What's In Blue

Posted Thu 28 Jul 2022

Libya: Vote on a Draft Resolution Renewing UNSMIL’s Mandate*

This afternoon (28 July), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for a period of three months, until 31 October. The draft text in blue maintains UNSMIL’s core mandated tasks, as set out in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020 and paragraph 16 of resolution 2570 of 16 April 2021.

The UK, the penholder on Libya, circulated an initial draft on 19 July, convened one round of negotiations on 21 July and circulated a revised version on 22 July, for comments until Monday (25 July). A second revised draft was placed under silence on Tuesday (26 July). Silence was broken yesterday morning (27 July) by Russia. This was followed by comments from France and the US. A draft with minor revisions was put into blue yesterday afternoon.

The negotiations were difficult, similar to previous Council deliberations on UNSMIL’s mandate. Before the UK circulated the initial draft to the full Council, Russia apparently said that it would only support a three-month extension of the mandate. Russia also expressed this position at the Council’s 25 July Libya briefing (S/PV.9098). Between September 2021 and April, the Council renewed UNSMIL’s mandate four times through short-term extensions because of disagreements among Council members concerning the length of the mandate, the restructuring of the mIssion, and the appointment of UNSMIL’s leadership. (For background, see our 13 September 2021, 1 October 2021, 31 January and 29 April What’s in Blue stories.)

As was the case in April, the initial draft circulated by the UK on 19 July 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. Many Council members—including the US, the European Council members, and the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya)—were strongly in favour of a substantive one-year mandate renewal or 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. The UK subsequently circulated a second revised draft, which, as reflected in the draft in blue, shortens the mandate duration to three months and calls for a 30-day reporting cycle.

The draft in blue—like all of the earlier versions—calls on the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative promptly. This request is consistent with the views that several members expressed at the briefing on 25 July. Kenya, speaking on behalf of the A3, called for the position to be filled with a candidate from Africa, which was supported by China. Russia urged the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts to appoint a Special Representative, adding that once a Special Representative is appointed, future steps can be taken towards a more substantive mandate. (The Council decided in resolution 2629 that the position of Special Representative will replace the role of a Special Envoy. Former Special Envoy Jan Kubiš resigned in November 2021 and Special Advisor Stephanie Turco Williams has since led mediation efforts on the ground.)

Resolution 2629, which most recently extended UNSMIL’s mandate, was a concise text with a short preambular part. Proposals submitted by members during the negotiations in April were not included in resolution 2629, apparently due in large part to opposition from Russia. The draft text in blue contains a longer preambular part, which incorporates several proposals from April. In line with language suggested by the A3, the draft text in blue emphasises the importance of national dialogue and reconciliation and the role of neighbouring countries and regional organisations. Based on proposals by Norway, the draft in blue contains language regarding accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights. It also calls for the “full, equal and meaningful participation of women at all levels, including in leadership positions, and in all activities and decision-making relating to democratic transition, conflict resolution and peacebuilding”.

Today’s vote takes place against the backdrop of ongoing political turmoil in Libya stemming from the establishment of two rival government structures. A stand-off continues between the incumbent prime minister, Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, elected in February 2021 to head the interim Government of National Unity (GNU) by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—an assembly consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies, which was responsible for charting the way towards elections—and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, who was elected interim prime minister by the House of Representatives on 10 February. This represents a broader institutional power struggle between the authority of the Tripoli-based GNU and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, which is aligned with General Khalifa Haftar.

In addition to the political stalemate, the country is contending with a tenuous security situation and growing humanitarian needs. These issues were outlined during the 25 July Security Council meeting on Libya, which featured a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO) Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee. She said that the political divisions are contributing to a tense security environment in and around Tripoli, warning that as armed groups continue to position themselves in support of either Dbeibah or Bashagha, the risk of escalation increases. In this regard, Pobee expressed concern regarding the armed clashes in Tripoli that took place on the night of 21 July and the skirmishes between armed groups on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Misrata on 23 July. According to media reports, at least 13 people were killed and 26 injured during the 21 July clashes, whereas casualties have yet to be confirmed for the 23 July events.

Political tensions have also impacted the Libyan oil industry in recent months. According to media reports, since mid-April protesters allied with Haftar (who supports Bashagha) have blockaded oilfields in a bid to force out Dbeibeh by depriving his government of revenue. This in turn has led to frequent power cuts throughout the country, further deteriorating the living conditions of many Libyans, and to a substantial decrease in oil exports from Libya.

On 1 July, demonstrations broke out in several cities, including Tripoli, Benghazi, Al-Bayda and Tobruk. The protests were reportedly sparked by grievances regarding the difficult economic conditions and the continued political divisions, with some protestors calling for a swift holding of elections and for a solution to the country’s electricity crisis and fuel shortage.

On 12 July, Dbeibeh appointed Farhat Bengdara, the former Libyan Central Bank governor, as the chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC), replacing Mustafa Sanalla, who had served as chairman since 2014. Sanalla has since refused to acknowledge Bengdara’s appointment, claiming that Dbeibah has no authority to make such decisions since his term in office had expired.

At the 25 July Council meeting, Pobee said that Libya resumed oil exports on 19 July, while noting that it is “too soon to confirm whether the oil production will resume at full capacity and whether changes at the NOC would further impact oil production and export”. She emphasised the need for the NOC to remain neutral and free from political interests and called on all actors to “avoid actions that would cause a regression in the levels of oil production and export at this critical juncture”.

The draft text in blue includes several new elements that address recent developments. It calls on all parties to allow the NOC to undertake its work without disruption, interference, or politicisation. The draft resolution in blue further reaffirms “the importance of establishing a Libyan-led mechanism bringing together stakeholders from across the country to set spending priorities and ensure oil and gas revenues are managed in a transparent, equitable and accountable manner with effective Libyan oversight” and reiterates in this regard UNSMIL’s role in helping to consolidate the economic arrangements of Libyan institutions.

The draft text in blue also underlines that the objectives and governing principles of the LPDF Roadmap “are still relevant to the political process”. There has been some discussion in the Council around the LPDF roadmap, which was adopted on 15 November 2020 and articulated objectives and deadlines for forming institutions capable of organising elections and implementing political, economic and military reforms. The LPDF roadmap set 22 June as the expiration date of the transitional period. In a 22 June press briefing, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq noted that the roadmap set the 22 June deadline “provided that presidential and parliamentary elections are held by then, which has not been the case”. Haq said that the UN urges Libyan leaders to “refrain from using the date of 22 June as a tool for political manipulation” and encourages them to redouble their efforts to maintain calm and stability.

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*Post-script: On 28 July, the Council adopted resolution 2647 by a vote of 12 in favour and three abstentions from Gabon, Ghana and Kenya (the A3) due to their position that the mandate should have been renewed for longer than three months.

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