MEDirections’ Libya Initiative has two main focuses: research and dialogue support. The research track aims to inform policy makers in Europe and in Libya through analysis of the key dynamics and ongoing transformations in Libya, based on fieldwork and close collaboration with local analysts and researchers. The dialogue support track is based on a partnership with a group of Libyan community activists, the Peacemakers. MEDirections provide material, logistical and analytical support to these activists’ efforts to promote peace and reconciliation across Libya.
Research and analysis are at the core of MEDirections’ work on Libya. Through its publications and events, MEDirections has brought together researchers and practitioners to focus on some of the key dynamics affecting Libya and its neighbours since 2011. The research is led by Virginie Collombier whose work concentrates on processes of mediation and reconciliation, the political economy of conflicts, and security dynamics.
Make Politics, Not War: Armed Groups and Political Competition in Post-Qaddafi Libya in Out of the Inferno? Rebuilding Security in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, Arab Reform Initiative, 2017.
MEDirections is also starting to mentor and provide support to junior Libyan analysts. This aims to complement the social dialogue track by generating a more detailed understanding of important trends and dynamics that could be a barrier to stability and reconciliation. It will also contribute towards training capable Libyan analysts able to advise policy-makers. The research topics include local networks of power, armed groups and religious transformations, and illegal migration.
Social dialogue for peace and reconciliation
MEDirections has been working with the Peacemakers since 2015 to facilitate social dialogue for peace and reconciliation. This initiative was born out of the activists’ understanding that any political agreement between rival factions in Libya could not bring about positive and sustainable results without wider, grass-roots participation in dialogue. The Peacemakers’ work aims to promote broad, inclusive reconciliation and social peace, to create a basis upon which national-level political and legal solutions to the conflict can be built.
As the situation in Libya has developed, with major armed confrontations giving way to a political impasse, the initiative has adapted to address the principal issues at stake. From 2015 to mid-2016, the main focus of the social dialogue was on local crisis and conflict resolution. Since mid-2016, the primary focus has been supporting broader reconciliation and dialogue around the idea of a new social contract.
In the first phase, the Peacemakers worked with elders, notables and influential intellectuals to mediate between different communities, helping them to design mechanisms to end local conflicts and to respond to specific issues such as displaced people within Libya and abroad, and the increased presence of transnational terrorist groups. In the current phase, the Peacemakers aim to prepare the ground for longer-term national reconciliation and to build consensus around a new social contract.
The dialogue was initially developed in partnership with the Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution (NOREF), and is currently supported by the German Federal Foreign Office.
The dialogue has resulted in concrete and sustainable successes, as the individuals the Peacemakers invite to participate in dialogue meetings have real influence on the ground. The Peacemakers have gained a reputation on the ground as respected and successful dialogue facilitators, and have built trust between warring or rival communities. The dialogue has directly facilitated prisoner exchanges, the circulation of humanitarian assistance and the withdrawal of military forces from certain areas. The Peacemakers were also instrumental in building consensus within the constitutional drafting assembly.
Musab El-Gaed, Peacemakers’ project coordinator (Libya)
Originally a civil engineer, Musab’s experience in dialogue and reconciliation started early on during the 2011 war, through the mobilisation of his network among youth from the western and southern regions of Libya and among the Amazigh community. Since January 2015, he has been one of the main architects of the social dialogue initiative. The scope of his social network and his mediation skills have been key to the success of the initiative and he has become well-known figure among Libyan social leaders, political figures and civil society activists. He has also been collaborating with the Libyan Council of Elders for Reconciliation and has been very active in supporting ethnic and linguistic groups’ rights.
Sufyan Alashab, research coordinator (Libya)
Originally a dentist, Sufyan has in recent years been working on major projects with Libyan NGOs and international organisations including the Sheikh Tahir Azzawi Charity Organisation, the International Organization for Migration and the World Health Organization, with a focus on the health sector and migration. His work has taken him all over Libya, working closely with a wide range of community actors at the local level.