Expected Council Action
The Council will be actively engaged on Libya in September. Early in the month, the Council will hold a briefing on the situation in the country to be followed by closed consultations. The anticipated briefer is the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL), Ján Kubiš, with a civil society briefer also being considered. The chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti (India), is expected to present the report on activities of the committee, which is likely to cover 120 instead of the usual 60 days, as the last scheduled report delivery was postponed due to the high-level nature of the briefing on Libya held in July.
Council members will also negotiate the renewal of the UNSMIL mandate with adoption scheduled for mid-September. A second adoption is foreseen for late September, when Council members convene to renew the authorisations granted by resolution 2546 of 2 October 2020, allowing member states acting in their national capacity or through regional organisations to intercept vessels off the coast of Libya suspected of migrant smuggling.
Key Recent Developments
For the upcoming meeting on the situation in Libya and the negotiations on UNSMIL’s mandate, Council members will have the final report of the independent strategic review of UNSMIL as a reference. The review was first requested by the Council as part of last year’s mandate renewal through resolution 2542. The Secretary-General was asked to provide recommendations for improving the efficacy of UNSMIL’s mission structure, the prioritisation of its tasks and the capacity and effectiveness of its staffing. As part of the review, the Council also requested an “assessment of the options for effective ceasefire monitoring under the auspices of the UN including additional recommendations as necessary”. In resolution 2570, adopted on 16 April, Council members expanded the terms of the requested assessment to include a ceasefire monitoring component for the mission.
The Secretary-General submitted the review report with a letter to Council members on 6 August, endorsing the findings and recommendations of the review, which include the following:
- UNSMIL played a considerable role in supporting Libyan actors to resume dialogue on political, security and economic matters, and the UN remains a credible and impartial actor in the Libya peace process;
- a growing stalemate in the political, security and economic tracks and continued divisions within the country challenge the ongoing peace process;
- UNSMIL should therefore strengthen and intensify its good offices and mediation efforts along with its engagement with Libya’s neighbouring countries, especially regarding the withdrawal of foreign forces;
- the position of UNSMIL’s Special Envoy should be relocated to Tripoli and converted to a Special-Representative position, supported by two Deputy Special-Representatives, one for political affairs and one for humanitarian matters (resolution 2542 replaced the position of the Libya-based Special-Representative with a Geneva-based Special Envoy and introduced a Libya-based UNSMIL coordinator in charge of managing the mission’s day-to-day operations and management);
- UNSMIL’s approach to the ongoing intra-Libyan talks along the political, economic, security, humanitarian and human rights tracks should be harmonised;
- surge capacity should be deployed to support Libya’s pre-electoral phase from August through December and to alleviate budgetary, accommodation and staffing constraints, including the immediate deployment of protection advisors;
- advocacy for humanitarian and human rights issues should be increased and coordination with UN country team entities should be strengthened further;
- the mission’s footprint should be expanded to eastern and southern regions; and
- another strategic review should be conducted after the elections to re-evaluate staffing and capacity needs.
Preparations are underway for the elections scheduled for 24 December. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), an assembly of 75 participants who are responsible for identifying a constitutional basis for the elections, held several consultative meetings but could not reach agreement. It then convened a “Proposal Bridging Committee”, intended to merge the various proposals under discussion and suggest a way forward. Consultations of the committee resulted in four proposals, which were presented to the LPDF on 11 August for the forum to vote on. During the meeting, however, numerous LPDF members apparently voiced apprehensions about voting on the proposals at this stage. UNSMIL now intends to convene a follow-up meeting to bridge the remaining differences. Meanwhile, voter registration has gained traction; some 2.83 million Libyans living in-country have registered to vote. Libyans living abroad have until 15 September to register.
On the security side, the opening of the coastal road between Misrata and Sirte on 30 July represented a crucial step towards the full implementation of the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement, but the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries has yet to make notable progress.
Regarding the situation of migrants and refugees—a crucial issue for the renewal of resolution 2546—UNHCR reported on 20 August that some 21,120 persons attempting to cross the Mediterranean were intercepted or rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard. This figure already exceeds the total count in 2020. More persons are reported to be embarking for Europe through Libya since fighting in the country subsided. The EU naval mission EUNAVFOR MED IRINI is currently the only multilateral effort acting under resolution 2546 authorisations.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 30 July, the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, which is composed of five independent experts, said in a statement that “nine months after the ceasefire agreement calling for withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, mercenaries and private military and security contractors continue to operate in the country”. The statement called for all mercenaries and mercenary-related private contractors to leave Libya, saying their departure is long overdue, and is a vital precondition to peaceful elections scheduled for later this year. During its upcoming 48th session, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold an interactive dialogue on 7 October with the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya and to consider its report (A/HRC/48/83).
Women, Peace and Security
The Informal Experts Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security last met on Libya on 1 April. Kubiš briefed members on UN efforts to bolster women’s participation during the upcoming elections and underscored that UN support for ceasefire monitoring arrangements should be inclusive of women and youth. During the meeting, UN Women, as the IEG secretariat, made several key recommendations for the attention of Council members, including that the Council should “retain in UNSMIL’s mandate all existing references to women, peace and security” and that it should “call upon all parties to ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of diverse women at all stages of the dialogue and transition process.” UN Women also suggested UNSMIL be requested to “prioritize women’s participation in the upcoming elections, engage regularly with a wide range of women’s civil society organizations, and monitor and report on threats and violence against women in the public sphere”. The recommendations also included the provision of budgetary allocations adequate to allow UNSMIL to deliver its mandate on women, peace and security.
Key Issues and Options
With the strategic review now finalised, a key issue for the Council is how to take its recommendations forward. In renewing the UNSMIL mandate, they may look at ways not only to ensure adequate financial resources and staffing to accommodate potential adjustments to the mission but also to better support existing structures and the Libyan peace process. Another option would be to urge that protection advisors be deployed to address concerns over conflict-related and gender-based sexual violence and the protection of children.
An additional issue is the question of UNSMIL’s restructuring. The Council could decide to change the leadership structure, as suggested in the recent review. Alternatively, it could opt for considering changes to the structure at a later date—potentially informed by a review following the December elections—and only make adjustments to the good offices and mediation parts of the mandate at this stage.
Another key issue is working towards the full and coordinated withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries. In the UNSMIL renewal, the Council could consider urging the Special Envoy to increase discussions on the matter with Libya and the other countries concerned.
The preparations for the 24 December elections are also an important issue for the Council, Council members may learn more about their options in this regard by inviting a civil society briefer with insight into LPDF proceedings or electoral expertise.
Inviting a briefer from the EU to address the Council ahead of the renewal of resolution 2546 could inform Council members about recent activities of IRINI. Such briefings have taken place in the past regarding the renewal of authorisations implemented by the EU mission.
Council members appear united in their call to swiftly advance electoral preparations and further promote the political, institutional and social unity of the country. The withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries remains a divisive issue, especially given the call of the “A3 plus one” Council members (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) for a regional and coordinated approach and the reported involvement of a permanent council member in mercenary activities on the ground. Russia and China abstained from the vote on resolution 2542, citing concerns over language regarding the ceasefire monitoring mechanism, human rights and gender.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|2 October 2020S/RES/2546||This resolution renewed for 12 months the authorisation for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking.|
|15 September 2020S/RES/2542||This resolution renewed UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2021; it was adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|15 July 2021S/PRST/2021/12||This presidential statement welcomed the second Berlin Conference on Libya which was held on 23 June 2021. The Council stressed the importance of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections and called on the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) to take steps to facilitate the electoral process. The statement also calls for the full respect of the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement, including through the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries, and expresses concern regarding the impact of the conflict on neighbouring countries.|
|Security Council Letters|
|6 August 2021S/2021/716||This was the letter from the Secretary-General transmitting the strategic review of UNSMIL.|
|31 August 2021|