This policy brief analyses the role of state authorities and municipalities in service provision in Libya; asks how it has developed since 2011; and how it changed during the 2019-2020 waste management crisis.
2. Who is responsible for waste management in Tripoli?
The historical background of waste management services Waste management services in Tripoli had faced challenges for several years due to a lack of efficiency.
They were officially established in 2004, when the General Services Company-Tripoli was founded and tasked to oversee waste management as an independent public company affiliated to the Libyan government.
The Company operated under this structure until 2011.
Its affiliation shifted, though, to the Tripoli Municipal Council, then to the Ministry of Public Utilities and Housing from 2012 until 2014, and finally, from 2015 and 2020, to the GNA’s Ministry of Local Government.
The period between 2004 and 2011 witnessed plans to involve the private sector in solid waste management in Tripoli, albeit not at the decision-making level.
As a result, there was a gap between plans and laws, on the one hand, and implementation, on the other.
This weakened the role of the private sector and its opportunities for investment in waste management, and had a negative impact on the implementation of development projects.
Though waste management had improved somewhat before 2011, “the situation changed as a result of the lack of security in the country and as a result too of rampant corruption in the government sector.”
Subsequently, “successive governments neglected waste management and services in general, although they allocated sizeable funds and enormous budgets towards them.”
After 2011, the waste management sector underwent several structural changes, as political changes were taking place in the background.
The state, however, lacked a coherent policy, and waste management efforts floundered, affecting the quality of services.
For example, according to the 2015 organizational structure of municipalities, the offices of research, statistics, and decision support in each municipality were tasked with recommending strategic policies to the local authorities.
The shutdown of these offices affected the decision to support waste services.
2.1 Waste management structure
Tripoli lacks a clear organizational structure for waste management in terms of the authorities designated at the municipal and governmental levels.
The current waste management structure starts at the Ministry of Local Government, whose tasks include setting local management policies and supervising waste management by overseeing both local utilities and environmental sanitation.
Under the Ministry are the municipalities and the General Services Company-Tripoli.
At the same time, the Environmental General Authority, the Environmental Sanitation Offices of the Ministry of Local Government, and the municipalities all act as watchdogs to oversee waste management.
The cycle of waste management is unsustainable, as it involves mainly accumulating waste in open landfills and leaving it untreated.
First, waste is carried by waste transport trucks from residential and public areas to the interim landfills inside or outside Tripoli; namely the Abu Slim, the Sawani, the Tajoura, and the Maitiqa landfills, and occasionally, the Maamoura landfill outside the city.
There, the waste should undergo treatment before being transported to the permanent Sidi al-Sayeh landfill south of Tripoli.
In terms of waste management execution, the General Services Company operates according to the laws governing its establishment before 2011.
The Company supervises the collection and transportation of waste in cooperation with a consortium of companies, and thus receives the largest share of funding from the waste management budget.
However, there is an overlap between the prerogatives of the General Services Company-Tripoli and the municipalities responsible for waste management in Tripoli.
According to Law No. 59 of 2012, establishing the municipalities, and its implementing regulations, the municipalities’ prerogatives include monitoring the level of public hygiene, and the collection and disposal of waste.
Although the municipalities also have waste management prerogatives, neither the prerogatives nor the bodies responsible for coordinating between the central and local governments – namely, the governorate authorities – have been activated.
These factors further impeded the municipalities’ administrative and financial ability to manage waste in their jurisdictions.
2.2 Disputes and tensions
Disputes between the municipalities and the General Services Company-Tripoli
To address the crisis, the government attempted to facilitate, with policies, the shift to waste management decentralisation.
One of these was Resolution No. 1011 of the Presidential Council of the GNA in September 2019. The Resolution stipulated that six municipalities in Tripoli would undertake cleaning activities using a portion of the budget originally allocated to the General Services Company-Tripoli.
Accordingly, the Council tasked the Ministry of Local Government to open bank accounts for depositing taxes, which municipalities would be able to use as an additional funding source. Within two months, a committee was formed.
Its role was to distribute the public cleaning budget among the municipalities and the General Services Company. Legal disputes arose between the municipalities and the Company after the Resolution was implemented.
In a letter sent by Souq al-Jum’a municipality to the Presidential Council in December 2019, the municipality noted the government’s failure to transfer the pledged public cleaning allocations.
Instead, the committee responsible for the distribution of the allocations transferred only half of the funds to the municipalities, and the other half to the General Services Company-Tripoli.
Moreover, the municipality protested that the General Services Company-Tripoli had failed for several years to improve public hygiene and claimed that the municipality had made more efforts in that direction than the Company.
Finally, it described the government’s weak support in waste management as a “war against the transition to local governance,” and demanded that the budget allocated to it be transferred alternatively through the Ministry of Finance.
In response, the General Services Company-Tripoli took legal accountability measures regarding Resolution No. 1011. It requested that the Law Department of the Supreme Judicial Council issue a legal opinion on the Resolution supporting the decentralisation in waste management.
The Council’s response stated that the Resolution was illegal and in violation of the law establishing the municipalities and the General Services Company-Tripoli law.
The Council, thus, opposed the transfer of both the General Services Company’s prerogatives and its budget to the municipalities.
Resolution No. 1101 was, indeed, aimed at supporting an active role for municipalities in waste management, especially given the accumulation of waste in Tripoli between September and December.
However, it also highlighted the repercussions of not having implemented Law 59 – which grants municipalities financial and administrative independence – prior to that.
The result was that the Resolution’s implementation led to a confusion in the prerogatives of various parties. These in turn, impaired the waste collection system.
This was visible on the ground with a noticeable decline in waste transportation services, coinciding with the rainy season, and the accumulation of waste on the streets which led to closures and water drainage blockages.
Rima Ibrahim works at the Orient-Institut Beirut as a Research Assistant since July 2019.