Expected Council Action
In September, Council members are expected to hold consultations on the situation in Libya. The Council is also expected to renew the authorisation for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect and seize 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 from Libya. That authorisation expires on 29 September in accordance with resolution 2598.
The mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expires on 31 October 2022.
Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s most recent report on Libya, which covers developments since the previous report issued on 20 May, noted that the “political crisis” is ongoing and that the leadership stand-off has become “further entrenched” between incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, elected in February 2021 to head the interim Government of National Unity (GNU), and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, who was elected interim prime minister by the House of Representatives (the Libyan legislature based in Tobruk) on 10 February. The report also noted that the High Council of State—the executive institution and constitutional authority established by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement that is mandated to propose policies and recommendations on various political issues—did not convene as a result of divisions between members supporting either Dbeibah or Bashagha.
“The protracted political stalemate continued to negatively affect the security environment in Libya”, said the report, which refers to the volatile security situation in Tripoli and western Libya, the increased number of clashes among and between armed groups, and the demonstrations held across the country on 1 July. On 23 August, UNSMIL issued a statement expressing concern over “the ongoing mobilization of forces and threats to resort to force to resolve legitimacy claims in Libya”.
On 27 August, fighting broke out in Tripoli between forces loyal to Dbeibah and those supporting Bashagha, as the latter reportedly attempted to enter the capital. The situation returned to relative calm the following day, after Bashagha abandoned his attempt. (A similar failed attempt by Bashagha to move his parallel government to Tripoli in May also led to violent clashes in the city). According to media reports, 32 people were killed and 159 were injured in the incident, making it the worst outbreak of violence in Tripoli in the past two years. In a 27 August tweet, UNSMIL expressed concern over the armed clashes, including “indiscriminate medium and heavy shelling in civilian-populated neighborhoods”, which reportedly caused damage to civilian facilities such as hospitals. On the same day, Secretary-General António Guterres also expressed concern about the fighting and urged the Libyan parties to “engage in a genuine dialogue to address the ongoing political impasse and not to use force to resolve their differences”.
The Secretary-General’s report also covered developments in the implementation of the intra-Libyan dialogue tracks. On the political track, it noted that the UN “continued to focus on enabling the holding of credible, transparent, and inclusive elections as soon as possible based on an agreed constitutional framework”. It referred to a UN-facilitated high-level meeting held in Geneva from 28 to 30 June, during which Speaker of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh and President of the High Council of State Khaled Al-Mishri discussed a roadmap for holding national elections. While observing that “an agreement on a constitutional framework for the holding of elections is within reach”, it noted that there had been no agreement on the eligibility requirements for candidates in the first transitional presidential elections.
On the economic track, the report said that UNSMIL continued to support efforts for the reform and reunification of the Central Bank of Libya, and that an international consulting firm continued to provide technical assistance for implementing the recommendations of a UN-facilitated international audit in this connection. On the security track, it noted that UNSMIL continued to support the 5+5 Joint Military Commission in the implementation of the October 2020 ceasefire agreement and the action plan for the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces.
Deteriorating living conditions across the country remain a concern. In this regard, the Secretary-General’s report emphasised that “the lack of access to adequate food, healthcare, water and sanitation, and education must not remain a driver of tension and conflict that prolongs and further entrenches the political deadlock”. Following the controversial 12 July appointment by Dbeibah of Farhat Bengdara, the former Libyan Central Bank governor, as the chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC), oil production resumed incrementally in July and by 17 August had risen to 1.2 million barrels a day from 860,000 on 5 July. “The resumption of oil production has provided much needed relief to a population which has experienced intermittent power cuts of long duration, an increase in prices of basic food items and goods, and inadequate basic services”, the report said.
Regarding the situation of migrants and refugees, the Secretary-General’s report said that the International Organization for Migration reported 667,400 migrants in Libya as at 30 June, an increase of 17,600 migrants compared to the previous reporting period from 17 January to 20 May. The number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean remained high during the reporting period from 20 May to 19 August, with 12,063 individuals intercepted and returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard as of 17 July. “Migrants and refugees continued to endure widespread human rights violations and faced serious humanitarian and protection concerns in Libya”, according to the report.
The Council was last briefed on UNSMIL on 30 August, by Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 29 August.)
On 30 August, the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj (India), briefed the Council on the committee’s activities.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue remains the precarious security situation linked to Libya’s uncertain electoral path. A related concern for the Council will be how to foster common political ground between the two rival governments so that they can agree on a constitutional framework to pave the way for Libya’s long-delayed elections. Council members could consider holding a closed Arria-formula meeting with Libyan civil society representatives to help generate ideas for promoting dialogue between the rival political factions in Libya and supporting an inclusive political process leading to elections.
Another issue for the Council remains the vacancy in the mission’s top leadership at a vulnerable time for the country. UN Special Advisor on Libya Stephanie Turco Williams left the post at the end of July. At the time of writing, a Special Representative had still not been appointed even though two candidates had apparently been presented to Council members in recent weeks. (The position of Special Representative is expected to replace the role of Special Envoy, as decided in resolution 2629. Former Special Envoy Jan Kubiš resigned in November 2021.)
Another key issue is the expiration of the authorisation under resolution 2598 to combat migrant smuggling and human trafficking off the coast of Libya. Council members will be informed by the Secretary-General’s annual report on migrant smuggling, which was due on 29 August and not yet available at the time of writing. An option is to invite a briefer from the EU to address Council members, ahead of the expiration, on recent activities of the EU military operation in the Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED operation IRINI). Through operation IRINI, the EU is the only regional organisation implementing the authorisation given by the Council to inspect vessels suspected of migrant smuggling and human trafficking. In the past, such briefings have taken place in an informal setting during Council negotiations or in an informal interactive dialogue, which is a closed format that, unlike consultations, allows for the participation of non-UN Secretariat officials and briefers.
Council dynamics on Libya remain difficult, resulting in challenging negotiations on the UNSMIL mandate renewal resolutions since September 2021. Members have reiterated the urgent need for a Libyan-led inclusive political process and the holding of elections. Several members are also concerned about the precarious security situation. The A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya), with the support of China, have called for the position of Special Representative to be filled with a candidate from Africa as soon as possible. Russia has made clear that it will not consider supporting a longer mandate renewal until a Special Representative has been appointed.
Resolution 2598 was unanimously adopted in September 2021, and the negotiations appear to have gone smoothly. Estonia and France were the co-penholders on the resolution and aimed to have a straightforward renewal of the authorisation without making substantive changes. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 28 September 2021.)
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|28 July 2022S/RES/2647||This resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 31 October 2022.|
|29 September 2021S/RES/2598||This resolution renewed for another year the authorisation for member states to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to believe are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking.|
|19 August 2022S/2022/632||This report covered developments in Libya between 20 May and 19 August 2022.|