Nine years after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya continues to struggle to end its violent conflict and build state institutions. External actors have exacerbated Libya’s problems by funneling money and weapons to proxies that have put personal interests above those of the Libyan people. U.N. efforts to broker a lasting peace have not yet succeeded, overshadowed by competing peace conferences sponsored by various foreign governments. Meanwhile, Libya’s borders remain porous, particularly in the southern Fezzan, facilitating an increase in trafficking and smuggling of illicit materials, including weapons.

At the subnational level, many local conflicts reflect long-standing feuds between various factions, tribes, and ethnic groups. Though Libya’s national conflict has stalled in recent months, prospects for a political solution are complicated by the country’s deep political and tribal divides.

USIP’S Work

Since 2011, USIP’s approach in Libya has focused on building a strong local infrastructure for peace, strengthening the capacity of key constituencies such as youth and women, and facilitating local dialogues between groups in conflict. These local institutions will be crucial to the success of any eventual transitional justice effort, creating a constructive platform to address grievances and reduce polarization and violence. USIP’s work is meant to empower Libyans with the tools necessary to contribute to a sustainable peace.

Recent projects include:

Convening Community Dialogues in Three Conflict-Affected Locations

USIP partnered with key community actors and civic leaders from Sebha, Ubari, and Nalut-Siyaan from 2018-2020 to convene local dialogues on transitional justice and conflict resolution. In 2020 and 2021, USIP will support these individuals, in partnership with international organizations such as the World Food Programme, as they implement post-dialogue activities intended to build community trust and to strengthen social cohesion. These local dialogues are laying the groundwork for an expected transitional justice process, and USIP is actively seeking to support other critical aspects of the process.

Strengthening the Security Sector and Rule of Law

The increasing presence of nonstate armed groups and their cooptation of traditional security services has resulted in inconsistent—and sometimes inhumane—law enforcement practices and treatment of inmates in correctional facilities. Libya’s dilapidated prisons are incubators for radicalization and extremist recruitment and also allow nonstate armed groups to engage in self-interested and predatory practices.

projects promote the rule of law and the constructive involvement of local communities in security issues. These projects evaluate the criminal justice sector, strengthen capacities of justice officials to implement reforms, and develop collaborative problem-solving. In July 2020, USIP launched a new project that will conduct research to fill existing knowledge gaps on correctional facilities in Libya and the criminal justice system in the Fezzan region. 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 make critical reforms and to inform the development and implementation of future policy and programming.

Improving Youth Conflict Management Skills

USIP is improving the conflict analysis and prevention skills of youth across the country through youth-led projects intended to prevent recruitment by extremist groups. In Ubari, USIP seeded an organization called “I Am a Volunteer,” focused on reconciliation and collaboration between tribes. In Brak Al-Shati, a youth leader, with the support of USIP, successfully advocated for the addition of a youth representative on the municipal council. Alwaan, a Facebook page with almost 50,000 followers, chronicles these success stories and inspires other Libyan youth. In 2021, USIP will convene decision makers and youth in dialogue around pressing issues in eastern Libya.

Informing Policy Through Groundbreaking Research

USIP works with local and international partners to produce unique, timely, and policy-relevant research. USIP previously partnered with UNDP to ensure their Stabilization Facility for Libya project in Sebha was sensitive to local conflict dynamics; the Institute is now working on the same project in Ubari. To date, USIP has produced reports covering: the state of prisons and detention, the significance of tribal authorities and their role in justice and security, the prospects of elections, the secure release of sensitive detainees, and drug trafficking and use, among others. Future research will focus on juvenile detention, conflict dynamics around Libya’s borders, and issues facing youth in southern Libya.


Tunis Office USIP

On-the-Ground Engagement: USIP’s Regional Office

USIP’s regional office in Tunis oversees the implementation of programs, convenes experts, conducts trainings, and facilitates USIP’s regional efforts. The office works with local, national, and international partners to reduce and prevent violent conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, including on-the-ground in Libya with local staff.

Related Publications

What’s Next for Libya’s Protracted Conflict?

What’s Next for Libya’s Protracted Conflict?

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

By: Thomas M. Hill

This week in Cairo, the United Nations will host the final round of scheduled talks between representatives from Libya’s two opposing governments: the House of Representatives (HoR) based in the eastern city of Tobruk and the High Council of State (HCS) based in the western city of Tripoli. The talks which began in April are intended to yield a “solid constitutional basis and electoral framework” for ending the country’s longstanding political stalemate.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionPeace Processes

The New U.S. Plan to Stabilize Conflicts: The Case of Libya

The New U.S. Plan to Stabilize Conflicts: The Case of Libya

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun;  Thomas M. Hill

Almost 11 years after ousting the dictatorship of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya remains a largely ungoverned land divided among warlord-led factions that fight with support from rival foreign countries. Libya’s instability resonates widely, permitting the trafficking of weapons to the Sahel and migrants to Europe. Repeated peace efforts have failed to help Libyans form a unified national government, yet Libyans continue to show the capacity to overcome communal divisions and build peace at local levels. That demonstrated capacity offers an opportunity that can be expanded by the U.S. government’s decision, under its Global Fragility Strategy, to direct a new peacebuilding effort toward Libya.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

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Elie Abouaoun on Libya’s Elections

Elie Abouaoun on Libya’s Elections

Friday, December 17, 2021

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun

With the vote likely to be postponed, USIP’s Elie Abouaoun says frustrations are high over Libya’s political and economic stagnation as the international community tries to “generate a new political agreement … just to make sure the elections can happen without a major outbreak of violence.”

Type: Podcast

Democracy & Governance

Young and Angry in Fezzan: Achieving Stability in Southern Libya through Greater Economic Opportunity

Young and Angry in Fezzan: Achieving Stability in Southern Libya through Greater Economic Opportunity

Monday, November 22, 2021

By: Mary Fitzgerald;  Nate Wilson

The Fezzan region of Libya is home both to the country’s largest oil field, making it key to Libya’s oil-based economy, and to some of its direst poverty. Young people have borne the brunt of the region’s chronic development challenges, making them vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups and criminal networks. This report focuses on the grievances of Fezzan’s youth and explores how peacebuilding efforts can channel their needs and aspirations into larger conversations about the region’s long-term political and economic development.

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