Libya remains a chaotic state with a UN-backed government hard pressed to exert control over territory ruled by a rival government, assorted militias, and extremist organizations. Stabilization will require building both trust and negotiating capacities among diverse partners. The U.S. Institute of Peace contributes to local dialogue processes and helps Libyan researchers inform policymakers on tribal allegiances and religious forces. Working on Libya since 2011, USIP also has reported on little-understood elements of the conflict such as how prisons help incubate extremist ideology, and the impact of cross-border illicit activities.
Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on The Current Situation in Libya.
Libyans have taken an uncertain step toward ending nearly a decade of civil war, agreeing in U.N.-mediated talks to hold national elections in December 2021. The discussions, in the neighboring capital, Tunis, fell short of yielding a transitional government to oversee the elections and the establishment of a new constitution. The talks are shortly to resume. From Tunis, USIP’s Nate Wilson notes that the step is positive for a country that began 2020 with a surge in warfare and the involvement of foreign forces. Making this peace effort effective will require restraining that foreign involvement, he says, and will need to ground the talks in grassroots support.
As global and regional players jockey for influence, international efforts to resolve the conflict remain stymied and ineffective. Meanwhile, Libya’s vast oil reserves—which provided a decent standard of living for many Libyans prior to 2011—have been under blockade, devasting the economy and livelihoods and leading to mounting frustration among Libyans. Further muddying the waters, the prime minister of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, announced he would step down in October and transfer power to a new administration.
Libya’s post-2011 conflict has degenerated into a theater for regional and major power competition. The competing Libyan factions—the western-based, internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) on one side and Khalifa Haftar’s forces and the Tobruk-based parliament on the other—each have significant foreign support that has only exacerbated the country’s existing conflict drivers. Despite repeated attempts by the international community to limit foreign interference, the major players only continue to deepen their involvement. What does this all mean for Libya’s political future and for its people? Here are four things you need to know.
Through the Community-Based Dialogues for Reconciliation project in Libya, USIP has built the capacity of local leaders in conflict analysis, transitional justice, and dialogue facilitation. USIP is now mentoring these individuals, who are from three conflict-affected areas in Libya—Sebha, Ubari, and Nalut-Siyaan—through the process of implementing community dialogues. The goal of this project, which is funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, is to build trust between these fractured communities, ultimately resulting in increased social cohesion and longterm, sustainable reconciliation and peace. The project began in October 2018 and will conclude in April 2021.
The Informing Criminal Justice Reform in Libya project was launched in July 2020 to fill existing knowledge gaps on correctional facilities in Libya and the criminal justice system in the Fezzan region. In partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), this project aims to strengthen the rule of law in Libya by providing the international community and Libyan officials with a more complete picture of the region’s institutions, as well as actionable recommendations to inform the development and implementation of future policy and programming.
Diplomats and peace practitioners often cite lack of familiarity with the religious landscape as a barrier to their engagement of religious actors. In 2013, USIP launched an initiative to address this need by developing a methodology for systematically mapping and assessing the religious sector’s influence on conflict and peace dynamics in discrete conflict settings. These mappings, which have been done or are underway in Libya, South Sudan, Iraq and Burma, help illuminate recommendations for effective partnerships within the religious sector for peacebuilding.