The office’s regional work focuses on four main themes:
Developing socio-economic alternatives
The situation in Tunisia mirrors many of the socio-economic challenges facing North Africa more generally. The 2010–11 uprisings were primarily triggered by stark regional disparities and high unemployment. A large part of the public budget is used to repay foreign debt, leaving health care, education and regional development underfunded. Discussions exploring alternatives to neoliberalism remained stuck in the early stages and restricted to a small milieu of experts. Mover, economic expertise is weak across the Left in general. The RLS therefore focuses on addressing the impacts of European-North African economic relations and critically commenting on the planned free trade agreements.
Living conditions in North African countries compel many to migrate. At the same time, these countries serve as the last port of call for many refugees and migrants from other regions before embarking on their irregular and dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean to Europe. For people in transit in North Africa, the situation is dire. They are often subjected to racism and repression by state authorities tasked with securing borders on behalf of the European Union.
Supporting a fragmented Left
Many of the North African countries once featured influential left-wing parties. Though these movements have shrunk and grown increasingly fragmented today, they remain present. This Left, however, is far from being able to develop programmatic alternatives to neoliberal systems at the moment, nor is it capable of acting as a hub for modern forms of organisation. In some of the region’s countries, these challenges are exacerbated by mounting repression. Elsewhere, such as in Tunisia, the Left is adapting to its newfound voice in parliament after spending decades underground.
Decentralisation and rural areas
The vast majority of economic and political activity in North Africa is concentrated in the large urban centres. In many respects, rural areas are significantly less well-off and more isolated – both economically, but also in terms of education and access to infrastructure. This geographic distance is amplified by ossified, centralistic administrative structures and processes, all of which cause citizens from rural areas to feel increasingly alienated from the populations of large cities.