Building a sustainable democracy in Libya

Libya - civic education
Participants in a civic education training session in Libya learned how to develop media campaigns for elections. (UNDP)

A year ago, Khadija Baba would not have considered engaging in any independent civil society or political activities in her home town of Tripoli.

Not only was such activity forbidden under the former regime in Libya, but it would have likely landed the university student in prison.

Now, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Baba has just completed the first phase of training to become a Civic Education Instructor for her peers in Libyan universities.

“Youth were at the heart of the revolution in Libya,” Baba said. “We young people have to play a role in the transition of this country to a sustainable democracy.”

Highlights

  • 375,000 students are registered in Libya’s 13 universities
  • About 180,000 students are reportedly enrolled in vocational training courses in 11 national institutes
  • Fifty percent of students in tertiary education in Libya are reportedly women
  • Twenty-six participants (15 females and 11 males) completed the first phase of the BRIDGE training
  • Half were selected from universities and the other half came from women & youth civil society organizations

Baba was among 15 women and 11 men selected to attend a comprehensive civic educational training session, employing the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) approach.

"The BRIDGE approach is very suitable in the Libyan context,” Emad Yousef, a BRIDGE instructor, explained. “It is not prescriptive, and it encourages participants to develop creative and appropriate solutions to challenges that they face in their work."

The training is the first of three components of UNDP’s US$4.37 million “Support to Civic Engagement in Libya’s Transition” project, which began in January.  It focuses on strengthening youth and women’s engagement in Libya’s political transition. UNDP is working in close partnership with the Ministries of Planning, Culture and Civil Society and Higher Education.

Four decades under the rule of one of the harshest authoritarian regimes in the Arab region have left no chance for Baba and her peers to learn about democracy and good governance.

“Deepening people’s understanding of democratic principles and processes, and their application in elections and constitution making processes is a priority today in Libya,” said UNDP Programme Analyst Amal El-Mograbi. “This course integrates people and indirectly helps with promoting reconciliation— some of the participants who come from all over Libya are actual Thuwar (Arabic for 17th February revolutionaries).”

After completing a supervised practice period where they use their newly acquired training skills in civic education, apprentice instructors receive their full certification.  Certified instructors can work later as BRIDGE trainers in Libya and in the Arab Region.

Khadija and her fellow trainees have created a BRIDGE Libya Facebook page   and are very actively sharing ideas through it and planning their next steps.

“We are happy to have completed this first ever BRIDGE training in Libya at this important juncture,” said UNDP Libya Country Director Eric Overvest. “Civil society organizations, a number of ministries and the High National Elections Commission are already clamoring for their training skills in order to get more expertise on democratic transition.”

Trained instructors will soon provide two- to three- day civic education courses for up to 10,000 students through a network of training centers in 10 universities across Libya. They will also, through the High National Elections Commission, be able to work as volunteers in voter education campaigns.