Peaceful Change initiative’s (PCi) new report, ‘Unpacking the Impact of Conflict Economy Dynamics on Six Libyan Municipalities’ fills an important gap in our understanding of conflict dynamics in Libya, arguing that political elites and armed groups cannot be assessed in a vacuum, without exploration of the socio-economic context of the communities that they claim to represent. The research takes a localised approach, exploring factors that influence local conflict economy dynamics, which vary from area to area. It is also a human centred approach, viewing Libyans as participants in the local conflict economy – both willing and unwilling – rather than only as passive victims of the conflict-affected environment in which they live.
The report concludes that reducing the societal impact of Libya’s conflict economy cannot rely solely on high level elite bargains – and a top-down approach to security sector reform. National level conflict dynamics and local instability are linked and this must be tackled via a twin track approach whereby local interventions are supported by the implementation of national-level reforms that address structural issues. In addition, in support of local social cohesion, the paper recommends the establishment of economic-social peace partnerships that promote pro-peace business activities across conflict divides. It also recommends conflict sensitive livelihood and peacebuilding interventions that minimise the risk of assistance worsening conflict dynamics, and that maximise opportunities to contribute to sustainable peace.
Peaceful Change initiative have worked with civil society in Syria, working in both Opposition and Government-controlled areas of the country. Our work has included:
facilitating dialogue between Syrian Arab, Kurdish and Assyrian community leaders on coexistence in Hassakah Province
convening and building the capacity of a network of community leaders to prevent, manage and resolve local conflicts and maintain/expand civilian space. 470 human security and community safety initiatives were implemented, including through small grants
capacity building for civil society actors, focusing on transformational leadership for peace-building; cross-divide dialogue between youth
convening conflict-sensitive assistance capacity building and reflection process for international donor governments, international aid agencies and Syrian NGOs
We have worked with partners to introduce innovative technology-based solutions to support their work in conflict-affected areas. This has included the development and management of a Community Peacebuilding Training Portal with written and audio-visual material designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of a network of 60 track-three peacebuilders based in Syria and in refugee communities in Turkey and Jordan.
Leadership and governance video resources in support of peaceful change in Syria can be found in Arabic with English subtitles here
A cross-government working group on Social Peace and Local Development, hosted by the Ministry of Local Government, has been working since May 2013 to identify how local government and community leaders can promote social peace, in terms of both ‘how’ they work together, and ‘what’ services and development projects they should support. The result is a handbook intended as a guide for local government bodies and community leaders on working in partnership to promote social peace and development in Libya. It does this by outlining a six-step process, with practical tools for each step.
PCi worked with Libyan communities to foster transformational leaders able to manage the conflicts affecting their communities. This work was conducted for the European Union, as part of its support to civil society in Libya, and delivered through EUNIDA. Lessons learned from the project were made public in June 2014, along with the training material used. A short video was also released, giving an insight into the challenges for, and role of, local leaders in building peace in Libya.
Rabha is a member of the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership and an important role model for women in her community. With support from Peaceful Change initiative, Rabha implemented a successful women’s literacy project, teaching local women to read and write for the first time. The Department of Education decided to fully fund the school and to expand the initiative to neighbouring towns.
Tulmaitha is a quiet town situated along the east coast of Libya, often overlooked by development projects. It has suffered conflict, as well as political, economic and social upheaval. Rabha explains that the lack of opportunities for women in the town have led to their marginalisation and women struggle on many levels. She said: “I had the opportunity to finish my university studies at Benghazi University in Al-Marj and this has enriched my life but I always thought about those women who have not had the same opportunities.”
This women’s literacy project highlights that in a context where conservative social norms are an obstacle to women’s participation in decision-making processes and broader inclusion in public spheres, women’s meaningful participation is possible.