After January 14th, 2011, civil society organizations and collectives have become decision makers and social-changers in Tunisia. On many occasions, several media personalities and politicians have questioned the intentions of these organizations and the ulterior motives behind their funding, the thing that led the public opinion into thinking that these organizations are trying to brainwash the minds of our youth. The heated debate around I-Watch Vs Nessma is but a mere example of this demonization. Heads-up to paranoia and a blind belief in the conspiracy theory!
I-Watch, an anti-corruption Tunisian organization, has launched an investigation against Nessma, a national television led by businessmen Karoui & Karoui. Recently, private conversations, where Nabil Karoui was the main character, were leaked to the social media. In these conversations, Karoui talked about how he manipulated the public opinion during the Tunisian elections. Yet, another scandal starring the same businessman has made it to media headlines yesterday due to another leaked conversation in which he plotted to defame I-Watch members and staff. However, the non-partisans of the civil society chose to turn a blind eye to the real problem which is about a corrupt TV channel owner and businessman speaking like a Mafioso while plotting to destroy the lives of those who stand between him and corruption. While ‘Karoui and Karoui’ companies should be under investigation for several tax evasion charges and money laundering, bystanders started suddenly questioning the integrity of I-Watch, with a frenzy towards all civil society organizations while making 5th Column accusations. To demand clarifications about their sources of funds and grants is completely legit. I-Watch actually shares reports about the money they receive and how they are spending it. But to move directly to throwing accusations here and there just to make a statement and to show that you are omniscient is something unacceptable.
Anyone who is acquainted with working with or volunteering for NGOs knows that grants are provided in a well-defined and transparent manner. Almost every foundation or institution that provides grants for projects or NGOs publish a grant proposal for which different interested NGOs or societal entities apply. The supplier asks for a set of conditions or objectives that should be met through the project, which align with their general objectives and interests. If you have the same objectives or interests and a specific budget plan, you get the grant. In other instances, partnerships are signed between foundations and NGOs in which the former provide funds and the latter propose projects should they share the same cause and objectives. Technically, there is no mystery behind the process through which NGOs get their funding, simply because every step in the way should first be authorized by the Tunisian laws.
When it comes to the reasons foreign institutions fund local NGOs, the theoretical framework for liberalism dictates that the more democratic and economically prosperous a state is, the more politically stable it is; hence, it becomes a potential partner and ally. Supporting local NGOs in various fields of activities is a means towards supporting civil society, and indirectly encouraging population engagement in the public sphere, which endorses democratic transitions.
This does not deny the possibility that some foreign donors do have ulterior motives. However, it is absurd to suppose that every local organization or association that receives funds takes direct orders from these granters to spy on the country and to try to brainwash its people. Some international institutions and foundations do care about basic human needs and seek global integration and cooperation: It is part of their duties as prosperous countries to help other countries when in need.
Let us settle this matter once and for all and focus on the real suspects here and the fact that this country needs all the help it can get. It is time for us to recognize the role of our proactive youth who contribute every day into making this country a better place for us to live in. It is time for our government and legal institutions to recognize and work hand in hand with NGOs, associations and collectives to secure the success of our democratic transition. As for the ‘bystanders’ who are ‘blessing us’ with their ‘deep, detailed and well-written’ criticism on social media, think before you click on that “post” button.
Article written by Aymen Bessaleh and edited by Nada Mrabet