Light, life, and peace in Libya

February 26, 2020


Conflict, divisions and war have affected Libya for many years. International actors and the United Nations have certainly not stood idly by. They have committed to support Libyans as they build a peaceful, inclusive state. The recent Berlin Summit has opened a new window of opportunity engaging international actors and the UN to support Libyans to build a peaceful and inclusive state. Conditions for a guaranteed ceasefire, an effective arms embargo, and inclusive economic, political, security, human rights and international humanitarian law tracks. Now International actors must honor their commitments in the Berlin Communique, and people in Libya must engage in real dialogue to build peace and unified state institutions for the benefit of all.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya and UNDP, as well as other UN agencies, have been present all this time. UNDP has supported public institutions, local governments, civil society and communities to continue building up basis for inclusive development that will only be possible with a sustained peace.

Our programme, with the support of the international community and the Government of Libya, invested US$50 million in 2019 with the aim of achieving stabilization, resilience and recovery and contributing to conflict management and social cohesion.

Throughout the country, wherever help is needed

We are working from Tripoli to Benghazi and Sebha, from Bani Walid to Kufra and Ghat, namely in the west, east and south. We are supporting 40 municipalities and plan to add 20  more in all regions where approximately 75 percent of people live.

I have directly witnessed the impact of our contribution in the township of Tawergha. As a result of the conflict, 40,000 residents were forced to leave their homes becoming displaced for more than seven years. The UN and others worked for several years with Misratans and Tawerghans to build reconciliation. In 2018, they reached an agreement to allow their safe return.

Since I arrived in Libya in March 2019, I recognized the reconciliation process between Tawergha and Misrata people as a paradigmatic peacebuilding case.

I decided to personally push for contributing to safe returns. Despite security restraints, I was able to visit both towns in August. I talked to leaders and tried to facilitate understanding. They welcomed my visit and shared their strong commitment to rebuilding their communities. I witnessed also the commitment of the Government of Libya to help people from Tawergha by supporting the reconstruction of key infrastructure.

I also visited the Mental Health and Psycho-social Support  centre in Tommina, a town between the two cities, that UNDP helped to establish with Italian Cooperation support. People from Tawergha and Misrata were even afraid to sit down together, now in the centre women from both cities are studying together and even creating joint businesses and social initiatives. I heard women heartbreaking stories of abuse and amazing stories of recovery.

I returned in early December, and was able to confirm how many more families have returned, how many more students are learning in the only school so far in the township and how key infrastructure are being rehabilitated by the Government of Libya and the people from Tawergha, the public clinic and the hospital, and electrical grid. Security is being provided by the national police with new facilities and equipment.

Let there be light

In UNDP, we were eager to help and immediately we set about the task of consulting with the community on which were their most urgent needs.

We provided an ambulance for the clinic and we are working on rehabilitating three schools and providing the existing school with a mobile computer lab powered by solar energy. Now all students can go online, which will reduce inequalities.

Something that many may see as a small step have changed lives and is a call for those who are yet to come. One of the best-received projects was the installation of solar lights at the main entrance road of the township.

I felt touched reading people’s comments on the Facebook page of the Chair of the Tawergha-Misrata reconciliation committee, widely welcoming the solar streetlights, and praising our Stabilization Facility for Libya. These lights are bringing a sense of security to an area, and are also hope for a bright future.

Returning life to communities

Stabilization and resilience are contributing to shape the conditions for peace. We are looking with hope, and actively supporting together with UNSMIL and others in the UN family, the dialogue tracks set by the Berlin Process. We know the challenges are big, but so is the will and commitment of Libyans.

As I have seen in Tawergha, the lights and other support we are providing are helping Libyans to return life to their communities.

In this transition period, international support and expertise continues to be essential, to contribute to effectiveness, transparency and building of modern and inclusive institutions.

We are here to contribute to peace that will unleash the creative power of Libyan society and move towards the inclusive and sustainable development that the country deserves.