Progress on Libya’s Road Map for Elections Hindered by Lack of Consensus, Dire Economic Conditions, Demonstrations, Senior Official Tells Security Council
Stressing Council Suffers from Paralysis, Country Representative Says Libyan Voices Must Be Heard, Elections Held
Despite the creation of a road map to bring Libya closer to essential presidential elections, the conflict-torn country remains enmeshed in a volatile environment fuelled by dire economic conditions, demonstrations and clashes between armed militias, a United Nations senior official told the Security Council today.
Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, briefed Council members on the results of a high-level meeting, held in late June at United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, that generated a detailed road map aimed at enabling national elections in Libya. Yet, despite that progress, the parties did not reach consensus on the eligibility requirements for presidential candidates.
She noted that, while the United Nations priority is a return to Libya’s electoral process, support is critical for Libyan counterparts to correct the factors behind the political and economic stalemate, including issues that triggered the storming of the Parliament building in Tobruk and wide-spread demonstrations across Libya. “The message from the young Libyans to their leadership was that they need to do more to improve their living conditions and that they want elections to be held as soon as possible in order to choose their legitimate representatives,” she said.
Ms. Pobee’s briefing also touched on the country’s dire economic situation, exacerbated by the politicization of the National Oil Corporation, and the country’s troubling human rights situation. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) was receiving repeated reports of serious allegations of torture against Libyans, migrants, and asylum-seekers in detention facilities and prisons. Libyan authorities must investigate all allegations of torture and other human rights violation, she stressed.
In the ensuing debate, Council members called for action from both Libyan leadership and the Council itself.
Norway’s representative said the protests in early July showed the patience of the Libyan people, who want the right to elect their own leaders, is not limitless. Also concerned with reports that the Libyan people are increasingly losing confidence in the United Nations, she urged the Council to live up to its responsibility and provide UNSMIL with a robust 12-month mandate renewal.
The representative of Kenya, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, underscored that recent events showed that Libyans could work together across the political divide. The Council must ensure that these processes are inclusive, nationally owned and free from any external interference. Calling for a substantial renewal of UNSMIL’s mandate, he also emphasized that the position of Special Representative be filled with a candidate from Africa.
Brazil’s representative, Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity, stressing that the Council has the authority and responsibility to positively influence important dynamics in Libya. One is UNSMIL’s capacity to engage with relevant actors, he said, noting that the appointment of the UNSMIL leader is key to its adequate functioning. He called on the Secretary-General and Council members to engage constructively in that endeavour.
The representative of Albania echoed the call for a Libyan-led and -owned process, supported by the United Nations, as the correct path. Nonetheless, he stressed that it would be a “major miss” for the Council, for the fifth time in a row, to be unable to give UNSMIL a 12-month mandate. “When the Council is unable to do its part, any call for Libyan actors to do theirs sounds shallow,” he added.
Libya’s delegate echoed that stance, saying that despite monthly meetings on Libya, the Council suffers from paralysis due to internal divisions. The Libyan people are fed up with these meetings and have lost hope. Since the beginning of the crisis, the Council has held more than 172 meetings with no result, he said, noting that there have been no sanctions imposed on countries or individuals that have obstructed relevant Council resolutions apart from those imposed in 2011, among other things. “So, the whole thing was and continues to be politicized,” he said.
He went on to question how solutions can be Libyan-led and -owned when they must be implemented under the auspices of the United Nations and the international community. Stressing the need of Libyan people to end the conflict and the “never-ending cycle of crises”, he said the solution is to support the peoples’ will to establish a stable State and a constitution that defines its political and economic systems. The starting point for this is listening to Libyan voices. “Leave Libyans alone”, he stressed. Instead, let them agree on the constitutional path and hold elections as soon as possible.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Kingdom, India, Mexico, United States, France, Ireland, China, United Arab Emirates and the Russian Federation,
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:36 p.m.
MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, said the overall situation in Libya remains highly volatile. Despite progress, the constitutional and political stalemate persists and prolongs the tense security environment, with an increased number of clashes in and around Tripoli. The economic situation remains dire, exacerbated by the politicization of the National Oil Corporation, with demonstrations by frustrated Libyans over the lack of progress on elections and poor State services. The country’s human rights situation still remains of serious concern.
However, she noted that since the Council’s last briefing on 27 June, progress has been made on the constitutional track with Special Adviser on Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, convening a high-level meeting between the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the High State Council. The meeting was held at the United Nations in Geneva from 28 to 29 June. Leaders agreed on some transitional measures that would lead to national elections. The two leaders charted a road map, with timelines and steps leading to the holding of national elections. Still, despite promising progress, the parties did not reach consensus on the question of eligibility requirements for presidential candidates. At a 21 July meeting of international partners in Istanbul, Special Adviser Williams reiterated that the only lasting solution to place Libya firmly on the path towards peace and stability is by holding national elections as soon as possible. In that regard, Council members and all of Libya’s international partners must influence the two leaders to reach a final agreement to allow elections as soon as possible.
She went on to report that demonstrations were held across Libya on 1 July, including in Tripoli, Benghazi, Al-Bayda and Tobruk; the Parliament building in Tobruk was stormed and damaged. She urged Libya’s political actors to listen to their people and demonstrate responsible leadership by addressing their grievances. Expressing concern about armed clashes between armed groups in Tripoli on 21 July and the skirmishes in Misrata on 23 July, she emphasized the importance of maintaining Libya’s ceasefire and urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint and use peaceful dialogue to address disputes. She welcomed the resumption of the activities of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission and meetings in Cairo and Tripoli between the commanders of the Libyan Army. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) ceasefire monitoring component, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission and the Libyan monitors plan to meet in Sirte in early August to finalize a proposed plan to withdraw foreign forces and mercenaries.
Voicing concerned about the ongoing disagreement regarding the leadership of the National Oil Corporation, she noted that Libya resumed oil exports on 19 July. Since 16 April, the shutdown had reduced Libyan oil exports by two thirds and cost the country $4 billion in lost revenue. It is too soon to confirm whether oil production will resume at full capacity and changes at the Corporation would further impact oil production and export. The Corporation must remain neutral and free from the pressure of political interests, she stressed, reiterating the United Nations call on all actors to avoid actions that would reduce oil production and exports at this critical juncture.
In regard to the human rights issues, she said the situation in Libya remains of serious concern. The dire economic situation has negatively impacted people’s fundamental rights to basic services and access to food, water and sanitation, health care and education. UNSMIL continues to receive reports of serious allegations of torture against Libyans, migrants, and asylum-seekers in detention facilities and prisons. The Mission has observed a wave of discrimination, expelling and arbitrary arrests of migrants in the western-Libya cities of Zuwara, Zawiya, Tripoli, Misrata and Sabrata. Libyan authorities must investigate all allegations of torture and other human rights violation. Those responsible must be held accountable domestically or, as applicable, by international justice mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court. She welcomed the recent nine-month extension of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya and the findings of its recent report, which includes recommendations on the situation of human rights in the country.
While the United Nations priority in Libya still remains the return to the electoral process, support is also needed for Libyan counterparts to effectively address the key drivers of the political and economic stalemate, including those that triggered the 1 July demonstrations, she said. “The message from the young Libyans to their leadership was that they need to do more to improve their living conditions and that they want elections to be held as soon as possible in order to choose their legitimate representatives.” Reiterating the United Nations readiness to support the African Union’s efforts to organize a national reconciliation conference, she said she counted on Council members, and the wider international community, to keep supporting the Organization’s efforts to enable a mutually agreeable solution which will end the continuing crisis.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), expressing concern over the recent violence in Tripoli and Misrata, said that these events, combined with the protests that took place earlier in July, demonstrate the urgent need for the delivery of a Libyan-led and -owned inclusive political process. In this regard, Libyan actors must refrain from the politicization of State institutions. This includes the National Oil Corporation. While the Libyan people need to see the full resumption of oil production and the equitable distribution of the State’s oil wealth, this should not come at the cost of the Corporation’s integrity or independence or jeopardize the country’s progress towards stability. She also stressed that Libyan authorities must respect and protect human rights across the country, building and delivering mechanisms to safeguard human rights and enabling civil society to flourish as a key component of accountability. Further, all Member States must fully comply with the United Nations arms embargo on Libya, she emphasized.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said the immediate priority for Libya is to hold free, fair, inclusive and credible presidential and parliamentary elections. Expressing concern at the resurgence of terrorist activity in the country, he stressed that terrorist groups and affiliated entities must not be allowed to operate unchallenged. The international community must focus on that issue. Moreover, the full and complete withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries is critically needed as their continued presence is detrimental to the peace and stability of the country and the region, he said, voicing concerns about the repeated violations of the arms embargo. Stressing the need to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity, he said the political process must be fully Libyan-led and Libyan-owned with no imposition or external interference. His country has enjoyed close ties with the Libyan people and remains committed to supporting them in their efforts to bring about lasting peace and stability, he said.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, reiterated that a Libyan-led and -owned dialogue is the only option for a sustainable solution to the crisis and, to this end, welcomed efforts by the House of Representatives and the High Council of State to reach consensus. He also welcomed the meeting between Mohamed Al-Haddad and Abdel-Razek Al-Nadori, stressing that representatives from both sides must continue working towards the formation of a unified structure for the army and agree on the appointment of a single commander-in-chief. Recent events have demonstrated that Libyans can work together across the political divide to achieve peace and security. The Council must strive to ensure that these processes are inclusive, nationally owned and free from any external interference. However, he called on the relevant Libyan institutions and authorities to implement confidence-building measures to create an environment conducive for successful presidential and parliamentary elections. Noting that the African Union is committed to supporting an inclusive, comprehensive process of national reconciliation, he urged all Council members to embed this in UNSMIL’s mandate.
He went on to express concern over the suffering of the thousands of migrants and refugees in Libya, emphasizing that the persistent interception and return to Libyan ports of migrants crossing the Mediterranean “is not a sustainable solution”, nor is the application of resources to establish inhumane holding areas for them in Libya. Turning to UNSMIL, he stressed the need for the Mission to be well-structured and effectively led to enable the Council to adequately support Libya. To this end, he again called for the position of Special Representative be filled with a candidate from Africa at the earliest opportunity. He also said he was looking forward to the substantial renewal of UNSMIL’s mandate, underscoring that Libya’s people deserve a mission that can facilitate and support the necessary dialogue without being “held hostage by geopolitical considerations”. Any action on Libya’s frozen assets must be undertaken in consultation with the Libyan authorities, he added.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico) emphasized that the Libyan people have expressed their desire to elect a Government that will meet their real needs. He called on those in positions of power to listen to that message and, as soon as possible, resume preparations for free, credible and inclusive elections. However, recent months have shown that some Libyan political actors lack real commitment to the process. Therefore, the Council must use the tools available to it so that those obstructing the political process cannot continue to do so with impunity. Expressing concern over recent reports concerning the possible delivery of military equipment to Libya, he called on all States to cooperate with the European Union Operation IRINI so that weapons will not continue to fuel violence in that country. He also pointed out that the authority under which the European Union is operating can be used by any State or regional organization to ensure that the arms embargo is being respected.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) welcomed the reports regarding the considerable progress being made towards an agreement on a constitutional framework leading national elections. Unfortunately, an agreement on the eligibility requirements for candidates in the presidential elections could not be reached. He urged a redoubling of efforts and for parties to set aside personal interests in line with the Road Map. If not, it is a disservice to the Libyan people and will create opportunities for turmoil. Turning to the tumult in the oil sector, he spotlighted the use of revenue to buy arms for militias, thus robbing the Libyan people of income. The international community must ensure oil production is resumed and revenues are managed in a transparent manner. Turning to human rights, he urged all sides to refrain from violence and welcomed the Human Rights Council’s extension of its fact-finding mission. The most favorable mechanism for stability is the demobilizing of militias, as well as the withdrawal of forces, including the Russian Federation’s Wagner Group. Underscoring the importance of the United Nations role, he urged the adoption of a comprehensive one-year mandate for UNSMIL so it can comfortably deal with the necessary issues.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the crisis of executive power in Libya must be quickly resolved and a unified Government must be arrived at for the conduct of electoral process throughout the country. Voicing support for the United Nations efforts to reach an agreement that allows for the organization of presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible, he called upon the Libyan actors to quickly finalize an agreement, including on eligibility criteria. He also called for full implementation of the ceasefire. This would require the withdrawal of all foreign and mercenary forces as soon as possible, in accordance with the Libyan action plan. It would also require the establishment of a demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process, in connection with countries in the region. Welcoming the reopening of oil terminals, he said his country will continue to provide support to the equitable and transparent redistribution of revenues for the benefit of the Libyan population.
MARTIN GALLAGHER (Ireland), spotlighting the recent violence in Tripoli, called on all actors to refrain fully from any escalatory actions and to preserve the fragile stability in place since the October 2020 ceasefire agreement. Given the crucial role of the European Union Operation IRINI in implementing the embargo, he expressed hope there will be a substantive renewal of UNSMIL’s mandate this week. Recent events show the need for a fully mandated Mission with its leadership agreed and in place. He also called on the Council to show flexibility in facilitating the appointment of a new Special Representative at the earliest opportunity. Voicing disappointment that the respective presidents of the House of Representatives and the High Council of State have not been able to bridge the remaining gaps to settle on a constitutional basis for elections, he urged all Libyan actors to intensify dialogue towards resolving outstanding issues, so that Libyans can exercise their right to vote and participate in public affairs.
MONA JUUL (Norway), underscoring that the Libyan people are angry and frustrated, said that the protests earlier this month demonstrate that their patience is not limitless. They want improved public services, participation and to elect their own leaders. As such, free, fair, and inclusive national elections must be held as soon as possible. Welcoming the talks between the commanders of the Libyan army in Tripoli earlier this month, she called for strengthened efforts on the security track, adding that unifying the Libyan armed forces is essential. UNSMIL plays a vital role but needs more resources and predictability, she emphasized, voicing concern about reports that the Libyan people are increasingly losing confidence in the United Nations. The Council must therefore live up to its responsibility and provide UNSMIL with a robust 12-month mandate renewal. Moreover, the Council must agree on a substantial resolution which reflects the developments on the ground and sends a strong signal to Libya’s political leaders. Recalling the European Union Operation IRINI interception last week of a vessel violating the arms embargo, she spotlighted the Operation’s valuable contribution to implementing the embargo and urged all States to uphold it.
DAI BING (China) welcomed progress made by the Libyan House of Representatives and High Council of State on establishing a constitutional basis for the holding of elections, encouraging all parties to maintain the momentum of positive dialogue and negotiate outstanding differences as soon as possible. Noting that oil is an important source of income for national reconstruction and improving livelihoods, he also welcomed Libyan parties’ work to resolve differences pertaining to the management of the oil sector. Libya’s oil industry should continue to be managed by the State and all oil revenues should be used for the benefit of the people. He pointed out that Libya’s frozen assets are also an important resource for national construction, calling on the countries concerned to ensure such assets’ integrity in strict accordance with relevant Council resolutions. Adding that UNSMIL’s mandate will soon expire, he noted his support for its extension, along with the selection of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General from an African country.
MOHAMED ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates), noting the continued deadlock in the political process, called for all parties’ best efforts to overcome the remaining contentious issues in the draft constitution. All actors must also commit to de-escalation and refrain from any provocative actions that would exacerbate the security situation. Underscoring the need for cooperation to overcome current divisions, he stressed that the coastal road must be kept open to ensure the free movement of people and goods between cities, while avoiding any negative measures that may add to the suffering of the Libyan people. Moreover, efforts to ensure that all vital Libyan institutions and facilities are unified and not politicized must continue. The only way to achieve a sustainable peace is for all Libyan parties to join the National Reconciliation Initiative, which is essential to enhance confidence between all political parties. The Security Council and the international community must spare no effort in supporting that initiative, he said, emphasizing the central role played by regional organizations, including the League of Arab States and the African Union.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), noting a deteriorating security sphere that has spilled over into clashes, underscored the importance of smoothing out disagreements among military forces and maintaining the ceasefire. Welcoming the African Union’s efforts to create stability and peace, he added that stable oil extraction is key; the revenues must go to improve living conditions in the country, such as paying workers’ salaries. Further, the oil company’s operation must be done in a balanced way. In that regard, he noted the eagerness of Western colleagues, especially the United States, to support the rapid resumption of the oil fields. With the volatility in oil prices, a political settlement seems to be placed on the back burner in favour of mercantile interests. In regard to UNSMIL, he said that the United Nations has a central role to play. The Mission has been acting without leadership for the past six months and it needs a mandate from the Council. In addition, there is a current deadlock with the absence of a special representative. He urged the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts in this regard. Expressing his support for a technical extension of three months, he said that once the Secretary-General appoints a special representative, future steps can be made towards a more extensive mandate.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that recent violence in Tripoli should be a “rallying cry” for all parties to deescalate and choose dialogue as the only viable method to resolve disputes, “because time runs against Libya and its people”. Libya must immediately invest in legitimacy and hold elections as a matter of absolute priority to break the deadlock. Underscoring that a Libyan-led and -owned process, supported by the United Nations, is the correct path, he also stressed that security is key to establishing order in the country. In this regard, full implementation of the October 2020 ceasefire agreement remains a priority, as does the full, immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces, fighters and mercenaries from Libya. He went on to point out that it would be a “major miss” for the Council, for the fifth time in a row, to be unable to give UNSMIL a 12-month mandate. There is no justification for the Council’s inability to provide the Mission with the necessary resources to face the challenges in Libya. “When the Council is unable to do its part, any call for Libyan actors to do theirs sounds shallow,” he added.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), Council President for July, speaking in his national capacity, emphasized that the Council has the authority and responsibility to positively influence important dynamics in Libya. One is UNSMIL’s capacity to engage with relevant actors, he said, noting that the appointment of the UNSMIL leader is key to its adequate functioning. He called on the Secretary-General and Council members to engage constructively in that endeavour. The Council could also positively impact the inclination of Libyan political forces to engage among themselves, he said, urging Libyan actors to agree on outstanding issues regarding the organization of elections. Pointing out that the active management of Libyan assets frozen abroad has continued, he recalled the conclusion by the panel of experts that such management is not allowed under the auspices of paragraph 19 of resolution 1970 (2011). The sovereignty over the natural wealth and resources in Libya belongs to the Libyan people, he emphasized, adding that that sovereign right must be exercised in the interest of national development and the well-being of all Libyans, without foreign interference.
TAHER M. T. ELSONNI (Libya), noting that current tensions are part of the reality of the political impasse, said that the situation “could get out of hand at any moment” unless radical solutions are found for the crisis that do not involve foreign intervention or political manoeuvres. If not for the wise, effective intervention of national leadership following recent armed clashes in Tripoli, the situation would have gotten much worse. He pointed out that, despite monthly meetings on Libya, the Council suffers from paralysis due to internal divisions. The Libyan people are fed up with these meetings and have lost hope. Since the beginning of the crisis, the Council has held more than 172 meetings with no result; there have been no sanctions imposed on countries or individuals that have obstructed relevant Council resolutions apart from those imposed in 2011; and there have been no results from investigations conducted by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission and the International Criminal Court. “So, the whole thing was and continues to be politicized,” he stressed.
He went on to question how solutions can be Libyan-led and -owned when they must be implemented under the auspices of the United Nations and the international community, underscoring the need to listen to the Libyan people who wish to end the conflict and the “never-ending cycle of crises”. The solution is to support the peoples’ will to establish a stable State and a constitution that defines its political and economic systems. While certain international forces fear the results of elections might not serve their narrow interests of continued oil production, preventing immigration to Europe and combating terrorism, it is unfortunate that their concern does not extend to issues outside of those matters, he said. Stressing that “the solution starts from within”, he underscored that all problems will be resolved by giving leadership and ownership to Libyans in a genuine way. The starting point for this is listening to Libyan voices. “Leave Libyans alone,” he stressed. Instead, let them agree on the constitutional path and hold elections as soon as possible.