A Year Since Skhirat
It has been a tumultuous year for Libya since the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement of Skhirat on 17 Dec 2015. On its anniversary, anyone who thought we would be at a better place politically or regrets their early optimism clearly had misguided hopes. The UN process has been flawed in both conception and execution. It very flaws have largely contributed to the results we are now living. Should Libyans blame the West/International Community for these failures? No. Should the International Community look at its own mistakes and try a new approach? Yes and it is not a moment too soon. What needs to happen is for the new political actors to acknowledge that Libya is a not a state and they shouldn’t try to just mend the bridges between factions and declare them a unity government. As I’ve been writing in NYT, MEE, AJE, and elsewhere since 2014, Libya is terra nullius. So just deal with it and deal with the sub-state institutions (local councils, militias, etc) and cobble together a decentralized “Libyanized” solution. One that emerges from the bottom up, not one that is imposed from the top down. I think Theresa May and Donald Trump and Gentiloni can use all the change that is happening at home to try a new approach abroad.
Peter Millett (HMG Ambassador to Libya) has written a very engaging blog for the FCO website where he surveys the lay of the land — a touch more rose coloured than I might have, but pretty good for a diplomat. Congrats Peter for meeting all the players and keeping yourself in the game. You’ve been a true role model, that I hope the other Ambassadors and Envoys should seek to live up to.
I share the frustration that I frequently hear during my visits to Libya. The problems that ordinary people confront on a daily basis are immense: shortage of cash, electricity and water cuts, growing criminality and kidnaps. After 42 years of dictatorship and 5 years of chaos and civil war, the Libyan people deserve better. What can be done? There is some good news: the defeat of Daesh in Sirte; progress against extremists in Benghazi; the increase of oil production from the oil crescent; and local reconciliation agreements reuniting families with their loved ones. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the country is facing enormous challenges: economic meltdown, terrorist violence and political separation. I sometimes hear appeals to the international community to rescue the country. But national reconciliation can only be achieved between Libyans. The international community can facilitate dialogue, encourage compromise and offer programmes of support. The key decisions have to be taken by the Libyans themselves.
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