March 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2019
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Expected Council Action

In March, Council members are expected to receive a briefing in consultations by the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, and the Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany, Ambassador Jürgen Schulz, who chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.

The mandate of UNSMIL expires on 15 September, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 20 February 2020.

Key Recent Developments

February marked the eight-year anniversary of the Libyan revolution, but a political settlement remains elusive. Briefing the Council on 18 January, Salamé emphasised that the political deadlock “has been underpinned by a complex web of narrow interests, a broken legal framework and the pillaging of Libya’s great wealth.”

On 16 January, clashes erupted in Tripoli between two militias, the Kaniyat/7th Brigade and the Tripoli Protection Force. This violence was the worst violation of a ceasefire brokered with the support of UNSMIL in September 2018. According to the Ministry of Health, 16 people died during the episode. On 21 January, tribal leaders from the nearby town of Bani Walid brokered a truce which provided for the withdrawal of both militias, a prisoner swap, and the exchange of bodies of deceased fighters. In the absence of a reconstituted Libyan army or sustainable security arrangements, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) continues to rely mostly on militias for its security.

The security situation in the south remains critical. The presence of criminal groups and Libya’s porous borders have added to existing grievances over the lack of economic opportunities and general neglect. This situation has led to attacks against water pipelines and oil facilities, including the seizure of the Al-Sharara oil field in December 2018 following protests by oil field guards and the local population over revenue allocation. The militia known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar, advanced its positions in the south with the aim of expanding its influence in the area. It eventually regained control of the El-Sharara oil field and reportedly handed it over to the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation in February. As part of the southern offensive, there have been clashes between the LNA and militias affiliated with the internationally recognised GNA.

In the coming weeks, UNSMIL intends to facilitate a national conference that is meant to build on a series of nationwide consultations convened by the private diplomacy organisation Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue during 2018. The event is expected to provide an opportunity for Libyans to decide how the nation should proceed to the end of the transition. In his January briefing, Salamé urged members of the various Libyan institutions to see the upcoming conference “as a patriotic concern that transcends partisan and personal interests”.

One of the desired outcomes of the conference is agreement on the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections as well as a constitutional referendum. In addition to security and logistical considerations, guarantees that the results will be accepted and respected by all are needed. Local elections in some 70 municipalities are expected to take place in March, but the High National Elections Commission has warned that the elections cannot be held unless additional funding is made available for that purpose.

The humanitarian situation in Libya remains fragile. In addition to access restrictions, limited funding of the UN Humanitarian Response Plan impedes the work of humanitarian actors. An 18 December 2018 report of UNSMIL and OHCHR concluded that migrants and refugees “suffer unimaginable horrors during their transit through and stay in Libya”. These include “unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and unlawful deprivation of liberty, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, slavery and forced labour, extortion and exploitation by both State and non-State actors”. According to UNHCR, 15,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe from Libya in 2018, a seven-fold reduction compared to the previous year, while interception by the Libyan Coast Guard increased drastically. OHCHR and UNSMIL maintain that Libya cannot be considered a place of safety for disembarkation following rescue or interception at sea, given the considerable risk that those who have been returned will be subjected to serious human rights violations and abuses.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 17 January, Schulz, the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, briefed the Council. This was the first briefing by the chair of the committee since September 2018, although these briefings usually take place every two months. As a general practice, all members of the committee agree on the statement delivered by the chair to the Council. There was no briefing in November 2018 because the committee could not reach agreement over how to refer a visit to Libya earlier that month by then-chair Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden). Later in the year, the committee was able to agree on language about the visit in its annual report, which was also used in Schulz’s briefing: “While the approved terms of reference had indicated Tripoli and Beida as the two destinations to be visited, the Committee only visited Tripoli in November, owing to the closure of Beida Airport. The Chair intends to visit all areas agreed in the terms of reference as soon as possible subject to logistical and security arrangements”.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 21 March, during its 40th session, the Human Rights Council expects to consider the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Libya, including the implementation of technical assistance and capacity-building and efforts to prevent and ensure accountability for violations and abuses of human rights (A/HRC/40/46).

Women, Peace and Security

The Secretary-General’s January report noted that women and girls were arbitrarily detained and deprived of their liberty, for their family affiliation or for “moral crimes”, including in facilities without female guards exposing them to the risk of sexual abuse. The report welcomed the commencement of work by the Women Support and Empowerment Unit under the Presidency Council, adding that the “advancement of gender equality and women’s full and effective participation in political and economic life in Libya is paramount for advancing peace and security.” The report also called on all Libyan actors to implement Security Council resolution 1325.

Key Issues and Options

The successful organisation of the national conference and a political agreement on the holding of elections in the coming months is critical for the Council and its support for Libya’s transition. At the appropriate time and in support of Salamé’s work, Council members might consider a visiting mission to Libya and neighbouring countries to convey a unified message to key stakeholders. As Council members consider increasing pressure on major political actors, they could issue a presidential statement threatening those hindering the political process with sanctions, while attempting to preserve their engagement in the dialogue. Council members could also target with sanctions those involved in grave human rights violations, including, but not limited to, human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Members are generally supportive of UNSMIL’s role in the stabilisation of Libya but have divergent views on how best to achieve this goal. Regarding the elections, whose timing was a source of tension among Council members in 2018, it seems that members are now more united in looking towards a date in spring 2019, as suggested by Salamé as part of a recalibrated UN Action Plan. Although the Council has repeatedly called upon member states to cease support for and official contact with parallel institutions in Libya, some countries, including Council members, have ignored this call.

The UK is the penholder on Libya, and Schulz, Germany’s Deputy Permanent Representative, chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.


Security Council Resolutions
5 November 2018S/RES/2441 This was a resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts and renewing measures related to the illicit export of crude oil from Libya until 20 February 2020 adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).
13 September 2018S/RES/2434 This was the resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2019.
Secretary-General’s Report
7 January 2019S/2019/19 This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNSMIL.
Security Council Meeting Record
18 January 2019S/PV.8448 This was a briefing by the Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, Ghassan Salamé, on the situation in Libya.
Security Council Press Statement
27 December 2018SC/13651 This press statement condemned the terrorist attack on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tripoli.
Sanctions Committee Documents
2 January 2019S/2019/5 This letter appointed six experts to serve on the Panel of Experts.
28 December 2018S/2018/1176 This was the report of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, containing an account of the Committee’s activities from 1 January to 31 December 2018.