March 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 February 2016
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Expected Council Action

In March, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). UNSMIL head, Martin Kobler, will brief on recent political developments and the Secretary-General’s latest report.

The Council is also likely to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and expects a briefing by its chair, Ambassador Ramlan Ibrahim (Malaysia).

The mandates of UNSMIL and the Panel of Experts expire on 15 March and 30 April, respectively.

Key Recent Developments

Five years since Libya’s uprising, the security situation continues to deteriorate despite some positive political developments. On 17 December, participants in the political dialogue—including members from the House of Representatives and the General National Congress (GNC), political parties, civil society, municipalities and women’s groups—signed the Libyan Political Agreement in Skhirat, Morocco. On 23 December, the Council adopted resolution 2259, welcoming the signing of the Agreement and the formation of a Presidency Council. The resolution called on the Presidency Council to work expeditiously to form a Government of National Accord (GNA) within 30 days and to finalise interim security arrangements necessary for stabilising Libya. It also called on member states to cease support to, and having official contact with, parallel institutions outside of the Agreement.

As the 30-day deadline approached, Kobler briefed Council members on 15 January under “any other business” at the request of Russia, on the challenges to form a GNA. On 18 January, the Presidency Council proposed a list of 32 ministers to be endorsed by the House. On 20 January, Security Council members issued a press statement welcoming this announcement and looking forward to the House’s endorsement of the GNA. On 25 January, the House rejected the proposed list, and negotiations continued. An 18-member Cabinet was proposed on 15 February, but at press time the House had yet to endorse it. On 24 February a majority of House members signed a statement in which they declared their approval of the GNA proposed by the Presidency Council. In a statement, Kobler called on the House leadership to formalise this endorsement.

Although the House endorsed the Agreement in principle on 25 January, it expressed reservations regarding the transfer of military power included in article 8 of the additional provisions of the Agreement. Among controversial issues is the role that General Khalifa Haftar (the military leader of Operation Dignity in eastern Libya) is to play once a GNA is sworn in.

The security situation continues to be highly volatile, and UNSMIL has repeatedly condemned the indiscriminate targeting of civilians by all parties. On 14 January, the Presidency Council decided to establish a Temporary Security Committee to facilitate the implementation of the security arrangements outlined in the Agreement. However, the security situation continues to be highly unstable in Tripoli, which is critical for the establishment of the GNA there as well as for the return of UNSMIL. On 23 February, Haftar’s forces carried out an offensive in Benghazi, taking over key neighbourhoods of the city. Fighting resumed in the south despite a ceasefire between Tuareg and Tebu tribes.

The increasing presence of terrorist groups continues to be a threat to Libya and the region. A 22 September 2015 report of the Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989/2253 ISISL (Dae’sh)/Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee stated that ISIL may have 2,000 to 3,000 fighters in Libya and intends to control additional territory in Libya. (It controls a 250-kilometre stretch of territory along the coast.) There have been several attacks on oil infrastructure, including the 4 January ISIL takeover of the town of Ben Jawad and attacks on other oil facilities in Sidra and Ras Lanuf in Libya’s oil crescent. On 7 January, ISIL claimed responsibility for an attack on a police training facility in the western town of Zliten that resulted in at least 60 deaths and was condemned by the Council.

Despite the increasing presence of ISIL, Libyan authorities have repeatedly refused to invite Western intervention. However, on 19 February, the US conducted an airstrike on an ISIL training camp near Sabratha, resulting in more than 40 casualties. Western governments are engaged in contingency planning to support counter-terrorism efforts in Libya once a GNA is formed.

Following a request by Kobler, a needs assessment mission was deployed in January to evaluate the feasibility of UNSMIL’s return to Libya (UNSMIL has been operating from Tunis since July 2014). The mission concluded that such move is contingent upon the establishment of the GNA in Tripoli and the authorisation to deploy a UN guard unit.

The humanitarian situation in Libya continues to be fragile. According to OCHA, after ongoing fighting, the lack of resources is the second biggest obstacle to responding to the 2.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and implementing Libya’s Humanitarian Response Plan. At press time, only 2 percent of the $165.6 million requested for 2016 had been received.

Sanctions-Related Developments

The final report of the Panel of Experts of the 1970 Sanctions Committee highlighted how continuous violations of the arms embargo mirroring regional rivalries have been fuelling instability in Libya. It also blamed the leaderships of the House and the GNC for negatively impacting the completion of the transition to the GNA. The report puts forward several recommendations to the Council focusing on the structure of Libya’s security and defence sector under the GNA in order to allow for exemptions to the arms embargo, questioning the usefulness of measures targeting the illicit export of crude oil and recommending explicitly authorising the re-investment of assets frozen as a result of sanctions.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The Human Rights Council will consider the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the findings of the mission by his Office to investigate violations and abuses of international human rights law committed in Libya since the beginning of 2014 (A/HRC/31/47), during its 31st session in March. The report describes widespread violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and abuses of human rights, perpetrated by all parties to the conflict in Libya throughout 2014 and 2015, including unlawful killings, indiscriminate attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, abductions and gender-based violence. The report also describes the situation of human rights defenders, journalists, migrants, the Tawerghan community and children. It also provides an assessment of the justice sector and recommends urgent measures to fight against impunity.

Key Issues

The overarching issues are how to ensure the broad acceptance of the Agreement, including its endorsement by the House, how to bring on board those unwilling to sign it and how to isolate spoilers actively undermining the political process.

A key issue is ensuring that military actors commit to implement the ceasefire and other security arrangements provided for in the Agreement. Stopping violations of international humanitarian law by the parties is a related issue.

The growing threat in Libya of terrorist groups with regional reach is an urgent issue.


Options for Council members on Libya include:

  • adopting a technical resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate for three months as recommended by the Secretary-General, with the view to renewing the mandate once a GNA is in place;
  • emphasising the role that UNSMIL will continue to play in broadening support for the Agreement and its implementation and reiterating that the door remains open to others who may wish to sign it;
  • visiting Libya and/or the region to hold discussions with the parties and regional stakeholders in order to generate momentum for the endorsement of the GNA and discuss with Libyan stakeholders the Council’s approach regarding the sanctions in place;
  • taking on board the recommendations of the Panel of Experts’ report;
  • bringing effective pressure to bear on those member states identified as violating the sanctions regime; and
  • considering imposing sanctions on spoilers.
Council and Wider Dynamics

Council members generally support UNSMIL’s mediation efforts and have repeatedly stated that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Libya. There is also a feeling of urgency among Council members given the growing threat of ISIS in Libya. However, during the negotiations on resolution 2259, Russia insisted on including a reference to a 23 December 2015 letter from Speakers Aguila Saleh Gouider (House) and Nouri Ali Abu-Sahmain (GNC) complaining that UNSMIL had gone ahead with the signing ceremony in Skhirat without considering their inputs to the political process. (Since early December 2015, some parliamentarians from both the House and GNC opposed to the Agreement have tried to add momentum to a parallel negotiation track not facilitated by the UN.)

Until now, disagreements over how to support mediation efforts, including the use of UN sanctions, have hindered the Council’s engagement on Libya. If the GNA is finally endorsed by the House, divergences might again arise, over deciding what action to take regarding those who decide not to sign or accept its authority. In addition, once the government is sworn in, Council members might have different perspectives regarding the kind of international engagement the Council should support against terrorist groups in Libya, such as ISIL.

The UK is the penholder on Libya.


Security Council Resolutions
23 December 2015 S/RES/2259 The Council welcomed the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement.
10 September 2015 S/RES/2238 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of the UNSMIL until 15 March 2016.
Security Council Press Statements
20 January 2016 SC/12214 This was a statement welcoming the announcement by the Presidency Council of the formation of the Government of National Accord and looking forward to the House of Representatives endorsing the Government of National Accord.
8 January 2016 SC/12194 This was a press statement condemning the terrorist attacks claimed by a group with an allegiance to ISIS.
Security Council Letters
23 December 2015 S/2015/1018 This was a letter from the speakers of the House and the GNC criticising the UN-led political process.
22 September 2015 S/2015/891 This letter transmitted a report of the Monitoring Team on the terrorism threat in Libya posed by ISIL, Ansar al Charia and other Al-Qaida affiliates.