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.
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.”
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.
PCi’s partner, the Libyan Peacebuilders Network, organised and hosted the ‘Peacemakers Awards’ in Benghazi on 8 February 2019. The event was planned to bring attention to the work being done by Libyans throughout the country to manage conflict in their communities and promote peace for Libya. The event recognised the work of a number of groups and individuals including the elders from the Tebu and Zawiya tribes in Kufra, elders of the western Mountain tribes, the Social Council of the Werfalla tribe and the elders of Cyrenaica. A special award was presented to Aisha Aizadma from Harawa for her role in addressing the conflict between the Al-Gedaddfa and Awlad Sulaiman tribes in Sebha.
During March 2020, Social Peace Partnerships (SPPs) in Libya engaged in the COVID-19 response. SPPs bring local community members together including representatives from the local municipality, civil society, community leaders and local residents. SPPs build skills to facilitate dialogue and community mediation, while simultaneously developing local action plans that identify the development needs and aspirations of local residents. SPP activities related to the COVID-19 response include:
Ajdabiya SPP developed plans to roll out a COVID-19 awareness campaign in urban areas.
Benghazi SPP set up an Emergency Response Committee to provide accurate COVID-19 information to Benghazi citizens and to support the municipality, as well as carrying out public awareness activities.
Souq al Juma SPP joined the Emergency Response Committee and participated in the National Centre for Disease Control training to raise awareness around COVID-19.
Tobruk SPP collaborated with civil society organisations such as the Red Crescent Society and the Boy Scout movement to implement COVID-19 public awareness activities.
Waddan SPP provided support to local awareness-raising efforts on COVID-19.
PCi conducted a Rapid Assessment in 14 communities to gain insight into the COVID-19 response, implemented through the Social Peace Partnerships, with three individuals from each Partnership interviewed over the phone (March 2020) in the context of the government working-from-home order.
The findings include the most common source of information on COVID-19 across the 14 communities is social media (Facebook), with half of the communities indicating they use social media (Facebook) for information as opposed to official sources.
Municipalities are demonstrating varying degrees of engagement in a COVID-19 response, with responsive municipalities establishing an emergency crisis committee, collaborating with relevant agencies (for example, health), and mobilising local awareness campaigns. However, some municipalities appear to be largely absent from any COVID-19 prevention, management and/or response planning.
Local civil society organisations (CSOs) are implementing awareness activities in some municipalities. However, a lack of resources will make it hard for CSOs to scale up their response. PCi’s Social Peace Partnerships are engaged in a response in six municipalities.
PCi is mentioned in an article by Nate Wilson, ‘Coronavirus Shows Why Libya Needs to Build its Institutions’, published on 14 April 2020 for the United States Institute for Peace (USIP). The article highlights that institutional support to improve the Libya COVID-19 response must take into account conflict dynamics at a regional, sub-regional and even community level. USIP advocates for organisations working in Libya to use their analysis, as well as analysis from PCi, Mercy Corps, Danish Refugee Council and others, “to inform their decisions, then they can use aid to connect groups in conflict, ensure that it is inclusive, and thereby maximize benefits. This will surely benefit Libya beyond the immediate crisis.”
PCi urges “those with the ability to stop the suffering” in conflict-affected areas to take action now and ensure unimpeded and sustained access for organisations delivering aid and medical supplies in response to COVID-19.
PCi provides conflict sensitivity advice to embassies, donor agencies, UN agencies, international NGOs and research organisations. PCi is currently the Coordinator of the Conflict Sensitivity Community Hub (until September 2020).
Youth in Libya have demonstrated a desire to create youth led spaces that better represent their experiences and needs and have turned to civil society activism to address issues that affect them and Libya as a whole. It is this determination and hope that inspired PCi to organise a 3-day Youth Forum in the coastal town of Zuwara bringing 97 young activists together from 27 towns and cities from across the country.
The first video showcases the preparatory work that the young people undertook before the Youth Forum.
The second videoshowcases the Youth Forum that took place in Zwara in March 2020.
The ‘Peacemakers Network – Libya’, an organisation that brings together Libyans from all walks of life and all different parts of the country, gathered a number of its members to launch the digital campaign ‘Your health is Libya’s health’, underlining the importance of solidarity, respect and cooperation among Libyans in order to confront the COVID-19 epidemic. Network members from the cities of Tripoli, Ghadames, Jalu, Ubari, Al Jmel, Zuwarrah, Al Kufra, and Sabha collaborated to put together a video disseminating messages on cooperation and public health, which they are promoting through national media and with municipal authorities.