Community of Tataouine
Created decades ago, Tunisia’s system of governance for the extractive industry reached its limits. The petroleum projects developed in the resource-rich regions yielded insignificant socio-economic benefits for the local communities. Since 2011 this negative situation has been instigating major claims that call into question the legitimacy of the projects.
Under the new Constitution of Tunisia, adopted in 2014, natural resources enjoy a special legal regime. Article 13 states that «Natural resources belong to the people of Tunisia. The state exercises sovereignty over them in the name of the people. Investment contracts related to these resources shall be presented to the competent committee in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People. The agreements concluded shall be submitted to the Assembly for approval».
In order to apply this principle, it is necessary to rethink the governance mechanisms for the natural resources and to encourage corporate social responsibility. For example, in 2015 the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mines, the Tunisian Company for Petroleum Activities, and three multinational companies signed an agreement with the goal of establishing the corporate social responsibility program in the governorate of Tataouine.
However, up to the present moment, the multinational companies based in Tataouine are occasionally forced to halt production due to strikes and protests, thereby risking breaching the conditions of their social license to operate.
In this respect, the Tunisian government, the state-owned oil company (ETAP), the multinational companies, the civil society, and the labor unions act unilaterally or jointly to foster the process for negotiation, consultation, and participation to peacefully resolve the conflict. Their work obscures traditional mechanisms of decision-making.
This case is the starting point of the research carried out by one of the partners of the Faculty of Law of Université de Montréal executed by Khadija Ben Matoug.