Expected Council Action
In October, the Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The Council is also expected to vote on a resolution renewing the mission’s mandate, which expires on 31 October, in accordance with resolution 2647.
Key Recent Developments
The ongoing political crisis in Libya is the result of the leadership stand-off 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 protracted political stalemate continues to generate security threats, including fighting in Tripoli at the end of August between forces loyal to Dbeibah and those supporting Bashagha, as the latter reportedly attempted to enter the capital. Deteriorating living conditions across the country remain a concern.
On the political track, the UN is focusing on “enabling the holding of credible, transparent, and inclusive elections as soon as possible based on an agreed constitutional framework”, according to the Secretary-General’s report dated 19 August. On the economic track, the report said that UNSMIL is supporting efforts for the reform and reunification of the Central Bank of Libya. On the security track, it noted that the mission is supporting the 5+5 Joint Military Commission—which consists of five representatives each from the former Government of National Accord and the Libyan Arab Armed Forces—in implementing the October 2020 ceasefire agreement and the action plan for the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces.
On 2 September, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal as his Special Representative for Libya and head of UNSMIL. (The position of Special Representative replaced the role of Special Envoy, as decided in resolution 2629. Former Special Envoy Jan Kubiš resigned in November 2021.) Bathily officially assumed his duties on 25 September. At the time of writing, he was expected to arrive in Libya in early October.
Between September 2021 and April, the Council adopted four short-term extensions of UNSMIL’s mandate because of disagreements among Council members concerning the length of the mandate, the restructuring of the mission, and language regarding the appointment of UNSMIL’s leadership. Most recently, the Council adopted resolution 2647 on 28 July, renewing the mandate of UNSMIL for three months until 31 October. The resolution maintained UNSMIL’s core mandated tasks as well as the 30-day reporting cycle. It included language on the need to agree on a pathway to hold elections as soon as possible and called on the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative promptly. It was adopted by a vote of 12 in favour and three abstentions by Gabon, Ghana and Kenya (the A3) because of their position that the mandate should have been renewed for longer than three months. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 28 July.)
On 29 September, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2652 renewing for one year the authorisation under resolution 2598 to combat migrant smuggling and human trafficking off the coast of Libya. That same day, Council members held consultations on Libya with a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee.
Key Issues and Options
An immediate issue for the Council to consider is what modifications to make, if any, to the mandate of UNSMIL ahead of its expiration on 31 October. A related issue is the length of the mandate, which has been contentious in the recent past. Russia made clear that it would only support a shortened mandate duration until a Special Representative had been appointed. Since a Special Representative has been appointed, an option would be to adopt a resolution extending the mandate for a 12-month duration. When renewing the mission’s mandate, Council members might consider increasing UNSMIL’s advisory capacity with additional experts on constitutional and electoral matters. Another option would be to increase the mission’s capacity in relation to economic issues and human rights.
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 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.
Council dynamics on Libya have been 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. Many members are also concerned about the precarious security situation.
Council members welcome the appointment of Bathily following a protracted and contentious process. The A3, with the support of China, had publicly called for the position of Special Representative to be filled by an African candidate. Prior to Bathily’s appointment, at least one other name was apparently put to the Council, but the candidate was not supported by all 15 members. This held up the appointment process. In a 3 September statement welcoming Bathily’s appointment, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken encouraged him “to prioritize efforts to ensure transparency and accountability in Libya’s state institutions as well as the work of the UN ceasefire monitoring mission as it assists the Libyan 5+5 Joint Military Commission in overseeing the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces, fighters, and mercenaries”.
Negotiations ahead of the adoption of resolution 2647 on 28 July were once again arduous. As was the case in April, the initial draft circulated by the UK called for a mandate renewal of one year. It also reverted to requesting the Secretary-General to report to the Council every 60 days, rather than the monthly briefings outlined in resolution 2629 adopted in April. Most Council members—including the US, the European Council members and the A3— strongly favoured a substantive one-year mandate renewal or, failing this, at least a six-month renewal. Following opposition from Russia, the first revised draft circulated by the UK included a shortened mandate of six months while retaining the 60-day reporting cycle. However, this apparently was not acceptable to Russia. As a result, resolution 2647 ultimately renewed the mandate for three months with a 30-day reporting cycle.
Most members made statements following the adoption of resolution 2647. The UK said that they “share the frustration of our African colleagues at the short three-month mandate” and referred to “Russia’s refusal to join the consensus on our proposals for a longer mandate for UNSMIL”. In its statement, Russia expressed its readiness “to extend the mission’s mandate for a standard period of time and provide more substantive content to a future resolution” after the Special Representative for Libya and head of UNSMIL was appointed.
The UK is the penholder on Libya.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolution|
|28 July 2022S/RES/2647||This resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 31 October 2022.|
|19 August 2022S/2022/632||This report covered developments in Libya between 20 May and 19 August 2022.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|28 July 2022S/PV.9103||This was the adoption of resolution 2647.|