Interview With H.E. Mr. Mohamed Ali Nafti, Tunisian Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
Despite political turmoil and civil unrest in many parts of the Middle East, one shining light to arise from the Arab Spring is Tunisia, a country that has enjoyed five years of continued democracy. Yvonne Kim, Executive Director at the Asia Society Korea Center, met with H.E. Mr. Mohamed Ali Nafti, Ambassador of Tunisia to Korea, to discuss the road to democracy, his hopes for the future, and Korea-Tunisia relations.
H.E. Mr. Mohamed Ali Nafti views democracy as a culture, as a practice, and something that can be seen as innovative. He talks about his pride in having lived in a country that experienced the first steps of democracy in 2011 following the peaceful revolution that took the people of Tunisia into a new era. Although many revolutions can lead to difficult and turbulent times, and we have many examples of this throughout history, the revolution in Tunisia was led by people wanting more dignity, political freedom, and expression. While the country did experience tough moments, H.E. Mr. Mohamed Ali Nafti believes Tunisia’s civil society helped it overcome these hardships and move towards peace and stability.
The influence of the National Quartet in 2013 set up to help resolve the conflict between various political factions during the establishment of the constitution, was instrumental in this journey. The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers were able to bring different political parties to the table for dialogue, and by the end of 2014, Tunisia was entering into a new stage of democracy. The Quartet was able to reach a common source of satisfaction which paved the way for elections recognized by observers to be transparent and fair, resulting in the first ever elected national assembly.
H.E. Mr. Mohamed Ali Nafti likes to compare Tunisia with other countries that are beginning their journey of democracy. He acknowledges that there are difficult times ahead but said he was very pleased to see United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim recently visit Tunisia to give their support to the young democracy. This international support is crucial and can be compared to South Korea’s recognition by the United Nations more than 60 years ago. H.E. Mr. Mohamed Ali Nafti sees parallels with South Korea in this journey and believes that Tunisia can learn a lot from Korea, especially in regards to the private sector.
Tunisia looks at Korea with great admiration and hopes through collaboration the geographical distance between the two can be shortened. H.E. Mr. Mohamed Ali Nafti has expectations to develop partnerships, especially in the field of technology and science with the goal of generating new jobs and economic growth back in Tunisian. He also believes the two countries can learn from each other with security as both face a very real threat; terrorism in the Middle East, and North Korea in the Asia Pacific. The ambassador concluded by expressing his hopes for more Koreans to visit Tunisia and a cultural exchange between two countries that share a very long and distinguished history.