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GCSP Holds Public Discussion on "Revolution, Security Challenges and State Building in Libya"

Libya is an extremely strategic country. It has vast oil reserves and its proximity to Europe make it a gateway for illegal migration. 

The revolution that toppled dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 generated much controversy, both for the use of western assistance in the name of “right to protect” and for its aftermath. A period of initial euphoria and optimism was followed by internecine conflict between the forces who overthrew “the Guide” and the establishment of a branch of the so-called “Islamic State”. Some of Qaddafi’s vast arsenal helped to fuel a Tuareg/Arab rebellion in Mali that was later hijacked by extremists. Barack Obama stated that his biggest mistake as U.S. President was not putting in adequate resources to stabilize and rebuild Libya. Though the threat of the “Islamic State” has abated, the country remains extremely fragile with competing governments and armed factions continuing to vie for control.

On Friday, April 20th, the GCSP organized a Public Discussion on « Revolution, Security Challenges and State Building in Libya ». The public discussion brought together over 60 expert participants and tackled key issues of the contemporary Libyan scenario, including challenges for state-building, security sector reform, reintegration of ex-combatants and countering violent extremism.

H.E. Dr Mohammed I. Alsalabi, Minister and Chargé d’Affaires of the Libyan Embassy in Bern, opened the discussion by emphasizing the importance of international cooperation and support.

Mr Mustafa El Sagezli, General Manager of the Libyan Programme for Reintegration and Development (LPRD), shared his experience by enumerating some of the challenges Libyans face today such as the spread of small arms and corruption. He also focused on Libyans’ hopes for the future which include a good security sector reform (SSR), disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), and the necessary reconstruction of infrastructure and institutions the country will have to address in the coming years. Furthermore, he outlined the LPRD’s plans for socio-economic development and entrepreneurship, which he believes should be undertaken hand-in-hand with international support.

Mr Timothy Reid, GCSP’s Executive-in-Residence and Former Senior Advisor on Defence Reform and DDR for the United Nations Support Mission to Libya moderated the discussion that followed. Besides Mr Mustafa El Sagezli and H.E. Dr Mohammed I. Alsalabi, it also featured Ms Mary Fitzgerald, who has conducted research on the Euro-Mediterranean for the International Crisis Group, the European Council on Foreign Relations, and the European Institute of the Mediterranean, among others.

Several key themes were addressed during the panel discussion, including:

  • Value of the Libyan Revolution and the appropriateness of the international intervention;
  • Lessons learned from the post-revolutionary phase;
  • Regionalism and fragmentation;
  • SSR and DDR;
  • Interests and motivations of armed groups;
  • Displacement and migration;
  • Border security and territorial control;
  • Countering violent extremism;
  • Natural resources;
  • Opportunities for economic development;
  • Institution-building, socio-economic development, entrepreneurship, and the role of the private sector;
  • Good governance, municipal councils, tribalism and competing political structures;
  • Civil society;
  • Democratic transition and post-conflict rebuilding;
  • Continued diplomatic dialogue with the international community, and issues of transparency.

Brigadier Mohamed B. Salah, Counter-Terrorism Coordinator for the Libya’s Government of National Accord, attended the panel discussion and provided some insights to audience members after the formal discussion.

Though there is currently some reason for hope, the discussion made clear that peace and stability can never be taken for granted.  Rebuilding Libya and its security will take a very long time. It will require much effort by the Libyans themselves. Many believe that, despite some counter-productive interventions, the International Community can play an important role in assisting. The Libyan officials who participated in the event are looking for partnerships from GSCP and others to bolster peace in their country.