In January 2011, Tunisians took to the streets and ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a dictator who had ruled Tunisia for over 20 years. The successful ouster of Ben Ali inspired protesters throughout the Middle East and North Africa region in what became the Arab Spring. Tunisia has emerged from the Arab Spring as the Arab world's only democracy, holding free and fair elections and adopting a progressive new Constitution in 2014. However, Tunisia continues to face challenges in its democratic transition stemming from a persistently sluggish economy, corruption and unstable neighbors. Panelists will discuss the most important achievements that Tunisia's democratic transition has accomplished, as well as Tunisia's ongoing challenges and the upcoming 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections. A Kosher Tunisian lunch will be served and vegetarian options will be available.
Sarah Yerkes is a fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program, where her research focuses on Tunisia’s political, economic, and security developments as well as state-society relations in the Middle East and North Africa. She has been a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Council on Foreign Relations international affairs fellow and has taught in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University.
Yerkes is a former member of the State Department’s policy planning staff, where she focused on North Africa. Previously, she was a foreign affairs officer in the State’s Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian affairs. Yerkes also served as a geopolitical research analyst for the U.S. military’s Joint Staff Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J5) at the Pentagon, advising the Joint Staff leadership on foreign policy and national security issues.
Emir Sfaxi is a Fulbright Fellow at American University and is a fellow and global scholar at American University's Internet Governance Lab. A native of Tunisia, Sfaxi has written about developments in Tunisia for Sada, the Carnegie Foundation's publication for Middle East analysis, Al-Jazeera English, the Middle East Eye, and various French media outlets. He has also given presentations in Washington, DC at The Carnegie Foundation, The Project on Middle East Democracy, the Middle East Institute, American University, and George Washington University.
Sfaxi has dedicated much of his career to accelerating programs for youth, including his advisory role at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, where he was instrumental in the implementation of several programs designed to combat the radicalization of young Tunisians. In 2016, he participated in the United Nations Youth Advisory Panel and has provided counsel to other similar programs. Additionally, he oversaw the "Ta3mal" project, a combined effort between Microsoft, Silatech, and the Tunisian government to reduce unemployment by connecting employers and applicants through IT.