World Bank Pausing Work In Tunisia

In a recent statement, the World Bank announced its intention to temporarily stop all existing projects in Tunisia, in particular its Country Partnership Framework with Tunisia, which detailed projects both sides agreed to participate in from 2023 to 2025. This move was reportedly in response to the Tunisian government’s anti-migrant speech, which the World Bank viewed as highly discriminatory. The World Bank has stated that a March 21st board meeting has been set to review this new arrangement. In the past, the World Bank has been extremely involved in the development of Tunisia, through various programs financing food imports and business development, and, therefore, the termination of these projects may have devastating consequences.

The Tunisian President Kais Saied, on February 21st, requested his security forces to “detain and deport immigrants,” according to Reuters. Saied cited an increase in illegal immigration from other African countries to Tunisia as the main reason for this crackdown, and that Tunisia was losing its Islamic roots due to this illegal immigration. Since its independence, Tunisia has reckoned with both its Islamic and African identities, and Saied’s actions have resulted in a huge surge in violence against migrants.

In response to this public call, police officers from around the country rounded up many migrants, and the local population also acted in accordance with Saied’s statement. They were evicted from their houses by landlords and they were also fired by their employers. There have been reports of violence against the migrant community in Tunisia, with videos circulating online of migrants with facial injuries. It has become evident that Saied’s statement has incited violence in his country, and he, therefore, decided to denounce racism in a speech on Sunday, condemning racialized hate speech and warning those who attack migrants of possible legal consequences associated with violence and assault.

The World Bank’s decision to pause the Country Partnership Framework was in light of the World Bank President David Malpass viewing the situation as “deeply concerning,” but has praised the Tunisian government for their efforts to protect and support migrants. Due to the importance of the World Bank in the Tunisian economy, we can expect the government to focus their efforts on reducing violence against the migrant populations, so that they can ensure the continuation of future projects.