Libya needs to move ahead now or risk division and collapse, the top United Nations official in the country warned the UN Security Council today, while presenting the latest report on political and humanitarian developments.
“It is with a very heavy heart that I begin my briefing to you noting that humanitarian situation in Libya has deteriorated further, against the background of poor funding for the humanitarian response,” Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), told the 15-member Council.
Libya is a country of six million people, with significant resources. But, across the country, the UN estimates that 2.4 million individuals are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. In addition, more than 40 per cent of the health facilities in Libya are not functioning, and over one million children under the age of five are at risk of being affected by a vaccine shortage.
“It is now imperative that Libyan political actors take responsibility in the higher interest of the Libyan people to stop human suffering,” urged Mr. Kobler, adding that the process towards a democratic transition has continued to meet a number of milestones but at the same time remains precarious.
No effective State institutions
Two weeks ago, on 17 February, Libya marked the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution which toppled the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. However, five years on, the UN envoy highlighted that the current political and military vacuum “is allowing terrorist groups and criminal networks to establish deep roots,” as Libya has “no effective state institutions.”
According to the Special Representative, the overwhelming majority of the Libyan people are in favour of the Libyan Political Agreement, and support the formation of a Government of National Accord that can effectively address the existing threats.
“The overwhelming majority want and deserve peace – now,” Mr. Kobler insisted. “Some of those politically responsible on both sides, however, still refuse to listen to the voices of the Libyan people and pursue their own narrow political interests. In my last briefing to the Security Council, I promised to broaden the basis of support to the Libyan Political Agreement.”
He underlined that with his colleagues and the international community, they have persistently reached out to those who are opposing the Libyan Political Agreement. “However, until now we are unable to convince them to go the way of peace and unity,” he reported.
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On 15 January, the Presidency Council presented a cabinet for approval by the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives voted to endorse the Libyan Political Agreement in principle, but it requested the Presidency Council nominate a new and smaller cabinet, he said.
After days of deliberations, on 14 February the Presidency Council finalized a new list of candidates for a streamlined cabinet. On 22 February, the House of Representatives met to consider the Presidency Council's second cabinet. However, its session was interrupted by a minority of parliamentarians who opposed the vote, and who, Mr. Kobler explained, resorted to threats and intimidation preventing the majority to freely express its vote.
“Nonetheless, this majority gathered 100 signatures in support of endorsement of the new
cabinet and its programme,” he continued. “I am convinced that a positive vote could have taken place on 22 February, had the leadership of the House of Representatives shown the resolve and determination to put the Government of National Accord to a vote.”
Mr. Kobler informed the Council that he has written to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to register the will of the democratic majority, and formalize its endorsement of the unity government. “Failing such recognition and a positive endorsement by the House of Representatives by early next week, Libyans have to go on. I intend to reconvene the Libyan Political Dialogue to explore the way forward in line with the Libyan Political Agreement,” he noted, highlighting how he intends to proceed.
Terrorist groups taking advantage of vacuum
On the security front, Mr. Kobler said that Da'esh, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is taking advantage of the political and security vacuum and is expanding to the West, East and to the South. “While Libya's financial resources are dwindling, the criminal networks, including human smuggling, are booming,” he warned.
During an assault last week, Da'esh reportedly killed 17 people, beheading several of them. The terrorist group has also continued to carry out multiple beheadings and atrocities in their stronghold, Sirte.
“Da'esh in Libya constitutes an urgent and growing threat to Libya, the region and beyond. However, the fight against violent extremism can only be sustainable if it is led by a national unity government that puts in place and prioritises a national agenda to address the country's most immediate challenges and works to meet the aspirations and expectations of the Libyan people,” stressed the UN envoy.
On the issue of gender equality, Mr Kobler told the Council he has continued to strongly advocate increased women participation in Libyan political life, in particular by calling for a 30 per cent share of ministerial posts in the Government of National Accord. “Sadly, my calls have not been heeded,” he said.
Finally, he underlined that Libya's neighbours, are suffering direct consequences of the country's instability and that he is committed to fully engage with them in reaching a political solution to the crisis.