Creating an Environmental Centre in Hammamet

There are many associations in the city of Hammamet working in the environment and sustainable development, although only about ten are active on a regular basis. The others are struggling to emerge even though they have all the necessary skills and know-how. These structural difficulties are largely due to the dispersal and volatility of the voluntary sector, the lack of basic local resources and premises, splits between associations, a lack of collaboration and partnerships as well as basic organisation of the voluntary sector

Furthermore, there is an absence of basic information, technical data, studies, etc. on environmental topics. There is also a clear lack of credibility and visibility of volunteer action and, last but not least, rifts between associations are frequent.

This observation formed the rationale for plans to create an environmental centre in Hammamet. The Local Initiatives for the Environment in the Mediterranean (ILE), which began in 2014, enabled AERE to provide solutions to these structural difficulties which constituted a considerable drain on local civil society action in the environment.
Implementing a consultation process

Stakeholders and roles

  • AERE: lead partner in designing and implementing the consultation process, organising meetings, providing logistical support, collecting and transmitting the information, etc.;
  • local associations: beneficiaries and those rallying public support; 
  • the municipality: a key player in the consultation process; 
  • the media: to relay and amplify the information and use tools to mobilise people.

Actions and results

  • assessment and mobilisation of networks;
  • collection of information, surveys, meetings with local voluntary sector stakeholders; 
  • in 2014 and 2015, through the ILE Project, AERE organised several meetings which resulted in the official creation of the Hammamet voluntary sector network and the drawing up of a charter. 26 associations have already signed up to this charter at an official launch ceremony on 12 July 2014 at the municipality head offices; 
  • six brainstorming and consultation workshops were held on the subject and a draft partnership agreement was prepared with the municipality; 
  • communication and publicity activities were undertaken, including radio reports, press articles, exhibitions, TV reports, a Facebook page dedicated to the “Maison des associations de Hammamet” (voluntary sector centre) with a virtual visit of the centre, meetings with the municipal council and with the Governor of Nabeul (30 April), meetings with regional council members (9 May), a press conference on 7 May 2015 and a petition, etc.;

Difficulties encountered

  • The absence of a main contact person at the municipality to bring the project to fruition, a lack of assimilation in the concept of local governance, some poorly motivated associations, political divisions and ego-related issues, etc.;
  • Faced with these difficulties, AERE opted to develop a “Maison de l’Environnement” (Environmental centre) in its own premises.

Lessons learned

  • bringing structure to the voluntary sector is a time-consuming task. It requires considerable willingness, a climate of trust and the involvement of all stakeholders;
  • the municipal partner hindered the emergence of a voluntary sector network; 
  • the inauguration of the Maison de l’Environnement in December 2015 definitely boosted the voluntary sector network.

A project coordinated by AERE Hammamet.