries instead take the supposedly pragmatic approach of seeking closure, since the old economic elites are seen as indispensable for economic reconstruction and since the legal prosecution of past white-collar crimes might deter investors. This approach was challenged by the working group: Does it really help to attract investors if known corrupt businessmen continue to dominate the market? And is it not necessary precisely in a country like Tunisia, where economic plight fired the revolution, to bring to court those responsible for mismanagement and corruption?

On the initiative of the working group, this knowledge gap is to be closed. The UN especially is very interested in the results, since they might be of major relevance for the rebuilding of Syria. Therefore, UNESCWA will provide both substantial and financial support to the Candid Foundation, which has agreed to conduct the study, and other Global Table participants too will contribute data and insights as well as help facilitate access to potentially interested support organizations. 

Paths to Extremism

Tunisia’s fragile democracy is put under major stress by the fact that more and more young Tunisians are drawn to the Islamic State. We do not have exact figures, but up to 7,000 jihadists are said to have joined ISIS. There has been some research on what motivates and drives these young people, and the failure to include them in processes of social change has been cited as one cause. What has been missing so far is the formulation and development of comprehensive prevention and de-radicalization strategies. This is where the MEF wants to come in and support the participants of a third working group in conducting a two-stage study. First, extensive interviews particularly in Tunisia’s interior are to gather data on the attitudes of young people. Second, the study aims to evaulate existing prevention programs and reintegration initiatives for former ISIS fighters in other MENA countries and formulate concrete recommendations for political action.