This report sheds light on how national dialogue and reconciliation efforts can build upon and support local mediation efforts already under way.
The Role of Local, National and International Actors in Reconciliation Initiatives
Libyans perceive local level actors as the most effective in conflict resolution, with the notable exception of armed groups.
Sixty-three percent of respondents felt that tribal elders are very effective at resolving conflict, while 45 percent preferred local notables. Both groups were perceived as being the most effective actors for conflict resolution across all ages and regions.
Interestingly, 45 percent of respondents found that unarmed youth in the local community would also be very effective at resolving conflict, although 27 percent of respondents felt that local unarmed youth would not be very effective at all.
Lastly, among the local actors proposed in the survey, Libyans were least likely to find armed groups effective at resolving conflict: in fact, 69 percent of Libyans felt that armed groups were not effective at all.
Stakeholders interviewed perceived traditional and tribal mechanisms for conflict resolution as best tailored to communal disputes, and not to resolving large-scale issues relating to national reconciliation.
However, the methods relied upon by tribal elders enjoy a high level of legitimacy among Libyans across regions and age groups and are perceived as most effective.
Tribal mechanisms involve a combination of customary and State law. They were legitimized under Gadhafi, but date back to the Ottoman occupation and possibly even before.
Qualitative interviews with stakeholders indicated that traditional mechanisms for conflict resolution also have their drawbacks. Mainly, reconciliation efforts led by elders and notables tend not to be inclusive enough, particularly of youth, and as a result they are often difficult to apply.
Interestingly, 42 percent of respondents found unarmed youth in the local community to be effective actors at resolving conflict, thus making youth the third most popular actor for resolving conflict.
Libyans deemed all national-level actors, with the exception of the Libyan National Army, as ineffective at conflict. For example, 71 percent of Libyans felt the GNC was not effective at all at resolving conflict, and 63 percent of Libyans felt that the HoR and the GNA were not effective at all at resolving conflict.
In contrast, 40 percent of Libyans felt the LNA was very effective and 34 percent of Libyans felt the LNA was not effective at all. Libyan key informants interviewed felt the role of the State should be restricted to enforcing security, providing law and order, and reviewing or approving peace deals and compensation claims.
Key stakeholders perceived the State as being responsible for supporting and implementing agreements as well as disbursing reparations.
This process could be achieved through the establishment of a national truth and reconciliation body tasked with investigating and gathering claims from around the country.
The idea of establishing a commission for national reconciliation was also popular among survey respondents: 77 percent felt that a national commission would be a very effective tool.
A similar national mechanism, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was established by the National Transitional Council (NTC) in 2012 and tasked with investigating and documenting crimes and human rights violations as well as establishing compensation for the victims.
However, the enacting of a new transitional justice law in 2013, and the start of the civil war one year later, made the operationalization of such commission impossible.
Survey respondents and stakeholders did not envision a large role for municipalities to directly resolve conflict. Only 28 percent of respondents felt municipalities would be very effective at resolving conflict, while 36 percent felt municipalities would be very ineffective.
While most of the qualitative interviews indicated that the municipalities should focus on providing services to the community, some envisioned a logistical facilitation role for municipalities to support civil society actors, elders and notables in their efforts to reconcile.
Survey respondents perceived international actors to be among the least effective or desirable for conducting conflict resolution in Libya.
The Libyans that participated in this study appeared generally resentful of foreign involvement in the Libyan conflict and tended to reject the identity of foreign entities inserting themselves in the conflict, even to facilitate its resolution.
Sixty-six percent of Libyans felt that international NGOs would not be effective at all, while 62 percent of Libyans felt that the international community in general would not be effective at all at resolving conflict.
By far the least popular mechanism for conflict resolution in respondents’ eyes was foreign third-party-led dialogue, which 73 percent of respondents rejected.
However, the key stakeholders interviewed had a more nuanced perception of the role the international community can play in resolving the Libyan conflict.
Many stakeholders praised the UN-sponsored capacity building trainings on conflict mediation as well as other trainings conducted by international NGOs.
The projects implemented by the Stabilization Facility for Libya were also mentioned during interviews as positive examples of conflict-sensitive development.
Besides providing capacity building trainings and services, key stakeholders also stated that the international community had a role to play in advising Libyans on transitional justice.
Interviewees generally found that the UN and other international actors should support Libyan-led reconciliation initiatives in a consultative and technical capacity, rather than a political one.
Survey respondents felt that public awareness campaigns on conflict resolution and the establishment of a national commission on reconciliation would be effective conflict resolution tools.
Eighty-two percent of Libyans feel that educating the public on conflict resolution would be very effective for resolving and preventing conflict.
The UN’s planned national media campaign would therefore find fertile ground with a Libyan public interested in discussing and learning about reconciliation.
Without security and a legitimate national government, efforts for the resolution of specific conflicts will experience gains and setbacks, but the international community can continue focusing on supporting the efforts and capacities of Libyans at the local level.
As Libya continues to work towards voting on a draft Constitution and elections, there are several factors the UN should consider when utilizing public education and local capacity building as means of preparing the ground for national reconciliation.
Recommendations for a Nation-Wide Outreach and Awareness-Raising Campaign for Reconciliation
» A national awareness campaign on national reconciliation should be accompanied by public education campaigns on conflict prevention through the development of educational media involving short documentaries, training materials and other resources for conflict prevention training.
International donors could support Libyan efforts to develop and disseminate educational materials or carry out awareness campaigns through local television stations, local civil society organizations or local universities and schools.
» International charity organizations specialized in media should collaborate with Libyan media and public relations companies to develop conflict-sensitive and targeted materials such as: media segments, short documentaries, or children’s educational programs.
» Training materials should be distributed to universities and local civil society organizations specialized in community outreach.
At the local level, these materials could be used to design basic conflict prevention and mediation skills to be distributed in schools or in local recreation centers through municipalities, civil society organizations, universities, youth networks such as the Scouts, Y-Peer Libya, or the Libyan Blogger’s Network (recently launched in collaboration with Deutsche Welle and Friederich Ebert Stiftung.
» An awareness campaign should elevate the stories of Libya’s everyday “unknown heroes” to promote participation and ownership of national reconciliation at the local level.
News segments or documentaries could show how everyday Libyans are mobilizing to provide support to their communities, in order to reinforce the notion that people across Libya are already taking initiative to solve their own problems, thereby shedding a more positive light on the current situation.
This could help create support for national reconciliation by highlighting the fact that reconciliation is already occurring, and that Libyans are already leading the process.
The sense of ownership that may come with an awareness of reconciliation initiatives occurring across the country could help encourage active participation and reinforce Libyan buy-in for reconciliation.
» The national reconciliation campaign should raise awareness of women and youth’s role in reconciliation in Libya.
In Libyan society, youth are too often associated with violence as young men are the most likely to engage in armed conflict.
As mentioned above, sensitization and media campaigns should focus on dispelling the notion that youth are violent by highlighting the positive role of youth in creating peace and in facilitating dialogue in their communities.
Much like with youth, discussion of the woman’s role in reconciliation initiatives should be encouraged.
Recommendations for Capacity Building to Strengthen the Ability of Various Stakeholders to Support Reconciliation at the Local Level
» Increase the capacity of communities to document and archive human rights violations, in view of future transitional justice processes.
The survey and interviews indicated that there is a strong appetite for justice and truth seeking. Providing civil society organizations in Libya that specialize in human rights, and universities and regular citizens, with the knowledge on how to conduct interviews with victims, collect, document and archive proofs, could contribute to ensure that abuses are not forgotten.
The UN and international NGOs could contribute to facilitating these training programs, to enable Libyans to claim their rights before future transitional justice mechanisms or a truth-seeking commission.
» Develop context-specific and sensitive means of encouraging understanding and contact between communities in conflict.
Interviews with members of peacebuilding organizations indicated that reconciliation initiatives encouraging collaboration between the conflict parties, through the process of scoping services for the community, are among the most conflict-sensitive approaches.
This is particularly true when the foreign third party is only involved by providing or paying for the service (i.e. building a well, supporting small projects, or building a sports center).
Festivals, workshops, sports and cultural events, as well as art shows, are other mechanisms that can serve to tame the probabilities of conflict and encourage communities to interact.
Methods should vary based on the particularities of the community and the conflict to address.
» Continue empowering Libyan civil society actors and organizations to work on the reintegration of young combatants in a community-focused way.
The international community can invest in community reintegration projects in conflict-affected zones. The programs should provide psychosocial support to young combatants and create value for the entire community.