Ending a languishing humanitarian crisis in Libya and stamping out the spectre of violence and clashes that continued to kill and injure civilians across the country hinged on strong international support for an effective Government, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.
“The fragile and shaky status quo is not sustainable,” said Ghassan Salamé, who also heads the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Pointing out three goals of the Mission’s work — a constitution, national reconciliation and elections — he said UNSMIL was currently reaching out to communities, cities and towns nationwide ahead of a United Nations plan to increase its presence in the North African nation. Going forward, all actions must proceed in line with the Libyan Political Agreement. The arms embargo was also of critical importance, given recent reports of illicit arms shipments and flash‑points of tension and violence across the country. Conflict prevention measures must continue and efforts must aim at tearing down the walls among Libyan political factions and untangling past local or political animosities.
“Transformative change is overdue,” he said. “Most worrying for us are the individual predatory agendas which continue to dominate at the expense of the collective good.” As the United Nations prepared to launch a humanitarian action plan later in January, he said efforts would target the most vulnerable affected by the crisis.
Sharing civil society’s perspective of dangers on the ground, Hajer Sharief, co‑founder of the non‑governmental organization Together We Build It, said the Libyan people were now witnessing forms of violence that went far beyond what the Security Council began working to prevent with the adoption of resolution 1973 (2011). Briefing the Council on the current situation and her group’s work in human security and fighting the spread of extremism, she said that despite disappointments over the lack of a follow‑up strategy after the 2011 military intervention and its consequences of spiralling insecurity, Libyans were doing their best to ensure that life went on, even now, while facing extreme violence and a lack of resources. International support was still greatly needed and must be completely redesigned to empower the Libyan people to play an active role in peacebuilding, including civil society.
The representative of Libya agreed that recent challenges had weighed heavily on the Libyan people, but progress included addressing terrorist threats and registering voters ahead of what he hoped would be free and fair elections that would unfold with international monitoring units, participation of women and youth and acceptance of results. In addition, Libya was addressing a range of concerns, from illicit arms shipments to human trafficking, as it continued to welcome international support for its efforts. There was no military solution, but only a comprehensive consensus‑based political one framed by the Political Agreement, he said.
Also briefing the Council was Irina Schoulgin Nyoni (Sweden), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, who updated members of its work since 17 November 2017.
During the ensuing discussion, Council members voiced strong support for ongoing reconciliation efforts in line with the Political Agreement and for the United Nations Action Plan for Libya, an inclusive Libyan-owned political process under the Organization’s leadership that was presented by the Special Representative in September 2017. Delegates, including from the United Kingdom, emphasized the importance of including women and youth in forthcoming election activities. Many anticipated that a national conference, to be held in February, would pave the way for progress.
Meanwhile, many raised concerns about the spread of violence and impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations, including human trafficking. Delegates called for continued support from the international community and the Security Council, with several representatives offering suggestions on ways forward.
Among those recommendations, France’s delegate said Libya must take ownership of its oil, and Kuwait’s representative, among others, highlighted the importance of unifying the Libyan armed forces. Ethiopia’s representative said regional organizations, including the African Union, remained crucial partners in ending the Libyan crisis, and many delegates called for reinforced measures to address the humanitarian concerns.
The United States’ representative emphasized that so many of the problems faced by Libya went back to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, with the conflict beginning when the Libyan people had rejected former President Muammar Gaddafi. After organizing a revolution to demand a more prosperous future, the Libyan people had yet to achieve that goal, she said, emphasizing that there was a window of opportunity for Council members to push for new momentum in the political process.
The Russian Federation’s delegate underlined the importance of considering ideas currently being presented by the African Union, whose grave concerns in 2011 had gone unheeded, leading to a military intervention that had destabilized the country. Now, the Political Agreement must guide further progress, including combating terrorism, rebuilding the economy and addressing the migration issue.
Also delivering statements today were representatives of the Netherlands, Bolivia, Poland, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Sweden, Peru, China and Kazakhstan.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.
GHASSAN SALAMÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), noting that the Organization was poised to increase its presence in the country, said activities leading up to that included reaching out to communities, cities and towns nationwide. Going forward, all actions must proceed in line with the Libyan Political Agreement, he said, emphasizing that the spectre of violence remained present, with military forces flexing their muscles across the country dotted by flash‑points of tension and clashes that continued to kill and injure civilians. Thus, the arms embargo was of critical importance, especially given recent reports of arms shipments into Libya, a country already flooded with weapons. In addition, conflict prevention efforts must continue.
“The fragile and shaky status quo is not sustainable,” he said, pointing out three goals of the Mission’s work — a constitution, national reconciliation and elections. Pending a decision on the current judicial review of a draft constitution, the Mission would determine how best to support the process. Turning to national reconciliation, he said “unless a national polity is rebuilt, no meaningful progress can be made in unifying national institutions, preventing outbreaks of violence or achieving widespread acceptance of the election results”. Efforts must focus on tearing down the walls among Libyan political factions and untangling past local or political animosities. Much work in the area of elections was needed and actors must agree upon a constitutional framework. Urging Libyan institutions to put the people above all other interests, he said relevant stakeholders had an obligation to produce the requisite legislation in a manner consistent with the Political Agreement.
Thanking partners, including those in neighbouring countries and the African Union, he highlighted other grave concerns, including a humanitarian crisis that only a strong, effective Government could end. As the United Nations prepared to launch a humanitarian action plan later in January, efforts would focus on the most vulnerable. The worrying migrant situation was being addressed by a task force created by the African Union, European Union and United Nations. “Transformative change is overdue,” he said. “Most worrying for us are the individual predatory agendas which continue to dominate at the expense of the collective good.”
Conflict over resources was indeed at the heart of the Libyan crisis, he said, noting that a durable political solution must include ending “predatory economics”, where public resources were diverted to special interests. For its part, the Mission would spare no effort to advocate that national wealth should be directed to providing public services. “It is a painful irony that a country of such plenty is consistently so short,” he said. “It is our collective responsibility to ensure that Libya’s remaining, frozen funds are effectively managed as a safeguard for the future. Additional work is still needed to make this truly happen.”
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, updated members of its work since 17 November 2017, including the approval of two exemptions to the arms embargo. The Committee also received post‑delivery notifications from UNSMIL and the Netherlands for previously exempt items, and responded to a letter from Turkey providing information on donations of items that fell within sanctions. In addition, it responded to requests for guidance from Algeria and a United Nations department on the scope of the asset freeze.
On preventing illicit petrol exports, she said the Committee was addressing concerns about the two vessels on its sanctions list. On the Capricorn vessel, a letter from Syria stated that its Government had informed concerned authorities not to receive the vessel again, following related reports on diesel shipments. On the Lynn S vessel, the Committee had requested clarification from destination States.
In other business, she said the Committee had received an interim report of its Panel of Experts pursuant to paragraph 14 of resolution 2362 (2017). Committee members were scheduled to discuss the report and its recommendations in February.
HAJER SHARIEF, co‑founder of the non‑governmental organization Together We Build It, said that Libya was witnessing forms of violence that went far beyond what the Security Council began working to prevent seven years ago with the adoption of resolution 1973 (2011). For many Libyans at that time, the resolution was a “rescue signal” showing that the international community was willing to do everything to protect Libyan civilians. Many Libyans then quickly felt abandoned by the international community and the Council. There was no follow‑up plan and no strategy to empower the Libyan people beyond the military intervention. Despite all the disappointments, the extreme violence and lack of resources, Libyans were doing their best to ensure that life went on. International support was still greatly needed, and it must be completely redesigned to empower the Libyan people to play an active role in peacebuilding.
The Action Plan for Libya must focus on the role of civil society, particularly emphasizing women and youth, she said. In Libya, there were many national and local initiatives that were strengthening peacebuilding, conflict prevention and conflict resolution. “Together We Build It” provided women and youth with a platform for self‑development in fields related to human security and the prevention of violent extremism. Part of the solution would be the establishment of communication channels not only between the parties directly involved in the conflict, but between all actors in Libya, including civil society. Those channels must ensure that all actors had an equal opportunity to communicate. She urged UNSMIL and the Council to ensure the full implementation of Council resolution 2376 (2017) and the full and effective participation of women in the democratic transition and reconciliation efforts. For that resolution to be implemented, specific human and financial resources must be allocated.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said that on 14 December, his delegation had urged all parties to support the political process in a spirit of compromise for the sake of the Libyan people. Civil society had an essential role to play in ensuring that the voices of the people were heard during the discussions of the future of their country, which would build trust in the political process. The right conditions must be in place ahead of elections. The security situation also remained of great concern, as seen from the clashes at Mitiga airport on Monday. All parties should express their support for national reconciliation. Unified security forces under the command of the civilian government would also enable the threat posed by extremist groups to be tackled in a sustainable way, and would help bring an end to the impunity of armed groups. Ungoverned spaces in Libya presented the opportunity for human rights abuses, he said, calling on all parties suspected of committing or ordering human rights violations to be investigated and held accountable for their actions if found guilty.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) expressed concerns about the current violence, urging authorities to swiftly act to boost progress on implementing the Political Agreement, which would provide the foundation for further advances. Human rights violations and abuses were also worrying, she said, emphasizing that the international community and the Council must do more. Addressing the destabilizing forces required targeted attention. Welcoming action to facilitate the safe return home of migrants facing dire conditions in Libya, she said solutions must be tailored to address all related issues. Regarding violence, those responsible for human rights abuses must be brought to justice, she said, calling on the Libyan authorities to cooperate with the International Criminal Court. On the Mission, she said its expansion would enhance support on a range of fields, including improving the security situation. For their part, Libyan parties must use the current opportunity to work towards progress on those and other pressing issues.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) underlined several serious concerns, noting that stabilizing Libya was a priority. Positive steps had been taken to advance progress on implementing the Political Agreement, but more efforts were needed, including drafting a constitution and cementing a transparent electoral process in 2018. The international community must lend support to that process, with full backing from the Security Council, which should call on all Libyan stakeholders to do their part. Emphasizing that there was no military solution, he said stamping out terrorism depended on firmly implementing a political solution and establishing a united armed forces. Libya’s wealth, including its oil, must remain under the authorities’ control. In addition, the migrant question must be effectively addressed, with perpetrators of trafficking being held accountable.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said that encouraging signs were present and important steps were being taken to reinvigorate the Libyan political process. Kuwait would spare no effort to ensure the unity of the Council to deter anything that might impede the unity of the Libyan people toward achieving security and stability. His delegation urged Libyans to move forward with the political process to achieve an effective Government that had broad representation, which was unified and stable under the Political Agreement, and in that context, he emphasized the importance of creating the right conditions for holding elections. The recent violence in several Libyan cities was of great concern. He highlighted the importance of unifying and strengthening the Libyan armed forces to enable it to face up to such dangers, and deter them, whenever possible. The difficulties facing the Libyan people were clearly growing due to the economic deterioration in the country, and the problem of illegal immigration constituted a real challenge.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said that he looked forward to the holding of the national conference in February and he hoped that it would be held in a spirit of reconciliation. That would make it possible for the Libyan people to solve the country’s structural problems. The constitutional framework should also be secured. The progress made in registering voters was a fundamental step forward to make it possible to hold the elections scheduled for later in 2018. He also noted with concern that the situation for migrants and refugees had not improved. According to the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in January the Libyan coast guard had recovered hundreds of bodies of people who had risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean. He was also concerned over the reports of the rights violations of migrants held in detention centres under degrading conditions, as well as reports on the existence of slave markets.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said the registration of more than 2 million voters demonstrated the commitment and readiness by Libyans to engage in a democratic electoral process that would end the transitional period. Ethiopia recognized that serious challenges remained in fully implementing the action plan, including insecurity, human trafficking and the lack of effective and unified State institutions, among others. The United Nations should strengthen its partnership with Libyans to seize the current window of opportunity, while the international community, particularly the Security Council, should support the implementation of the Plan of Action. The role of neighbouring countries and regional organizations, including the African Union, remained critical to ending the Libyan crisis.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that she was committed to the independence and territorial integrity of Libya. The Libyan Political Agreement was the only framework for an inclusive solution to the conflict during the transition period. All Libyans should work together in a spirit of compromise to finalize the political transformation. She commended the project towards national reconciliation in Libya, supported by the United Nations peacekeeping fund and implemented by UNSMIL and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). She was concerned over the migration crisis and the threat to international peace and security. She called on UNSMIL, in cooperation with UNHCR, to address the root causes of large movements of people, including forced displacement and trafficking in persons, in order to prevent the exploitation of refugees and migrants by smugglers and traffickers. She encouraged Libyan authorities to stamp out human rights violations in centres under their control.
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said that so many of the problems faced by Libya went back to one key issue, which was respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The conflict began when the Libyan people rejected Muammar Gaddafi. After organizing a revolution to demand a more prosperous future, the Libyan people had yet to achieve that goal. The United States stood behind the implementation of the United Nations action plan. Political dialogue and reconciliation was the only way forward. There was a window of opportunity for Council members to push for new momentum in the political process. The existence of slave markets anywhere in the world must offend the conscience of any human being, and those heinous violations of human rights must come to an end. A number of migrants were held in camps outside of Government control, where they were assaulted and deprived of food. The threat of terrorism was real, and Libya must not be a safe haven for terrorist groups to plan attacks, she said. She welcomed the progress regarding voter registration in Libya. The country’s political leaders must set aside their personal agendas and come together for the sake of peace.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), expressing support for the stabilization of Libya, said the Political Agreement must remain the basis for reconciliation efforts, ending the crisis and advancing along the path to peace. The launch of the Action Plan for Libya would, among other things, create conditions for progress, including in holding free and fair elections. The Mission had a role to play to support the Libyan people, who wanted peace. Convinced that international contributions to Libya were indispensable to bringing about that peace and stability, he said the United Nations, African Union, League of Arab States and the European Union must lend their support to those and related efforts. Concerned about human rights violations, he said impunity for perpetrators must end, and the humanitarian situation needed urgent attention by identifying and addressing obstacles to progress. Relevant actors must be held accountable, he continued, emphasizing that Libyan authorities must find balanced solutions to other abuses and serious rights violations, including trafficking.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire), raising concerns about the implementation of the Political Agreement and the current humanitarian and security situation, said steps forward must include an effective dialogue that addressed the formation of a Presidential Council, representative Government and unified armed forces. During the current decisive phase of the political process, all actors must work together, with united support from neighbouring countries, France, African Union and the European Union and their ongoing related initiatives. Turning to the situation on the ground, he raised concerns about human rights violations involving a disturbingly flourishing number of terrorist and armed groups, including foreign fighters. Efforts must target such groups along with human trafficking, slavery and other criminal activities in order to build sustainable peace. Condemning illicit petrol exports, he said the United Nations and Security Council must play their role in halting that trade.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) said that after years of conflict and violence, rebuilding trust between communities was an essential prerequisite for rebuilding Libya, and in that context, she welcomed the bottom‑up approach to promoting reconciliation and unity at the local and national levels. She urged all Libyan political leaders to engage constructively in the election preparation and help create the necessary political, legal and security conditions for elections in 2018. She stressed the importance of women’s fair representation and full participation in each step of the political process going forward and expected that the upcoming national conference would be inclusive and provide opportunities for Libyan women’s concerns to be addressed. An inclusive peace process would open opportunities for a more just peace, she said, emphasizing that women’s full enjoyment of their rights must be placed at the core of international peace and security. Sweden remained deeply concerned about the suffering of migrants and refugees in Libya and believed that every effort must be made to safeguard those who had fled their homes from human rights abuses and violations.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) encouraged further progress on ongoing processes based on the Political Agreement. Underlining the importance of including all actors, especially women and youth, in building sustainable peace, he said the international community must also lend its support, including to holding free and fair elections. The national conference, under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary‑General, must be inclusive and conducive to reconciliation gains. Concerned about continued violence, he said grave human rights violations must be reported to the United Nations and its relevant agencies. Measures must also be reinforced to prevent human rights abuses, he said, welcoming related initiatives and expressing Peru’s support for Libya.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) expressed support for ongoing progress and dialogue, saying such gains marked the beginning of a tremendous amount of work ahead. The Political Agreement must guide further progress, including combating terrorism, rebuilding the economic sector and addressing the migration issue. Going forward, cooperation among international partners was essential and it was critical that Libya took control over its natural resources, he said, underscoring the importance of consolidating the international community’s support. He called on all stakeholders to consider ideas being advanced by the African Union, whose grave concerns in 2011 had gone unheeded, which had led to a military intervention that had destabilized Libya. Raising another concern, he said stringent oversight to military equipment provisions was needed, and voiced the Russian Federation’s support for related processes.
WU HAITAO (China) said that the Libyans were striving to restore peace, but were still facing challenges, including terrorism and the large‑scale movement of refugees and migrants. The international community should continue to provide support, and all actors should stay committed to seeking a political settlement. The international community should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya, and all parties should resolve their differences through inclusive dialogue. The Libyan Political Agreement was a fundamental framework for ending the crisis and contributed to the restoration of national governance. The international community should create favourable conditions for dialogue among Libyans. The role of the United Nations as the main channel of mediation should be preserved.
BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) supported the view that the situation in Libya should be resolved peacefully and the Libyans must have ownership of the political process. The adoption of the new constitution, the approving of the electoral role and the holding of national elections would help overcome political divisions and bring permanent stability. It was important that the Council maintained unity and supported the work of the Special Representative. Libya’s resources must only be used for the Libyan people themselves. The humanitarian situation and the dire situation of migrants should be addressed urgently.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said the Political Agreement remained the sole road towards the reconciliation of his country. Recent challenges had weighed heavily on the Libyan people, but progress included addressing terrorist threats and other pressing concerns. Yet much remained to be done, including eliminating duplicate efforts in the country. He called on all Libyan stakeholders to build a strong, robust civil society. There was no military solution, but only a comprehensive consensus‑based political one. Pointing to some progress, he said efforts to hold fair elections were under way, including voter registration. Calling on the Parliament to adopt an electoral law, he expressed hope that elections would unfold with international monitoring units, participation of women and youth and acceptance of the voting results.
Turning to other concerns, he expressed support for efforts made by Greece and Turkey to investigate reports of a vessel containing embargoed contents. Condemning human rights violations, he said Libya supported efforts to address those concerns, including those related to migrants and trafficking. Libya also welcomed partnerships with States to find solutions in other areas. With regard to frozen assets, he said foreign banks were imposing restrictive interest rates and a solution must be found to manage and protect those funds. He also expressed hope that the international community would continue to support the Libyan people and their needs.