23rd Meeting (18 January 2018, Tunis)

The Conflict-Sensitive Assistance in Libya (CSA) forum, co-hosted by UNDP Libya and the Swiss Embassy to Libya and facilitated by the Peaceful Change Initiative (PCi), met for its 23rd meeting on 18 January at the Acropole Hotel in Tunis. The meeting was attended by 41 persons from 23 different organisations and embassies.


• An overview of the CSA process and its various components;
• A joint update of the shared conflict analysis;
• Presentation and discussion of conflict sensitivity implications of delivering assistance in the context of armed groups.

Overview of the CSA process

A short presentation reviewed the different components of the CSA process, including:
• The meaning of conflict sensitivity;
• The role of the CSA forum;
• The principles of conflict-sensitive assistance;
• The role of the Leadership Group in conflict sensitivity;
• ​Additional initiatives drawn from the CSA process (conflict sensitivity trainings and peer review).

Summary update of analysis

Participants reviewed and updated the joint context analysis, based on the factors of UNDP’s original analysis, Insecurity and Instability in Libya (UNDP Libya, December 2015).

A complete overview of the updated analysis can be found by logging into the OPSECA online platform at: To register a profile and use of the platform, please contact Only organisations participating in the forum have access to the online platform (one login profile per organisation).

The political process saw additional uncertainty emerge during the reporting period. The current expected date to conduct a referendum and parliamentary elections is September 2018, although this will depend on the situation and the approval of appropriate legislation. The HSC began preparing electoral legislation, despite not having the formal authority, in a move seen to encourage the HoR to do the same.  The HNEC began voter registration in mid-December and reported nearly 490,000 new voters registered by mid-January, bringing the total number to nearly 2 million.  Additionally, the HNEC has begun accrediting election centres around the country.

During the week of 14 October, delegations from the HoR and the HSC met in Tunis under the auspices of the SRSG to discuss amendments to the LPA. Following the lack of progress in the talks, the SRSG was reported to start focusing on the next step of his ‘Action Plan’, presented to the UNGA in September 2017, notably the organisation of a national conference of prominent Libyans to identify ways forward. Some actors in Libya, most notably in support of Khalifa Haftar, have argued that the LPA stipulated a maximum validity of 2 years and was therefore now obsolete, that the GNA/PC are illegitimate, and that even the HoR is no longer legitimate.  The UNSC, UNSMIL and other in the international community have rejected this view; their argument is that, as the LPA was never approved by the HoR, the two-year period never began and the LPA is, therefore, still valid.

  • Participants noted the need to balance the acknowledgement of progress made on the political process, which should be encouraged, with some caution around the continuing uncertainties. There is a need for further discussion on the constitution, political parties, and the impact that elections would have.
  • As a response to these political developments, participants noted the value of working towards achieving consensus and consistency of messaging by the international community on the strategy and sequencing of support for the electoral process.

The update period saw a general continuation of the situation regarding militias and armed groups, though the level of violence was lower than in other recent updates. Violence occurred several times around Mitiga airport in Tripoli between forces affiliated with the PC, most notably the Rada Brigade in charge of the airport, and other armed groups.  On 15 January, Mitiga airport was attacked by a militia that had previously been linked to the PC, the 33rd Brigade, but that is now supposedly also linked to Khalifa Ghwell.  Rada forces have been supported by other PC-affiliated militias, fighting has continued and, as of 17 January, the airport remained closed.  In early January, PC-aligned forces under the Western Zone command attempted to capture the Ras Jedir border crossing into Tunisia under the control of Zuwaran militias.  After a ceasefire agreement on 6 January, the border post was apparently under the control of PC forces.

The issue of the human rights of migrants also received significant attention during the reporting period.  In late November, CNN released a video showing a sale of migrants as slaves in Libya.  The fallout led to international condemnation, including from the UNSC and the ICC.

  • Participants noted that the recent IOM staff kidnapping would likely have an impact on international staff appointments in the south. The CNN video has had both negative and positive impact: it has increased the difficulty of discussing migrant issues in Libya, but it has also brought more support for voluntary returns to countries of origin.
  • Participants discussed some of the dilemmas faced in the context of armed groups, for example around private security (unregulated in Libya) or ‘protection money’.
  • Participants also discussed the Egyptian-led process on the re-unification of the army, and noted the difficulty posed by the fact that Egypt is seen as partisan.

In early January, the Tripoli-based CBL announced some improvements in the overall financial situation in 2017 compared with 2016.  In particular, it announced that the Balance of Payments had been reduced by 48% since the year before, based mainly on higher oil incomes. Despite this, the situation of public finances remained uncertain as disagreements over key institutions continued, particularly between the different CBLs. The situation with regard to the oil sector worsened slightly during the reporting period. There were several security incidents around oil infrastructure.
The currency crisis worsened during the reporting period. The situation around humanitarian needs and access to basic services worsened slightly during the reporting period, driven mainly by the issue of water in Tripoli. The nation-wide strike of teachers continued from early October but appeared to be at least temporarily resolved by mid-November.

Participants noted how the economic situation remains the same: the economy is heavily reliant on hydrocarbons and public finances remain in disarray. The split between east and west in the Central Bank means that there is no true reconciliation of accounting. For international assistance, this means we can expect severe price increases and potential increases in criminality, which in turn may lead to a need to renegotiate contracts.

As a response to these economic developments, participants noted:

  • The importance of risk/political economy analysis prior to implementing projects;
  • The need to actively look for ‘positive spill over effects’ of economic programmes;
  • The importance of coordination between donors and organisations on financial procedures and risk sharing.

A new factor was added to the analysis based on this update: religious freedom. A number of significant events occurred during the reporting period. On 21 December, the Bayda Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Administration warned Libyans not to celebrate Christmas and New Year, saying that sharing such celebrations with non-Muslims is a sin.  The same entity has previously condemned all Ibadi Muslims as apostates, which was seen as an attack against the many Amazigh who are Ibadis.

In December, both Marj and Shahat in the East announced campaigns against the harassment of women by young men.  Actions included social media and media campaigns, but also the arrest of several people accused of harassing women.
Participants noted how, in addition, the space for civil society is shrinking. Its impact on national level processes, for example constitution making, remains weak. There are also ongoing attacks on heritage sites. Education remains a concern, not only with regards to the teacher strikes (see Economic), but also because of concerns around the content of the curriculum. The spread of Salafist control of the mosques, particularly in the east, was noted as a concern. On women’s rights, there was a discussion on policies on paying for women to be accompanied.

As a response to these social developments, participants noted:

  • The need to broaden the inclusivity of religious actors as stakeholders in projects (NB relevant resource from USIP: ‘Libya’s religious sector and peacebuilding efforts’, March 2017);
  • The importance of developing criteria and a common approach regarding the (non) payment of costs for companions for women participants in internationally funded activities;
  • The importance of finding ways to engage with less represented local organisations, and build the capacity of the Civil Society Commission to facilitate this.

Assistance in a context of armed groups

Previous rounds of the CSA focused attention on challenges faced by the international community in delivering assistance in a conflict-sensitive manner in the Libyan context of armed groups. It is a challenge to provide a definition or typology of armed groups in Libya. The guest speaker facilitated a joint overview of key aspects of the context of armed groups in Libya, to challenge assumptions and influence programming, around four key questions:

1. What are the positive and negative aspects of armed groups?

  • With regards to negative aspects, participants noted: human rights violations; lack of accountability; lack of weapons management systems; lack of clarity about the roles and intentions of the different groups; involvement in criminality; manipulation of political processes; their roles as spoilers in peace processes; the purely economic interests driving some armed groups; the longer term negative impact on stabilisation and the contribution to fragmentation.
  • With regards to positive aspects, participants noted how: some groups have political or ideological aims; some fill a vacuum in providing local level security; there can be mutual relationships between community and armed groups, but this differs between different municipalities; armed groups can become constructive peace actors; they can help fight crime, assist in providing basic services, and provide a sense of identity, control and agency.
  • Participants noted how making this distinction did not imply acceptance of the use of armed force: it was an exercise to better understand different aspects of the situation. Making this distinction can also help the international community counter negative and strengthen positive aspects.

2. What changes do we (the international community) want to see regarding armed groups? 
Participants mentioned accountability and a clear chain of command to facilitate engagement; professionalisation; co-opting armed groups into society; disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR). Participants discussed some of the dilemmas facing the international community when engaging armed groups: at a local level, we may need to engage with them, but does doing so then counter the broader state-building and peacebuilding goals by conferring legitimacy? In order to decide which groups to work with, there is a need to nuance the different types of groups.

3. What are the motivations of armed groups? 
Participants mentioned: money; power; relevance; influence; recognition; respect; survival; to defeat other groups.  Participants noted how some armed groups used to have a vision for Libya and asked whether this was still the case. Some armed groups, or some of their members, may also want to step away from the use of armed force.

4. The three levels of programming in Security Sector Reform (SSR) approaches:
Strategic/macro level approaches
i. White paper process to mobilise consensus behind legislation on civilian authority on the use of force;
ii. Security and defence committees to start building an eventual security architecture;
iii. Partisan approach of supporting particular groups to push out others.

Micro level approaches
i. Community security planning and strengthening of civilian governance structure;
ii. Pre-DDR behaviourist approach, focusing on alternative employment, community stabilisation;
iii. Pre-SSR, dialogue with armed groups, with one of the aims being to allow them to confer agency to one or a group of individual;
iv. Mediation to allow humanitarian access or reduce conflict.

Meso level approaches

i. Capacity building of relevant institutions with the aim of strengthening linkages between the strategic and micro levels.
Participants discussed the importance of having a security committee to request access, report violations, etc. It was noted how the Temporary Security Committee is supposed to play this role, but may not quite have this level of authority.
​It was noted that, when providing their assistance, many participants undertake activities that correspond with micro-level SSR activities, even if these are not directly envisaged as SSR activities.  Such activities may include discussing security issues with local civil interlocutors, negotiating access to certain areas, or promoting alternative economic activities.  Given this, it is worthwhile for participants to consider how these activities might complement other, more direct SSR efforts by international and national actors.

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