Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki to Join Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center as Senior Fellow

August 29, 2022
Dr. Moncef Marzouki stands behind at podium speaking in JFK Jr. Forum at Harvard Kennedy School

Cambridge, MA —Today, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School announced the appointment of former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki as a senior fellow. Marzouki, Tunisia’s first post-Arab spring head of state will join the Ash Center’s Democracy in Hard Places initiative, where he will lecture on issues related to democracy in the Arab World. 

“I am delighted that President Marzouki has chosen the Ash Center as a place from which to share the wisdom and lessons he has gained in helping to bring democracy to Tunisia and the Arab world,” said Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government and Director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. “At this moment when so many are fighting to establish, preserve, and deepen democracy around the world in the face of profound challenges, our students and faculty will benefit tremendously from the opportunity to engage with this leader who has spent most of his life working to strengthen human rights, the rule of law, and popular government.”

Marzouki served as the third president of Tunisia from 2011 to 2014. A physician, human rights activist, and politician, he embarked on a mission to “open the doors” of the presidential palace in Tunis through efforts to strengthen transparency participatory democracy, and by encouraging a safe public space for civil organizations to flourish. During his tenure as president, Marzouki was a “voice of social and revolutionary activism,” where he called for the strengthening of civil rights in Tunisia and also worked to curtail the unilateral powers of the country’s security services. 

“Everywhere today we see the fragility of democracy,” said President Marzouki. “I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time at the Harvard Kennedy School, with its talented students and researchers, reflecting on what we can do together to make democracy stronger.”

While in residence at the Ash Center, Marzouki will write and deliver lectures on the current state of democracy and governance in the Middle East and North Africa. He will also lead an intensive semester-long study group for Harvard students examining the challenges and prospects for democratization in the region. 

Tarek Masoud, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Governance and Faculty Director of the Democracy in Hard Places Initiative at the Ash Center said, “Tunisia is a small country, but it has long produced men and women whose influence is felt far beyond their country’s borders. I can think of no better illustration of this fact than President Moncef Marzouki, a physician and freedom-fighter who stands alone in Arab history as the region’s first democratically-legitimated president, and the first to cede power peacefully to a democratically-elected successor. I am thrilled and honored that he has chosen to share his insights and experiences with the Kennedy School community.”

About Democracy in Hard Places 

The Ash Center’s Initiative on Democracy in Hard Places aims to foster social science research on democratic experiments—both successful and failed—throughout the developing world to learn how democracy can be built and maintained in a variety of terrains. And, through engagement with policymakers, practitioners, and activists, it aims to translate that research into action.

About the Ash Center

The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. By training the very best leaders, developing powerful new ideas, and disseminating innovative solutions and institutional reforms, the Center’s goal is to meet the profound challenges facing the world’s citizens. 


Daniel Harsha
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Sarah Grucza
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation