Region: Libya

COVID-19 and Gender in Libya Assessment

Peaceful Change initiative has released the COVID-19 and Gender in Libya Assessment to support their gender-focused activities to be initiated within the Social Peace and Local Development Libya programme. The Assessment is focused on six communities, Ajdabiya, Bani Walid, Sabha, Tobruq, Ubari and Zliten and research was carried out in the following four areas:

  • Socio-economic impact
  • Gender roles and women’s leadership
  • Gender based violence
  • Conflict, peace and security

To view the Assessment and recommendations click here.

Increasing the visibility of Libyan women in politics

poster from the social media campaign organized by Bani Walid SPP to promote women's participation

We are working with Social Peace Partnerships across Libya to increase the meaningful participation of women in local politics.

Um Saad speaking to local media about her election campaign
Um Saad speaking to local media about her election campaign

Libya’s political process requires the participation of all its people, including women, youth and minorities. The active participation of women in politics has the potential to improve the daily lives of all Libyans and shape a future Libya for all its citizens. Yet, set back by years of civil war and political instability, Libya’s progress towards democracy and women’s participation in politics has been slow.

Since the Libyan revolution, women face significant barriers to participating in Libyan political life. In 2011, a law replaced the Gadhafi-era ‘Shaabiyat’ system, which were subject to the authority of appointment rather than election, with a new municipality structure. An elected council of nine representatives presides over each municipality, by law only one has to be a woman.

The current municipality quota system is a key challenge to women’s meaningful participation in Libya’s political process. This is particularly true in smaller towns where the seat reserved for women is often a tokenistic gesture to follow the law. In reality, the role of elected representative offers little opportunity for women to influence municipality activities and decision-making.

In spite of these challenges, Libyan woman are pushing back. They are demanding greater representation and opportunity to support their local communities through political inclusion and action. We are working with local Social Peace Partnerships (SPPs) across the country to increase the visibility of women in local elections and politics.

Social Peace Partnerships bring together a diverse group of local people, with a shared vision of Libya becoming a safe and inclusive country. Members include representatives from the local authority, civil society leaders, elders, community leaders, business owners and anyone who is interested in peacebuilding. PCi builds the skills and capacity of the SPP members through various trainings so they can solve community issues and develop an ongoing response mechanism to community conflict. PCi also helps to build positive relationships between the community and the local authorities. 

Focus on three Social Peace Partnerships supporting women’s active participation in politics

In Nalut, a town in Western Libya, women’s political participation is historically centred around their work with civil society. Um Saad is a teacher and activist – she started a civil society organisation called ‘Twenza’ in 2017. The organisation supports women facing hardship and economic exclusion.

Taking part in an organisational development workshop delivered by the Nalut SPP, encouraged Um Saad to run for local elections. She describes her journey into local politics:

“The support and guidance I received from the SPP allowed me to propose the idea of a women’s sewing factory through Twenza, and we were able to secure 30,000 Libyan Dollars from ACTED to implement the project. This success motivated me to continue supporting women’s economic empowerment in my town, which is why in 2020 I decided to run for the woman’s seat in the Nalut municipal elections. I didn’t care whether I won or lost, what was important for me was to try. The experience motivated me to continue to help other women establish their role in our society, not just on a family level but also in a public-facing role.”

Halima Yousef is another municipal council candidate. She is from the town of Gharifa in the Ubari municipality, in southwestern Libya. She served as a social worker for women and youth affairs in the political directorate for over 20 years. Halima has been passionate about volunteering for humanitarian work since she was a child.

She joined the Ubari Social Peace Partnership in 2019 after taking part in peacebuilding training sessions. Later, she became the SPP Public Relations and Partnership Director. Halima shares her story of political engagement:

“At the SPP, I learned so much about benefitting our society and widening the focus of my work. I’ve seen how women in Libya generally and in the South specifically have emerged as leaders in response to the changes and problems we were seeing in the country. Women are continuing to excel in all fields and pushing back against a conservative society who see women’s role as limited. But I also still see the suffering that women go through to provide for themselves and their families, and for this reason I decided to nominate myself for the elections. I see that my role as a woman in politics is to support those who are most vulnerable. I aspire to work not just in my city but to reach national ministries and even to rise globally.”

In Ubari, Halima’s goal is to provide human development training in 300 schools in the region, to support women displaced by conflict. She also plans to contribute to the continuity of a radio station that she helped set up through the Social Peace Partnership.

A dialogue session organized by Bani Walid SPP on challenges and obstacles faced by women and youth i
A dialogue session organized by Bani Walid SPP on challenges and obstacles faced by women and youth

One of the most difficult contexts within which to work on women’s political participation is in the town of Bani Walid. It is a conservative city where women’s roles are often limited to their social responsibilities within their families. The Bani Walid Social Peace Partnership did not have any women members when it started.

We worked with the SPP members and the city’s local government to build women’s participation. Acting as allies, male members of the SPP also helped advocate for women taking on leadership roles in the community. Today, of the 34 members of the SPP, 12 are women – this is a considerable achievement for Bani Walid. The inclusion of women is contributing to challenging the norms around women’s roles.

Recently, the Bani Walid SPP has taken the challenge to increase community participation in local elections. A key message of their campaign was to highlight the challenges women and youth face in participating in the political process. A representative of the Bani Walid SPP discussed the results of the project:

“The project was a huge success, with many women taking part in the dialogue sessions, especially women with political ambition. They discussed the importance of women’s meaningful participation in local politics to combat the symbolic position that women are often placed in, without any real role. As a result, four women nominated themselves in the elections, and the SPP is planning to support them to prepare their campaign plans. We will continue to make women’s role in our society more influential in the political process through our projects to support women in journalism, livelihoods training, and political participation.”

The future for Libyan women in politics

These three stories from Nalut, Ubari and Bani Walid are a few examples of the work SPPs are doing to support women’s meaningful political participation. Halima highlights that if women are to be meaningfully represented there is still much work to do: “we are still marginalized as women, and my hope is that my community will take my work more seriously and support it. Women in the South are maturing and enforcing their presence”. Um Saad shares her perspective: “women’s political participation is a form of true active citizenship, and a key part of the political transition. In the future, I expect Libyan women to be present in all forms of public life”.

No Stability Without Peace: an initiative for peace in Libya

Serein Sharda, grant officer for Peaceful Change initiative in Libya, writes about her experience of working on the No Stability Without Peace initiative.

Serein is pictured on the left with members of the PCi team at the closing forum on 12th March 2023
Serein is pictured on the left with members of the PCi team at the closing forum on 12th March 2023

Peaceful Change Initiative (PCi) works to promote social cohesion and peace in Libya, since it began operating in the country in 2013. My name is Serein Sharda, and I have been working as a Grant officer with PCi since 2021. My work as a peacebuilder is different every day; some days I help people write, develop, and propose initiatives and some days my role requires brainstorming with grant recipients on how resolve conflict and improve the quality of life in their area. I am always providing people with skills, support, and advice. One of the recent grants I was responsible for is called No Stability Without Peace.

How It Started  

In September 2022, nine of the forty-two Social Peace Partnerships (SPP) which run across Libya met together for the first time. These SPPs were chosen because they now run independently and are sustainable in delivering peace in their area after years of training and development with PCi’s support. This gave them an opportunity to connect, network, and learn from each other’s experiences. Working together also gives the SPPs the ability to have influence on a national level.

At the meeting, four SPPs in the western region: Sooq Al-Jomma, Tripoli center, Sabratha and Bani Walid, agreed to hold dialog sessions in each municipality about national reconciliation and what is needed to achieve peace and social cohesion in Libya. They also wanted to involve their communities involved in achieving stability and peace.

Social Peace Partnerships bring together a diverse group of local people, with a shared vision of Libya becoming a safe and inclusive country. Members include representatives from the local authority, civil society leaders, elders, community leaders, business owners and anyone who is interested in peacebuilding. PCi builds the skills and capacity of the SPP members through various trainings so they can solve community issues and develop an ongoing response mechanism to community conflict. PCi also helps to build positive relationships between the community and the local authorities. 

Preparation leading to the forum  

The initiative, funded by PCi, was called No Stability Without Peace to emphasize that peace is the perquisite to all that we wish for in Libya.

The SPPs then implemented dialogue sessions with 20-40 participants in the four municipalities. They discussed what is needed to achieve stability: the role of citizens, and the role of municipalities. The sessions were attended by municipal representatives, influential leaders, and government officials. There was a focus on the importance of spreading peace and tolerance, and opportunities for national reconciliation. I was personally surprised to hear discussions on the current situation and how we each have a role to play in achieving peace.

Next, SPP members from the four municipalities gathered in Tripoli and presented a summary with ten recommendations. The recommendations included: supporting efforts toward national reconciliation, providing opportunities for women and youth to engage in politics and assume leadership positions, support for civil society organisations, and supporting young business owners.

To spread awareness of the importance of national reconciliation and social cohesion, we initiated an online campaign through Facebook sharing updates on the No Stability Without Peace initiative. I was astonished at the feedback we received. Many people wanted to volunteer and be part of the peacebuilding campaign.

Closing forum

On 12th of March 2023, the initiative’s closing forum was in Tripoli. We were pleased to see many persons of influence join the forum. Participants included Ibrahim Al-Madni, national reconciliation Advisor in the Presidential Council. Osama Al-Ahmar, Head of the peacebuilding and reconciliation pillar in the Presidential Council. Saliba Charles the Maltese ambassador. Patrick Merienne Head of Peace and Security at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and number of mayors, municipal; members and activists from the four municipalities.

There was an official speech from the presidential council thanking the team for their efforts and looking forward to working together on the recommendations. There were also artistic presentations on peace and reconciliation by people from all over Libya and a short video showing the alternative of peace, which is war. I could tell from the facial expressions of the participants, that regardless of what might divide them, they all agree they do not want to return to war.

Speach from Presidential Council member

The presentation of the ten recommendations on promoting peace and social cohesion was followed by a dialog session with the Presidential Council members and others to discuss mechanisms to implement them. I was pleased that both Al Jazeera Mubasher and Libya Al Ahrar TV covered the forum.

Although the results of the initiative were encouraging, efforts from other Libyan stake holders are needed to continue building stability and peace. I am honoured and pleased to be a part of this work

A tool for conflict sensitive decision-making – Discussion note 1

This is the first discussion note in a series intended to inform development of a new tool for conflict sensitive decision-making related to international humanitarian, development and peacebuilding assistance.  The tool is intended to help decision makers determine whether an action is conflict sensitive before it is taken and consists of 5 tests, or questions, which should be considered. Click here for the discussion note.

This discussion note introduces and provides an overview to the tool.  Subsequent discussion notes will look into particular tests or aspects of the tool.  The discussion notes have been prepared as part of a consultation process with conflict sensitivity practitioners, donors and implementers to test and develop the tool.

Understanding the relationships between communities and armed groups in Libya

Peaceful Change initiative and AFAQ Libya undertook research at the community level in nine target areas along coastal Libya to help inform planning for the development and democratisation of security provision, so that such processes 1) are responsive to the needs of local communities; 2) are ‘conflict sensitive’, in that they do not result in increased tensions or a return to violence; and 3) provide a platform for future reconciliation between different interest groups in the country.

Download the report in English

Download the report in Arabic

A peacebuilding agenda for Libya

Libyan society is undergoing significant change as a result of the revolution/conflict in 2011, bringing substantial opportunities for a more inclusive political system and more accountable security services. At the same time, the revolution/conflict has weakened relationships between some communities in Libya, as well as exposing longer-term inter-communal conflicts. As such, successful transition depends on a comprehensive peacebuilding approach that helps communities to share perspectives, overcome grievances and map out a common future. PCI and AFAQ Libya have developed a policy brief that outlines an agenda for such an approach in Libya.

Download the policy brief in English

Download the policy brief in Arabic

Libya: Social Peace and Local Development handbook

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.

Download the handbook in English

Download the handbook in Arabic

Transformational leadership and conflict management in Libya

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.

Download the report and the training guide in English here

Download the training guide in Arabic here

Webinar: Conflict sensitivity in remote programming

In this webinar, PCi’s Senior Advisers Lesley McCulloch and Anthony Foreman shared the key findings of a new PCi report on the challenges and opportunities of, and lessons learned from, mainstreaming conflict sensitivity in remote programming contexts. They discussed the evolution of the remote programming model employed in Syria and Libya, where PCi works to support and build the capacity of local leaders to manage conflict.

The role of the Ubari Social Peace Partnership as a local conflict management mechanism

In 2015, PCi supported the establishment of a conflict-sensitive mechanism known as the Social Peace Partnership in Ubari, following successful delivery of a Social Peace and Local Development programme in 2014. The Ubari Social Peace Partnership has played a role in reducing tensions and preventing the outbreak of violent conflict.

Download the Ubari case study here