Libya

Archive Profile

The 7 July 2012 elections for the General National Congress marked the end of Libya’s post-revolution interim phase but certainly not the end of its transition. While this successful and relatively peaceful milestone represents a significant achievement in a country with virtually no experience in modern democratic processes, the challenges ahead remain daunting. The events of 11 September 2012 in Benghazi, in which the US ambassador and three other US consulate staff members lost their lives, were symptomatic of the continuing difficulties the country is facing in establishing the rule of law and asserting government control over the myriad militias.

While these events, along with other recent clashes throughout the country, may have dampened initial optimism following the fall of the Qaddafi regime and obscured the country’s electoral achievements and other accomplishments, they serve as a reminder that revolutionary transitions are never linear, and that the fog of war often extends to its aftermath. This is one lesson that has guided the design, deployment, and work of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) since its authorization by the Security Council on 16 September 2011, through Resolution 2040. This lesson will also need to be firmly embedded in the mission’s strategies as it prepares to navigate, under new leadership, a tumultuous period ahead.

In October 2012, Tarek Mitri of Lebanon replaced Ian Martin as the Special Representative and Head of Mission of UNSMIL.

Background

After forty-two years in power, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s regime fell in August 2011 after a six-month offensive. The transition was ignited by antigovernment protests that began in February. When the regime cracked down harshly in response, it prompted more widespread protests and the creation of the National Transitional Council (NTC) to coordinate resistance activities. Following a March 2011 Security Council resolution calling for member states to protect civilians and imposing a no-fly zo Read More...

Key developments

Given the tight transitional timeline that the National Transitional Council had articulated in the summer of 2011, UNSMIL’s concept of operations was put to the test as soon as it was deployed. The immediate focus was on initiating support for the electoral process, with UNSMIL advisers presenting different electoral systems and building the knowledge base of the electoral commission. With the NTC’s adoption of an electoral legal framework in January 2012, the emphasis then switched to oper Read More...

Conclusion

Libya’s transition has inevitably been a haphazard affair, sputtering forward, sideways, and backward, with little visibility and few certainties. The postconflict environment and the specific parameters set by the Libyan authorities have made it difficult for the UN to set up and abide by long-term plans and establish a large permanent presence. Instead, the outlook for the months ahead will require UNSMIL and UN agencies to continue to manage such volatility in partnership with Libyan author Read More...