Seeking to support Tunisia's efforts to transition from the despotic rule of ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to more democratic and responsive governance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton affirmed that the U.S. will partner with Tunisia as it undertakes democratic political reform, builds a respect for human rights, and seeks to provide greater economic opportunity for all Tunisian citizens.
"The Tunisian people . . . have shown the world that peaceful change is possible," she said at a joint press conference with Tunisia's Foreign Minister Mouldi Kefi. "The United States stood with Tunisia during your independence, and now we will stand with you as you make the transition to democracy and prosperity and a better future."
During her recent visit to Tunisia, the Secretary announced specific assistance that the United States is prepared to offer in support of the transition. To facilitate the flow of information and improve communications capacity within Tunisia, the U.S. will support a new partnership between Tunisian civil society groups and technology companies, said Secretary Clinton.
Already, " Microsoft Corporation has agreed to support groups that are advocating for human rights, democracy, civic education, and other important matters to society, providing computers, software, and training and other technical assistance," she said. To help create new jobs for Tunisians, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC, will offer financial support in the form of direct loans, guarantees, and political risk insurance.
The United States will explore other avenues for support, such as programming through the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The Secretary also indicated that she would request that the U.S. Congress would authorize a Tunisian-American enterprise fund to stimulate investment in Tunisia's private sector, and provide businesses with low-cost capital.
"We particularly want to assist the less-developed areas of Tunisia," said Secretary Clinton. "We will also work through the United States-North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity to link business leaders and young entrepreneurs."
"We know there is a lot of work to be done," said Secretary of State Clinton, "but we are very confident about the potential for democracy and economic opportunity in Tunisia. And the United States will be ready to assist in any way."