Non Military Perspective on Recent Developments in Libya

May 25, 2017

Rhiannon Smith has authored a report for NATO’s Open Perspectives Exchange Network (OPEN) looking at non-military perspective on recent developments in Libya. She outlines the current situation in Libya and analyses how different organisations frame their approach to the country, whether in humanitarian, development, or political terms, highlighting the challenges of creating concrete results on the ground.

Although the potential insecurity and destabilisation posed by terrorism and irregular migration from Libya are likely to be the most pressing concerns for NATO, these challenges will only be solved by addressing the violence, lack of governance, and institutional fragmentation, which have created the power vacuum that facilitates both human trafficking and extremist groups. This points to a number of strategic implications for NATO.

  • Address the cause of the problem, not the symptom: As Libya’s difficulties have multiplied, and an increasing number of people have suffered as a result, the reaction has been to solve the proximate symptom (e.g., deaths at sea or the rise of ISIL) rather than the underlying cause. Unless insecurity, economic decline, and other structural problems are addressed through an effective combination of political and economic/developmental engagement, extremism and migrant trafficking will persist.
  • Look beyond the formation of a unity government: A unity government is a means to an end – one that will create the political conditions where Libyans can inclusively discuss and decide the future of their country. However, the existence of unified institutions is only the first step. The international community must provide support and direction to these institutions – through incentives and disincentives – to operate in a manner that will foster continued peace and stability.
  • Enable reconciliation at all levels: The grievances and hostilities created through conflict are intrinsically personal. As a result, it will be integral for international actors to enable a process of reconciliation at the national level – while also supporting community-level conflict resolution and reconciliation efforts, which are too often overlooked in conflict-affected countries like Libya.

In pursuing these high-level implications, the report recommends NATO and other international actors to consider more specific, tactical recommendations such as working with local partners, engaging with local authorities, and mapping local tensions and priorities.

Click here to access the full report.