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Why does the West so often get Tunisia wrong? - 5 October 2023

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After the 2011 revolt forced Ben Ali out of power, many western observers deluded themselves into thinking that Tunisia was successfully building democracy while its Arab neighbours were failing. They were equally deluded about the quality of the country’s economic management before 2011. It has taken many years to realise they had got Tunisia wrong. Similar egregious western misunderstandings manifested themselves in Libya, with even more serious consequences than in Tunisia.


Francis Ghiles is one of the leading European experts on the Maghreb. He analyses emerging security, economic and energy trends in the region and connects them to European, Russian, Chinese and American policy priorities. A trilingual (English, French and Spanish) political scientist, Francis earned advanced degrees from St Antony’s College Oxford and the University of Keele. He graduated from Science-Po Grenoble with distinction. After 18 years at the Financial Times, he gained extensive experience in organising business conferences on the western Mediterranean. He has acted as consultant to leading international oil and gas companies, the Pentagon and the UK Ministry of Defence.


Gilbert Achcar is Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at SOAS, University of London.

James McDougall is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Oxford.

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