Libya has been written off for so long that the signs of recovery have been overlooked. This is largely because they are small green shoots growing from below as opposed to diktats from above. It’s a story of ordinary Libyans gradually rebuilding a fractured society.
Six years after the overthrow of Qaddafi and his regime, the Libyan people have seen their revolution subverted and directed down other paths by terrorists and warlords. But the dream of change has not been abandoned.
Forced to invent itself out of the ashes of Qaddafi’s demise, Libyan civil society has proved to be very creative and resilient. Two youth groups, in Tripoli and Benghazi respectively, previously ran an online platform called “Eye on the GNC” holding the legislature to account. Young people are still chronically underrepresented in the halls of power but there is a yearning on the part of the youth to get involved. Using online tools, they have made their presence felt among the political class.
When elections were held, civil society groups have organised hustings for candidates or issued a “goodwill charter”, in one case, explaining to candidates their obligations to voters. This grass roots approach to politics helps to build confidence in democracy under conditions where people could very easily become increasingly jaded with the whole process. The civil society groups are a connecting web between politicians and those being governed.
National unity has come under massive strain in the military strife following the fall of Qaddafi. One group, Volunteer Libya, created a campaign called “This is my Libya”, highlighting the country’s beauty in its land and people, and also created a video on 21st September, International Peace Day, in which Libyan young people transmitted a message that promoted stability and prosperity.
Women have been at the forefront of the civil society movement in Libya. Several groups including The Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace have railed against both the endemic violence and the brutal treatment of women, who often bear the brunt in these unstable conditions. They have demanded a say in the drafting of a future constitution for Libya to ensure that human rights for all are enshrined.
Help from outside the country is also needed. Civil society organisations representing women recently wrote to the United Nations Special Envoy on Libya calling for more engagement. They called on the UN to help Libya women promote the disarming of factions and gangs that have plagued communities. They asked for resources to help them in their work monitoring human rights violations and working with survivors and their families.
In a country where cynicism towards the mainstream political authorities is commonplace, it’s civil society that is involving people in day to day decision making and rebuilding communities. The myriad efforts of ordinary Libyans to end violence, promote unity and rebuild the fabric of communities affected by conflict give cause to believe that a better future for Libya is achievable.