Tunisia: Calls for Ending All Aid Grow in US Policy Community

by | May 3, 2023 | Diplomacy, Tunisia


In an open letter dated 3 May 2023, a number of senior former US diplomats, academics, and policymakers urged US President Biden to communicate to President Kais Saied that there would be “real costs to democratic backsliding.”

The letter, which had 21 signatories, called for substantive policy action by the Biden administration toward Tunisia where, the group asserts: “democracy is dying.”

The authors indicate that there is a certain urgency to the situation as well as implications beyond Tunisia’s borders, noting that “what happens in the next critical weeks will reverberate in the region.”

The letter calls for a “suspension of all aid to the Tunisian government,” citing the US’s self-imposed legal obligations to do so in the event that the military plays a “decisive role” in the execution of a coup. It further encourages using the pending International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan deal to add additional political conditions to the agreement that would secure democratic gains before loan funds are disbursed.

Meanwhile, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a US policy thinktank with multiple leaders who signed the letter to President Biden, released a report highlighting more specific policy suggestions.

Carnegie’s report recommends the US government:

  • support civil society in decreasing polarization
  • work with political parties to win back public support
  • call for judicial independence
  • work with independent judges who have pushed back against Saied
  • urge the military to resist politicization
  • discourage anti-democratic practices, such as the use of military courts to try civilians
  • ensure US funds are not aiding Saied’s crackdown on human rights
  • discourage opposition actors from boycotting the elections
  • work with more locally accepted organizations, such as the African Union


Multiple US voices have grown increasing critical of the Biden Administration’s approach to Tunisia, calling for the withdrawal of aid and stronger rebukes of President Kais Saied. Previously, multiple legislators have expressed concern about the state of democracy.

US policy on the ground has proved a slower ship to turn than many have desired, with budget decreases across the board, but a continuation of historical support to the Tunisian military. A recent shipment of wheat to Tunisia facilitated by USAID and the World Bank was indicative of how the US is working to shift away from financial support to controversial institutions to more direct support to Tunisians.

While strong calls continue for a major shift in US policy, much of the current policy is likely to continue as the US looks ahead to leverage influence and funding to support the next round of presidential elections slated to take place in 2024.


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