News Type: Stories of change

Libya: Nalut Social Peace Partnership supports migrant workers seeking to return home following COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has impacted the Libyan economy, exacerbating the negative effects of years of conflict and instability; it has also impacted vulnerable groups such as migrant workers, at risk of poverty and less resilient to economic shocks.

The first lockdown led to a number of non-essential businesses temporarily closing in March 2020, leaving migrant workers without a job and wanting to return home.  

A subsequent international travel ban affected the border town of Wazen, situated between Tunisia and Libya, where 70 Algerian and 150 Tunisian migrant workers became stuck. They were mostly daily wage workers and quickly ran out of money.

The migrant workers were living in abandoned buildings and sleeping outside. There was a lack of hygienic facilities and social distancing was challenging, increasing the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. Wazen had limited medical facilities which led security officers at the border and local community networks to highlight their concerns.

Nalut Social Peace Partnership was already implementing a COVID-19 public awareness campaign, focused on encouraging people to stay at home to protect their health. When they heard about the migrant workers at the border, they wanted to work with the community to resolve the situation. They collaborated with the Head of the Displaced Persons Office in Nalut, the Red Crescent and the local branch of the Boy Scouts to source donations. The Nalut Municipality and the Libyan COVID-19 Response Committee also provided funding.

A volunteer explained: “The situation was very bad. We felt it was our responsibility to help because the migrant workers do not have any other form of social support, and with the ongoing pandemic we were worried that the virus would spread among them. We were able to provide humanitarian assistance until they could cross the border into Tunisia and continue their journey home.”

The Nalut Social Peace Partnership provided the migrant workers with masks, hand sanitiser, gloves, food and materials to build shelters. They also worked alongside the local health authority, who sent medical staff to disinfect the shelters and the crossing point facilities. They also provided training to migrant workers and security officers on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the area.

One member of the Nalut Social Peace Partnership said: “Supporting the migrant workers felt like a logical step in our campaign, to protect everyone from COVID-19 by helping the most vulnerable. It was a significant project because of the coordination with both the local authorities and civil society. We also worked with the media office of the border crossing to ensure that information and updates were clearly shared.”

Members of a Social Peace Partnership include senior representatives from the local authority and leaders from civil society, community/elders, business, individuals/groups responsible for providing security, local radio, social media influencers and local residents. One of the functions of a Social Peace Partnership is to engage with different community groups, helping to bolster relationships and strengthen the social fabric of the community. 

For more on Social Peace Partnerships in Libya click here

PCi supports young Libyan Peacebuilders

PCi organised a three-day youth forum in the coastal town of Zuwara, bringing together over 95 young activists, working on social peace and local development, from 27 towns and cities across east, west and south Libya in March 2020. Youth make up 65 per cent of the population and are disproportionately under-represented in both national and local government institutions.

One young woman from Almarj told her inspiring story about how she had established a centre for women’s literacy in Tulmaitha, with the support of the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership; thirty illiterate women who wanted to learn how to read and write have subsequently graduated. She said: “Sharing my story shows other young Libyans that nothing is impossible; I became really motivated to work for my society when I realised that I could achieve my goals.”

Another young man from Sabrata established five sport pitches and engaged both young women and men from the surrounding five towns to participate in the sports for peace initiative. He explained: “There are many young people who have great ideas but are afraid to implement them because there is so much pressure in society; I really hope that by sharing my success story today, I will encourage other youth to take that step forward.”

A young woman from Ubari explained how she had opened a paramedic training centre to ensure that all town residents were able access to health care. This achievement led to her involvement in the Ubari Social Peace Partnership where she worked to resolve local tensions in the community and subsequently established a women’s peacebuilding collective.

The youth forum highlighted the importance of ensuring the voice of youth is included when working to overcome local, regional and national conflicts and demonstrated the power of national youth solidarity.

Libya: PCi collaborates with municipalities to strengthen capacity and promote legitimacy and trust

The complex Libya context is characterised by escalating armed conflict, widening political polarisation, heightened inter-communal tensions and increased militarisation.

PCi developed a methodology which provides a systematic understanding of the range of capacities, responsibilities and functions within municipalities in east, west and south Libya in 2019. As a result, PCi produced 11 capacity assessments, working alongside municipal staff, that identified the strengths and weaknesses of these municipal administrations.

The subsequent dispersal of 22 grants (2 per municipality) sought to assist municipal staff strengthen specific areas, to promote a more cohesive and coordinated approach to municipal administration; as well as support municipalities to be more responsive to issues arising in their area. The methodology was supported by the Ministry of Local Government.

Municipal staff also convened consultations with civil society including representatives from the education and health sectors; this helped to improve understanding of the municipality’s work but also facilitated community participation in discussions on municipality priorities, contributing to improved legitimacy and trust.  The Abu Salim municipality identified the health sector as a priority.

The arrival of COVID-19 in Libya in March 2020, presented another significant challenge to all levels of government, to both manage the pandemic and maintain legitimacy and trust.  PCi’s Project Officer said: “When the first case of COVID-19 was identified in March 2020, Abu Salim Municipality staff carried out a rapid assessment that revealed a shortage in sterilisation supplies for hospitals and health clinics and used one of two PCi grants to buy over 30,000 litres of sterilisation materials. Subsequently volunteers were mobilised by the municipality’s Health Service Office to carry out bi-weekly sterilisation in health facilities, which provide services to thousands of people, reassuring citizens and supporting long-term stability in the area and demonstrating solidarity with all communities living in the municipality.”

Libya: Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership fosters improved coordination of local responses to COVID-19

There was a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the eastern town of Ajdabiya in September 2020; this led the Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership to interact and work even more closely with the municipal council, health authorities and security forces in support of an effective response.

The municipal council had put in place a strategy to mitigate the impact of COVID 19 which involved two teams; the first enforced a 14-day quarantine (for repatriated Libyan citizens) in line with international guidance and the second team operated two fully equipped make-shift isolation wards for COVID-19 patients in a local public school.  Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership members were involved in both teams but became aware of the  poor communication and patchy coordination and saw an opportunity to improve this situation and worked and supported the stakeholders to do this by collaborating closely with the local representative from the National Centre for Disease Control. As a result, the two teams merged into one, leading to a significant improvement in communication and coordination and this included the smooth transfer of operations to a new quarantine wing in a hospital.

Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership members have been involved in PCi’s Social Peace and Local Development programme, acquiring the skills to establish important relationships in the community, as well as promote a culture of collaboration amongst local actors. Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership members also reached out to the security forces who were struggling to enforce rules and maintain order in the town due to a lack of adequate crisis management training and a national pandemic strategy; they provided them with contactless thermometers, sanitisers and masks. The head of the Ajdabiya SPP explained: “We saw this as an entry point to reach out to them. Being able to provide some concrete support to their work really helped us build trust and improve the COVID-19 coordination in the city.”  

The Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership worked in other ways, to build trust within the community and mitigate the impact of the pandemic by:

  • Collaborating with Ajdabiya local radio station to host a programme on COVID-19 which was so popular it is now a regular part of programming
  • Installing social distancing marking stickers in public buildings such as banks, clinics and pharmacies, as well as supplying masks to citizens. One Social Peace Partnership member said: “With support from PCi, we produced more than 3,000 medical masks, sourced a number of thermometers, and distributed them to key workers who are most exposed to contracting the virus, such as police, detention centre, and traffic patrol officers.”
  • Promoting reusable masks for economic and sustainability reasons, to help families with accessing face coverings; in addition, providing the sewing pattern to individuals with sewing skills to make them

Building on the results of these initiatives, the Social Peace Partnership continues to monitor the situation in the town to identify community needs and address them in cooperation with other local actors and to minimise the impact of COVID-19.

Armenia: Improving youth participation in Armenia by learning from Scotland’s experience

Peaceful Change initiative accompanied leaders of youth organisations, government representatives and members of the Armenian National Assembly on a visit to Scotland from 18-22 November 2019. The delegation met with Scottish youth leaders, government officials, business leaders and academics, gaining insight into how they might strengthen the ability of young people to participate in decision making at different levels on their return to Armenia. Highlights included meetings with Members of the Scottish Parliament (Edinburgh), the Scottish Youth Parliament (Dundee) and youth working alongside police officers at the ‘Community Safety Hub’ in Dundee.

Artur Ghazaryan from the Youth Cooperation Centre of Dilijan, and PCi’s Armenian project partner, said: “This has been a great experience … young people [in Scotland] are involved in different channels, such as the Youth Parliament, the local council and other informal initiatives and are educated to be civic-minded so they can contribute to political and economic affairs and other areas of life. This is a great example and when we return to Armenia we can seek to try and adopt and improve youth representation in different sectors of life as well.”

PCi supports isolated communities in Georgia, Abkhazia to mitigate COVID-19 impact

COVID-19 is highlighting vulnerabilities among marginalised communities around the world.  In Georgia, Abkhazia remote communities, situated far away from urban centres have learned to cope with their isolation, even though they face additional challenges when situated adjacent to conflict-affected areas. The introduction of measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 have stretched livelihoods and coping mechanisms to breaking point. For example, travel restrictions have led to a shortage of essential goods and the lack of water supply has made it difficult to maintain good hand hygiene; in addition, the distance from decision making is challenging the effectiveness of public health mechanisms. Peaceful Change initiative and their partners have been supporting schools in isolated communities in this region to deal with these challenges, filling gaps in COVID-preparedness and supporting local groups to organise and meet the challenges of the pandemic.

Kosovo: Supporting civic responses during the COVID-19 pandemic

Despite good intentions and efforts to treat all citizens equally, regardless of their ethnicity, the Kosovo government has experienced a lack of capacity to address the needs of all communities living in Kosovo, as COVID-19 mitigation measures have been introduced.  Government institutions have been weakened by the political crisis and the collapse of the government; this has left non-majority communities with a lack of qualitative and timely information, as well as challenges obtaining assistance. Click on the Case Study here