December 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2016
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AFRICA

Libya

Expected Council Action 

In December, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSMIL Martin Kobler will brief on recent political developments and the Secretary-General’s latest report. The Council also expects a briefing by the chair of the 1970 Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Ramlan Ibrahim (Malaysia).

The mandates of UNSMIL and the Panel of Experts expire on 31 December and on 31 July 2017, respectively.

Key Recent Developments

One year after the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), its basis of support has not broadened and its implementation has been minimal. The Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA) has yet to agree on a new cabinet list to submit to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives for its endorsement, following the rejection of a previous list on 22 August. Despite some engagement by boycotting members of the Presidency Council, key divisions remain among its members. On 10-11 November, the members of the UN-facilitated Libyan Political Dialogue convened in Malta and called on the House to amend the Constitutional Declaration as stipulated in the LPA. They also urged the Presidency Council to improve its performance to address the acute security, social and economic problems faced by Libyan citizens. Support for the Presidency Council in Tripoli seems to be dwindling. In addition to the political deadlock and the Presidency Council’s failure to deliver basic services, the situation has been further polarised following the attempt by Khalifa Ghwell, who became self-appointed prime minister of a Tripoli-based national salvation government in 2015, to seize the headquarters of the State Council.

Despite several international meetings on Libya, divisions among the parties continue to be fuelled by regional and international actors. At a 19 October ministerial meeting of Libya’s neighbouring states in Niger, participants recommended that the League of Arab States, the UN and the AU form a troika to encourage national reconciliation, advance political dialogue and facilitate the implementation of the LPA. On 25 October, Kobler, along with Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the League’s Secretary-General, and Jakaya Kikwete, the AU High Representative for Libya, established the troika and underscored the need for a coordinated and complementary international and regional approach to assist Libya in addressing its challenges. On 31 October, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and US Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a ministerial meeting in London in an effort to mobilise economic support to the Presidency Council. On 20 November, at a follow-up meeting held in Rome, participants outlined actions to be taken according to a time schedule, including the approval of the 2017 national budget, enhanced coordination between the Presidency Council and the Central Bank, as well as measures concerning the lack of liquidity and the provision of basic services.

On 11 September, forces led by General Khalifa Haftar seized several export terminals which were under the control of a militia that had struck a deal with the Presidency Council. The terminals were handed over to the National Oil Corporation on 15 September, although they remain under the protection of Haftar’s forces. Libyan oil exports increased throughout October and November. 

Several counter-terrorist operations, conducted by different armed groups with external support, are reinforcing the positions of key actors in the conflict and may complicate efforts to reach a political solution. Briefing the Council on 13 September, Kobler noted that he had sought to engage with General Haftar to no avail. On 18 November, Haftar’s forces claimed victory over a key sector near Benghazi. The offensive against Sirte, a coastal town under the partial control of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, continues to advance, involving mostly Misrata-based militias nominally under the command of the Presidency Council with aerial support by the US.

A humanitarian needs overview by OCHA foresees that 1.3 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2017. In this context, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers face particular vulnerabilities. In 2016, more than 144,679 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy by sea, many from Libya. According to the OCHA overview, those attempting to reach Europe are arbitrarily detained in inhumane conditions during their stay in Libya and face abuses both in detention centres and when trying to board boats to Europe. The International Organization for Migration reports that 3,649 deaths have been recorded in the Mediterranean in 2016.

Key Issues 

The overarching issue is to ensure that a solution to the political deadlock addresses the issues raised by those refusing to support the LPA.

Exercising leverage on internal and external actors involved in Libya to encourage engagement in the political process is a related issue.

The potential for ISIL to disperse and increase its regional reach as a result of ongoing offensives against its strongholds is an urgent issue.

Exerting pressure on the parties that conduct hostilities to do so respecting international humanitarian law and mitigating the impact that current counter-terrorist operations, conducted by different armed groups may have on efforts to bring together the different parties within the framework of the LPA are important issues.

Options 

Options for the Council include adopting a resolution that:

  • prioritises a limited set of tasks which UNSMIL can realistically achieve, focusing particularly on its mediation and good offices role;
  • reaffirms the Council’s support for the Presidency Council and calls on it to propose an inclusive cabinet; and
  • urges the House to consider the proposal swiftly and in good faith and uphold its responsibility to amend the constitutional declaration as per the LPA.

In December 2015, the Council mandated UNSMIL to support the establishment of the GNA and, as a result of the deadlock over this process, the Council renewed the same mandate with technical rollover resolutions in March and June. The Council could take advantage of the current renewal to collectively revisit (and agree on) its political strategy for Libya.

Council members could also organise a visit to Libya and the region to hold discussions with the parties, including spoilers, and regional stakeholders to help overcome the political deadlock.

Council Dynamics 

Council members generally support UNSMIL’s mediation efforts but have arguably failed to set a clear direction to reach and support a political settlement. Some Council members have emphasised the importance of a formal endorsement of the GNA by the House, while others have been interacting bilaterally with the Presidency Council of the GNA as the legitimate government of Libya. Several resolutions since December 2015 have called upon member states to cease support to and official contact with parallel institutions that claim to have legitimate authority, but it seems that several Council members, including permanent ones, have not respected this.

The UK is the penholder on Libya. Ambassador Ramlan Ibrahim (Malaysia) chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA 

Security Council Resolution
13 June 2016 S/RES/2291 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNSMIL until 15 December 2016.
Security Council Meeting Record
13 September 2016 S/PV.7769 This was a briefing on Libya.