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Press Release

GMF Launches Innovative Public-Private Civil Society Initiative in Middle East and North Africa December 13, 2012

TUNIS, Tunisia (December 13, 2012) — The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) today announces the creation of the MENA Partnership for Democracy & Development, based in Tunis, Tunisia.  This groundbreaking public-private partnership will function as an international clearinghouse of service providers, donors, experts, and experienced practitioners that civil society organizations and government institutions can draw upon to meet their specific needs in the newly democratic environment of the transformed Arab world. Working across the full range of democratic reform, the MENA Partnership will focus particularly on women's empowerment, democratic advocacy, and economic reform.   

In his closing speech today at the Forum for the Future in Tunis, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns underscored that the United States is "continually seeking the most effective ways to strengthen civil society" and, in that spirit, he recognized the launch of the MENA Partnership and announced that the U.S. Department of State will be one of its founding supporters. 

Other partners at launch include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Tunisian Government, IREX, and the Netherlands-based Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS). Ghazi Ben Ahmed, who has worked in multilateral organizations in Europe and Africa throughout his career, will be the MENA Partnership’s first director.

 GMF will draw on the experience of its existing trusts, the award-winning Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD) and the successful Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (BST). The Tunis office will become GMF’s ninth office, joining Washington, DC, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, and Warsaw. 

“In the newly democratic countries, this initiative will provide civil society with much-needed services along with training, contacts, and funds to establish themselves and improve the future of their nations,” said GMF President Craig Kennedy. “It will improve public-private partnerships, promote regional and international cooperation, and facilitate the exchange of best practices.” 

This mechanism is structured to offer quick and flexible support to critically important, locally born initiatives. The Mena Partnership will invite requests for support from civil society organizations in early 2013, and this along with more details will be found at  

“There is great enthusiasm to start projects in the region, but civic actors have told us they need more support and know-how,” said Ben Ahmed.  “The MENA Partnership will bridge this gap and foster dynamic networking and knowledge sharing. This is an opportunity where civil society across borders can work together and it comes at a critical time for the region.” 

The MENA Partnership for Democracy & Development will be guided by an independent advisory board of prominent intellectuals and civil society and business leaders from inside and outside the MENA region. 

Ben Ahmed is the founder of the Club de Tunis, a Tunisian think tank that helps policymakers devise strategies for economic growth and regional development and empowers both the private sector and NGOs in Tunisia and North Africa as engines for regional integration, job creation, and shared prosperity. 

Previously, Ben Ahmed was the lead trade expert in the African Development Bank (AfDB), in charge of the $1 billion Trade Finance Initiative of the Bank. Before joining the AfDB, he was senior advisor at the United Nation Agency for Trade and Development (UNCTAD). He worked for nearly ten years in the European Commission in Brussels, in the Trade, EuropeAid, and External Relations directorates-general. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Montpellier I (France). 


The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan.

GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship.

In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 as a non-partisan, non-profit organization through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has offices in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, Warsaw, and Tunis. GMF also has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm.

Contact: Elizabeth Boswell Rega, +32 473 280 950; Will Bohlen, +1 202 683 2609