Libya: Vote on a Draft Resolution Renewing UNSMIL’s Mandate*
On Monday morning (30 October), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for one year, until 31 October 2024. 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.
It seems that the negotiations were generally smooth. The UK, the penholder on Libya, circulated an initial draft text on 17 October and convened one round of negotiations on 19 October. The penholder then circulated a revised draft and invited comments until Monday (23 October). On Tuesday (24 October), a second revised draft was circulated and placed under silence procedure until Wednesday (25 October). Silence was broken by Brazil, China, France, and Russia. The penholder then put a third revised draft under silence procedure until yesterday (26 October). The draft passed silence and was subsequently put in blue.
The initial draft text prepared by the UK apparently sought a straightforward extension of UNSMIL’s mandate, which was most recently extended for one year through resolution 2656 of 28 October 2022. The penholder proposed some updated language to reflect Libya’s current political situation, mainly based on Council members’ press statement of 23 August, and the country’s humanitarian needs in the wake of Storm Daniel, which struck Libya’s eastern region on 10 September. While it seems that Council members were generally supportive of this approach, certain thematic issues required some discussion during the negotiations.
The political impasse in Libya continues between the UN-recognised Government of National Unity (GNU), based in Tripoli and led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, and the eastern-based Government of National Stability (GNS), led by Prime Minister Osama Hamad and aligned with the House of Representatives (HoR) and the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of General Khalifa Haftar. The prolonged stalemate between the rival governments—which has persisted since the indefinite postponement of the 2021 elections—is a root cause of Libya’s political, security, and economic instability.
In this context, both the UN and national actors have concentrated recent efforts on facilitating agreement on a new roadmap for national elections to unify the country’s divided government. In March, the HoR and the GNU-aligned High State Council (HSC) established a “joint 6+6 committee”—composed of six representatives from each body—to draft electoral laws to enable elections. On 7 June, the committee announced that it had reached agreement on draft legislation, which the HoR and HSC subsequently approved.
The proposed legislation proved controversial, with various political factions contesting several of its provisions and calling for revisions. On 29 September, the 6+6 committee submitted to the HoR an amended version of the draft legislation, which the HoR approved on 2 October. On 6 October, however, HSC President Mohamed Takala said that the HSC had rejected the amended legislation and withdrawn from the 6+6 committee—an assertion reportedly denied by other HSC members.
In a 12 October statement, UNSMIL said that it had completed a “technical review” of the amended legislation, which it described as a “working basis” for holding elections, while finding that it still contained “[c]ontentious issues that need to be addressed and resolved through a political settlement”. At the Council’s most recent briefing on Libya, held on 16 October, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and head of UNSMIL Abdoulaye Bathily highlighted specific provisions that remain disputed, including the establishment of a unified interim government to organise elections.
On 10 September, Storm Daniel hit Libya’s eastern region, wreaking catastrophic damage that has highlighted the severity of the country’s governance challenges. Analysts have cited the effects of Libya’s political instability and divided government as factors that have exacerbated the damage caused by the storm and complicated the international humanitarian response. In a 2 October statement, UNSMIL cautioned against “the emergence of unilateral and competing initiatives from various Libyan actors and institutions on the reconstruction of Derna and other flood-affected areas”. The statement called for a “unified national mechanism…to effectively and efficiently take forward the reconstruction efforts in the flood-affected areas”.
Negotiations on the Draft Resolution
It seems that one topic of discussion during the negotiations was how to describe the country’s political situation and the status of the electoral legislation. The initial draft text apparently reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to a political process that “builds on progress achieved in the 6+6 negotiations aimed at producing viable electoral laws” and called on stakeholders to “redouble their efforts to finalise a pathway to deliver elections”. It seems that some Council members believed that this formulation did not account sufficiently for the progress represented by the HoR’s adoption of the 6+6 committee’s updated electoral legislation. These members apparently maintained that calls for a solution to outstanding contentious political issues should more clearly situate such efforts within the framework of that legislation in order to avoid the emergence of new or duplicative initiatives. Consequently, the draft text in blue contains compromise language—apparently proposed by Brazil based on UNSMIL’s 12 October statement—expressing support for a political process that builds on the “updated electoral laws agreed by the 6+6 Committee”, takes note of the HoR’s adoption of the updated legislation, and further notes that “a political settlement on outstanding politically contentious issues” is necessary for the legislation’s implementation.
Members also apparently discussed how to reflect the effects of climate change in the country. It seems that Switzerland argued that this issue was particularly relevant following Storm Daniel and proposed a new preambular paragraph—based on agreed language from the mandates of other UN missions such as the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH)—recognising that natural disasters and other weather events “associated with the adverse effects of climate change…can adversely impact the humanitarian situation in Libya, and may aggravate any existing instability”. This language was apparently supported by several other Council members, including France, Malta, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the A3 (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique). Other members—including Brazil, China, and Russia—opposed this language, arguing that climate change as a thematic issue is not relevant to UNSMIL’s mandate and should be considered in other fora, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In an apparent compromise, the draft text in blue retains language referencing climate change but links it more narrowly to Libya’s political instability, recognising that “protracted conflict and political division in Libya has made the country more susceptible to the humanitarian impact of…the adverse effects of climate change”.
Additionally, the draft text in blue includes some new language on human rights. Resolution 2656 contains language that “strongly encourages all parties” to “protect and promote human rights in accordance with obligations under international law”. In light of concerns about “continuing attacks on civic space and the rule of law” in Libya, which Bathily raised during his October 16 briefing to the Council, Switzerland apparently proposed new language that calls on all parties to “promote and protect freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association to help enable free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections and national reconciliation”. After opposition from other Council members, including China, the draft text in blue merges Switzerland’s proposal with previously agreed language, calling on all parties to “protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, in accordance with obligations under international law”.
Finally, the draft text in blue contains a new operative paragraph that expresses concern about the humanitarian situation in Libya, “in particular following the catastrophic flooding in eastern Libya”. The paragraph calls on international partners to provide humanitarian assistance and on “Libyan authorities and relevant stakeholders to allow and facilitate full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need”. It also echoes UNSMIIL’s call for a “coordinated national platform” to release funds for long-term reconstruction efforts. This paragraph was apparently included in the UK’s initial draft text and did not require substantive discussion during the negotiations.
*Post-script: On 30 October, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2702, renewing the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for one year, until 31 October 2024.