This report sheds light on how national dialogue and reconciliation efforts can build upon and support local mediation efforts already under way.
1. Executive Summary
In July 2017 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) selected Altai Consulting to conduct a quantitative and qualitative analysis to support the “Towards National Reconciliation in Libya” project.
The study aims at understanding Libyans’ perceptions of reconciliation and providing preliminary information about the existing opportunities and challenges for reconciliation.
This baseline perceptions survey explored Libyans’ attitudes towards and priorities for national reconciliation and transitional justice. The study probed the topic of legitimacy in local level reconciliation initiatives to draw lessons for a national reconciliation strategy.
Perceptions of Local and National Conflict
The Libyan conflict is generally considered as occurring on two separate planes: the national level political conflict and local level conflicts.
Key stakeholders interviewed tended to agree with this dichotomy: they felt that the political stalemate was driven by politicians striving to protect their interests in a future Libyan State. In turn, the lack of governance,
which results from the absence of a central authority, creates an insecure environment at the local level, allowing gangs, criminals and militias to thrive, and ancient communal conflicts to re-emerge.
Key stakeholders also perceived violence at the local level as a competition between mistrustful communities manipulated or instigated by spoilers – both security and political actors – which they referred to as “merchants of war”.
However, survey respondents did not seem to make a differentiation between causes of conflict at the national and at the local level. In a ranking of causes, survey respondents felt that the conflict was driven more by competition over key resources and institutions than by regional, ideological or political divisions.
The survey revealed that conflicts were generally perceived either in tribal terms, particularly in the South, as part of a struggle against Islamist extremists (East), or as a combination of competition between tribes, militias and cities, especially in the West.
The study also revealed that respondents irrespective of age, gender, or region were most aware and familiar with the conflict between Misrata and Tawergha, which has resulted in the continued displacement of Tawerghans ever since 2011.
Respondents considered that the resolution of the Misrata-Tawergha conflict was key for future national reconciliation efforts.
Understanding Of Justice And Reconciliation
» In a ranking of priorities for national stability, Libyans’ most common first priorities were security (37 percent) and national reconciliation (27 percent).
The survey results show that security is most important to Libyans, but that national reconciliation also represents a priority. » When asked to rank the importance of five factors for national reconciliation, Libyans were equally likely to choose “forgiveness” and “justice” as a top priority (25 percent each), indicating a certain division on which of the two factors is more important.
In key informant interviews, stakeholders were most likely to favor restorative justice, based on dialogue and reconciliation, over retributive or criminal justice. Respondents were also careful to differentiate between forgiveness and amnesty.
The survey revealed that Libyans remain divided as to knowing who deserves forgiveness. For example, 40 percent of respondents felt strongly that all belligerents should be forgiven, including those that have committed crimes. However, 40 percent of respondents also felt strongly that all belligerents should not be forgiven.
» Respondents were highly concerned with the accountability of perceived spoilers and criminals. However, being a member of the former regime was not a determining factor in who respondents felt should be prosecuted in a court of law or should be banned from participating in the state building process.
Although the role and place of former regime loyalists is controversial in Libyan society, it seemed that respondents’ desire for accountability was universal.
» Respondents were divided on whether the Libyan diaspora should have a role in reconciliation. While 50 percent of respondents said yes, 43 percent of respondents said no.
Determinants Of Legitimacy In Reconciliation Initiatives
According to the survey and the interview findings, for reconciliation initiatives to be perceived as legitimate, the following must be true:
» The reconciliation initiative must involve an element of buy-in or approval from a national or local government or security force.
Although 61 percent of Libyans strongly agreed that a peace deal should provide for the punishment of criminals through the traditional justice system, the survey also revealed that 88.5 percent of Libyans felt that a legitimate peace deal should ensure that crimes be processed through the state justice system.
The two legal codes are not mutually exclusive: indeed, interviews with elders revealed that in many ways state law and traditional law in Libya often overlap.
» The reconciliation initiative must be Libyan-led. Ninety percent of survey respondents strongly agreed that a reconciliation agreement must be perceived as Libyan-led to be legitimate.
Qualitative interviews suggested that the reconciliation initiative should also take place inside Libya for it to be considered legitimate. Foreign third-party involvement in the determination of peace agreement should take the form of training, logistical and financial support.
Respondents tended to reject the idea of foreign third parties setting the agenda in local or national reconciliation initiatives.
Furthermore, some interviewees suggested that in order to inspire trust in communities affected by conflicts, a simple, straightforward and localized communications and outreach strategy should be developed to keep the residents informed of the existence of negotiations and build local support for it.
» Interviews revealed that reconciliation initiatives should be preceded by efforts to build trust, or to open channels of communication between members of the conflicting groups.
The selected interlocutors for the reconciliation initiative should be both inclusive and representative. Inclusiveness was portrayed as assuring the engagement of all components of the conflict, including members directly involved in the violence.
Determining the representativeness of an interlocutor, however, is increasingly elusive – especially when it comes to influencing military realities.
The survey revealed that 70 percent of respondents strongly agreed that a legitimate peace agreement would involve the conflicting groups agreeing on a common path forward, while 68 percent of respondents felt that a legitimate peace deal should restore trust between groups.
» A legitimate peace deal must make clear mention of reparations and a mechanism for them should be reviewed, approved, and implemented.
Both the qualitative interviews and the survey indicated that Libyans see discussions on reparations as a necessary step in any reconciliation process. Sixty-four percent of respondents strongly agreed that a legitimate reconciliation agreement should include the payment of reparations.
A realistic discussion of reparations and a method for determining the type and quantity of such reparations should thus be provided in any reconciliation initiatives.
Civic Engagement And Reconciliation
Civic engagement in Libya is limited by the security climate, which makes it a rather dangerous practice. However, despite the degree of uncertainty and insecurity in Libya today, 35 percent of respondents reported perceiving themselves as being active members of their communities.
Sixty-four percent of the respondents that did not report being active members of their communities cited the prohibitive political climate as the main deterrent to their participation.
The most common kind of activity cited by “active” respondents was community mediation and social conflict resolution. This indicates that respondents who do participate in their community are highly motivated by peace and by the potential for reconciliation.
Inclusion of Youth and Women
Younger respondents were more likely to feel unrepresented by local reconciliation initiatives than the average respondent.
In the qualitative interviews, younger stakeholders were also more likely to feel excluded, especially by their elders, when engaging in reconciliation initiatives.
Both the survey and the qualitative interviews indicated that youth may be stigmatized as drivers of violence. In fact, disarmament was the most popular mechanism among respondents for increasing youth involvement in reconciliation.
In general, Libyans did not perceive women and youth as being entirely excluded parties to reconciliation initiatives.
For example, 51 percent of Libyans felt that youth were fully included, and 44.6 percent of Libyans felt that women were fully included in reconciliation initiatives at the national level. Libyans were more divided regarding the inclusion of minorities and of members of the Libyan diaspora.
Thirty-seven percent felt that minorities were fully included in reconciliation initiatives nationally, while 22.4 percent felt that they were not at all included.
Libyans thus appeared significantly more open to increasing the rights of women than to devolving the political power to minorities. Women’s participation in reconciliation-related activities in the community was also lower than other demographics.
Respondents strongly supported increasing women’s rights, and strongly approved of mechanisms to increase women’s involvement in reconciliation.
Building women’s capacity to resolve conflict, and building Libyans’ awareness of women’s roles in reconciliation, were popular solutions to increase their inclusion.
Among the mechanisms suggested for increasing inclusion of youth and women in reconciliation, spreading awareness on their current involvement in reconciliation efforts and encouraging public discussion on their role in Libyan society, was often mentioned.
Conflict prevention training among youth and women was also perceived as a good solution for increasing their inclusion. For youth, Libyans also felt that disarmament and the reintegration of combatants would be a useful tool for encouraging youth to participate in reconciliation initiatives.
(*) Respondents were asked to list their top three priorities for national stability from a list of nine issues. The results were then presented by how often each topic was listed as priority number one or priority number two. Given the large number (9) of options to choose from, the percentages (27 percent or 37 percent) appear less significant than they are. However, all figures included in the report were statistically significant.