Small Wars Journal

In Libya, Hope Springs from Youth and Local Communities: Young Libyans Fuel Local Civil Society Groups and Peace Efforts

In Libya, Hope Springs from Youth and Local Communities: Young Libyans Fuel Local Civil Society Groups and Peace Efforts by Darine El Hage – U.S. Institute of Peace

More than two years after the United Nations began leading an internationally backed peace process for Libya, that effort faces severe challenges. Rival Libyan regimes still claim national authority, and battles among hundreds of militia groups continue. Amid the turmoil, however, young Libyans are leading peacebuilding efforts in their local communities. Two dozen Libyan youth leaders gathered in Tunis over the past two months to better organize their initiatives. With national-level peace efforts stalled, such local reconciliation offers a way for Libyans to stabilize parts of the country and gradually lay foundations for wider peacebuilding.

Libya’s upheaval is in its seventh year since a nationwide uprising toppled the authoritarian ruler, Muammar Qaddafi. An eastern regime, based in Tobruk, is supported by the Libyan National Army, an alliance of tribes and former military officers. In the west, armed groups support a rival government in Tripoli. Other factions run smaller zones along the coast or in the desert interior, often fighting to control Libya’s lucrative oil fields, pipelines and smuggling routes. A U.N.-backed Government of National Accord, meant to unify the factions, has been unable to establish real authority.

In December, the main leader in the east, Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar, declared that the mandate for the U.N.-backed unity government had expired, and violence has continued across the country. The United Nations is backing a plan to hold elections this year, a step that faces logistical and political challenges, and may risk greater violence.

As Islamic State extremists have been forced out of Iraq and Syria, that group and others affiliated with al-Qaeda have sought to strengthen their positions in Libya, drawing periodic U.S. military strikes. Libya’s turmoil has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and killed thousands of civilians and desperate foreign migrants who transit the country as they try to reach Europe…

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