What's In Blue

Posted Fri 21 Oct 2022

Libya: Briefing and Consultations

On Monday (24 October), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and head of UNSMIL Abdoulaye Bathily will brief the Council for the first time in this capacity. (The Secretary-General announced the appointment of Bathily, a Senegalese national, as Special Representative and head of UNSMIL on 2 September.)

Council members are expected to welcome the appointment of Bathily following a protracted and contentious process. (More than a year has passed since the resignation of former Special Envoy Jan Kubiš in November 2021.) The A3 members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya), 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 proposed to the Council, but the candidate was not supported by all 15 members. This further delayed the appointment process.

The delays in appointing UNSMIL’s leadership also complicated the Council’s approach to the implementation of the August 2021 independent strategic review of UNSMIL (S/2021/716), of which Bathily was the team leader. Among other things, the review recommended a restructuring of UNSMIL, including replacing the Geneva-based Special Envoy with a Tripoli-based Special Representative, thus reversing the changes made to UNSMIL’s structure in 2020, with the aim of facilitating a renewed focus on the political dynamics of the various aspects of the conflict in Libya. The Council decided to implement this recommendation in resolution 2629 of 29 April. (For background, see our 29 April What’s in Blue story.)

Bathily officially assumed his duties on 25 September and arrived in Tripoli on 14 October. In a statement issued upon his arrival, Bathily said that he would begin by engaging with Libyan parties across the country, including civil society, women and youth groups. He also noted that his priority is to “identify a consensual pathway towards the holding of inclusive and credible national elections, which should be held as soon as possible on a solid constitutional framework”.

Since his arrival, Bathily has met with various stakeholders, including Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, who welcomed him to the country and expressed the support of the Government of National Unity (GNU); Presidential Council President Mohamed al-Menfi; Agila Saleh, the speaker of the House of Representatives (the Libyan legislature based in Tobruk); Chairman of the National Oil Corporation Farhat Bengdara; Chief of General Staff of the Libyan Army Mohamed Al-Haddad; Chairperson of the High National Elections Commission Emad Al-Sayeh; and Minister of Foreign Affairs Najla El Mangoush. Council members may be interested in hearing more about these meetings as well as further details about Bathily’s priority areas.

The security situation in Libya is an expected focus of Monday’s meeting. The protracted political stalemate continues to generate security threats, including fighting in Tripoli that erupted in late August. In a 1 September press statement, Council members condemned the clashes, which resulted in civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure (SC/15015). The statement additionally emphasised the importance of “an inclusive, comprehensive national dialogue and reconciliation process aimed at, inter alia, forming a unified Libyan Government” with the full, equal, effective and meaningful participation of women and the inclusion of youth and civil society.

Some members may seek to highlight the deteriorating living conditions across the country and the situation of migrants in Libya. On 11 October, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report that seeks to highlight key human rights risks and protection gaps faced by migrants in Libya in the context of assisted return and reintegration. (Assisted returns are meant to be voluntary, but the report finds that in most cases, many migrants are unable to make voluntary decisions.) These include lack of access to pathways for safe and regular migration; lack of free, prior and informed consent; and returns to unsustainable situations. The report contains testimony from some of the 65 immigrants interviewed by OHCHR who had recently been returned from Libya to The Gambia. It makes a series of recommendations directed at Libyan authorities, countries of origin, the AU and its member states, the EU and its member states, and UN entities. At Monday’s meeting, some members may refer to the report and its findings.

In their statements, members may reiterate the urgent need for a Libyan-led inclusive political process and the holding of elections. Several members may also express concern over the precarious security situation. In a 3 September statement welcoming Bathily’s appointment, US Secretary of State Antony 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”. The US and other members may echo such messages at Monday’s meeting.

Council members were last briefed on the situation in Libya during consultations on 29 September, with 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. At the time of writing, Council members were engaged in negotiations on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of UNSMIL, which expires on 31 October in accordance with resolution 2647 of 28 July.

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