UN Rushing to Rebuild Libya

UNSMIL Chief Iam Martin | Credit: UN - Photo: 2011

UN Rushing to Rebuild Libya

By Bernhard Schell
IDN-InDepth NewsReport

GENEVA (IDN) – Libya’s new rulers have been warmly welcomed into the fold of the United Nations in the wake of obtaining diplomatic recognition from about 90 countries – even as fighting continues southeast of Tripoli in Sirte, one of the last remaining strongholds of the so-called “King of Kings of Africa”.


The National Transition Council (NTC) comprising rebels and other opponents of Muammar Gadhafi – who succeeded in ousting his nearly 42-year regime with massive NATO backing – has been recognized by a wide range of countries including France, Qatar, Italy, Germany, Canada and Turkey as well as by several other Arab and European states.

The United Nations switched its official recognition to the NTC on September 16 when, as the UN News Service reported, the Security Council “agreed to deploy a mission to Libya to support the North African country’s transitional authorities in their reconstruction efforts after the end of the conflict, including restoring the rule of law, drafting a new constitution, promoting reconciliation and preparing for elections.”

In a resolution adopted unanimously, Council members said the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) will be led by a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for an initial period of three months.

The Security Council also lifted some of the arms embargo, assets freeze and no-fly zone that had been imposed by the early 2011 after forces supporting the Gadhafi regime began “a brutal crackdown against many of its citizens,” the UN News Service said.

September 16 resolution tasks UNSMIL with restoring public security and the rule of law, promoting inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation, and helping the NTC embark on the constitution-making process and lay the foundation for an electoral process.

UNSMIL will also help extend State authority, including through strengthening emerging accountable institutions, restoring public services, promoting and protecting human rights, particularly for vulnerable groups, and supporting transitional justice.

The mission will take immediate steps to initiate economic recovery and coordinate support that may be requested from other multilateral and bilateral actors as appropriate.

In the resolution, the 15-member Council exempted the Libyan National Oil Corporation and country’s Zueitina Oil Company from the asset freeze, and similarly eased measures against the Central Bank of Libya, the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank (LAFB), the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), and the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio (LAIP).

Sanctions were also eased by the Council on funds, other financial assets or economic resources of the Central Bank of Libya, LAFB, LIA and the LAIP.

The Council urged States to give due consideration to the use of international financial mechanisms to promote transparency and prevent misappropriation in Libya. It requested the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to work with the Libyan authorities to assess the country’s public financial management framework, and recommend steps to be taken by the Libyan authorities to ensure transparency and accountability with respect to the fund held by governmental institutions.

Ban Appoints Martin as UNSMIL Head

On September 19, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that Ian Martin, who has served as his key adviser on post-conflict planning for Libya, will become the head of the UNSMIL.

Martin, a national of the United Kingdom who has served in a series of senior roles for the UN for most of the past two decades, will also be Ban’s Special Representative for Libya, according to a statement issued by the Secretary-General’s spokesperson.

Georg Charpentier, a Finnish national who most recently served as the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, will now become Ban’s Deputy Special Representative for Libya and Resident Coordinator, ad interim.

Earlier, the General Assembly voted to seat the NTC as Libya’s representative at the Assembly during its current 66th session, including the high-level segment that began on September 21. The decision followed a report by the Assembly’s credentials committee.

UN Summit on Libya

On September 20, a United Nations summit in support of Libya backed the transition plans of the country’s new authorities and pledged their on-going support to help the North African country establish the rule of law, uphold key human rights and promote both economic recovery and public security.

More than 50 heads of State or government took part in the meeting, hosted by Ban at UN Headquarters in New York. Those attending included United States President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, whose countries led the UN-backed NATO air campaign “to protect civilians” from attack by Gadhafi’s forces.

In a statement issued after the meeting, participants commended the Libyan people for having “fought heroically for the respect of fundamental human rights, rule of law, dignity and freedom of expression.”

They also voiced support for the NTC’s plans for the transition period and promised to mobilize international support in such areas as elections, constitution-making, human rights, security, gender issues and economic recovery.

The participants urged the NTC to move swiftly to form an inclusive government “that reflects the full diversity of Libyan society and aims to build a new, united, democratic and pluralistic Libya in which human rights, fundamental freedoms and justice will be guaranteed.”

The new authorities in Libya must “fully abide by their commitment to respect international humanitarian and human rights law in the transitional process,” including protecting the rights of all minorities, including migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa, the statement stressed.

The summit also noted that the UN and the Security Council should guide the international community’s efforts in supporting the transition, emphasizing that the transition must be a Libyan-led process.

‘Friends of Libya’

A ‘Friends of Libya’ group – to be co-chaired by the interim Libyan authorities and either Ban or Ian Martin, the head of UNSMIL – will meet periodically in Tripoli, the capital, to support stabilization and reconstruction efforts.

In his address to the meeting, the UN Secretary-General welcomed the installation of a new flag for Libya, which now flies outside UN Headquarters along with the standards of all other UN Member States.

“We offer congratulations and best wishes for the future,” the Secretary-General told the representatives of the NTC. “For the past seven months, you have fought courageously for your fundamental rights and freedoms.

“Women and young people were in the vanguard, demanding a say in the political and socio-economic life of their country. As you look to the future, I want you to know that the United Nations will support you in every way we can.”

He noted that the challenges for Libya remain huge, and said the first priority has to be establishing peace and security across the country.

In a separate meeting with NTC President Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil, Ban described the extent of participation by Member States in the summit meeting “as a testament of the interest of the international community in the success of Libyan efforts to build a democratic and prosperous nation.”

“Oasis for Human Development”

On September 24, Libya’s de facto Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibreel, who chairs the NTC Executive Office of Libya, told the UN General Assembly that the North African country could become an “oasis for human development” and a “model of democracy and successful development,” drawing on “geography, history and geo-strategic importance between North and South, and between East and West.”

Africa had great human resource potential. As hundreds of thousands of African migrants headed north in search of economic opportunities, Libya could be “the gate to development instead of being the obstacle of migration from South to North,” Jibreel said.

“We do not claim to have a magic wand, as Muammar Gadhafi claimed when he looked at himself in the mirror and suddenly discovered that he is an almighty prophet with a solution to every problem on earth, except for Libya’s problems,” said Jibreel.

Four decades of Gadhafi rule had left 20 per cent of the population living in poverty, created the region’s worst educational and health care systems, and left a collapsing infrastructure and unemployment among youths at over 30 per cent, he said. “These are the solutions handed us by Muammar Gadhafi,” he said.

Libya, however, was a “land not yet fully liberated”, he said. It grappled with widespread infrastructure destruction, including more than 63 ruined schools, more than 50,000 injured people and more than 1,700 amputees awaiting help. Its social fabric had been torn by Gadhafi, who pitted tribes and regions against each other.


“The challenges faced by the NTC are many,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe affirmed at a meeting of the Security Council on September 26.

“The capital displays remarkable normality, with its infrastructure overwhelmingly intact, public servants back in their offices even while government appointments are awaited, banks and shops open, businesses re-establishing themselves, most children back in school, and traffic once again heavy,” Pascoe reported.

However, he added, pockets of fighting between pro-democracy groups and forces supporting the ousted regime of Gadhafi continue and the security situation in some parts of the country still remains fragile.

According to the UN News Service, Pascoe drew attention to four key challenges facing the NTC, beginning with addressing national reconciliation and unity and ensuring that all military groups are brought under a unified command and the political authority of the NTC is carried out quickly.

It is also “imperative” that the NTC gain control over the large stock of sophisticated arms amassed by the Gadhafi regime, he stated. “The spread of these weapons and the danger they could fall into the hands of terrorists are matters of grave concern.”

Pascoe noted that reports of the uncovering of a mass grave near the famous Abu Salim prison in Tripoli – with some 1,270 remains reportedly of prisoners killed in June 1996 – indicate further the enormity of the human rights crimes perpetrated by the former regime against its own people.

He urged the Libyan interim authorities secure this and other grave sites so that the fate of disappeared persons may be clarified as forensic expertise is available and evidence is available to future accountability mechanisms.

“At the same time, every effort must be made to prevent reprisal attacks on members or supporters of the former regime,” he stated.

Under-Secretary-General Pascoe also cited the need to ensure the welfare of African migrants and third-country nationals, as well as the early processing of those in detention and the security of those who continue to work in Libya.

On the humanitarian front, he said that at least 60,000 new displacements of Libyans have been recorded since mid-August as fighting intensified around Sirte and Bani Walid. Local authorities have indicated an urgent need for water, health items, food and some non-food assistance. [IDN-InDepthNews – September 26, 2011]

2011 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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