Skip to main content

An Analysis of the Current Needs and Challenges of the Civil Society in Libya

ASSESSING NEEDS OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN
LIBYA
An a nalysis of the c urrent needs and challenges of the
Civil Society in Libya

November 2011

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
2

Table of Contents

=ntroduction: the Foundation’s mi ssion to Libya ………………………….. ………………………….. ………. 3
1. A context of political and social transition ………………………….. ………………………….. …………… 5
 A difficult political transition ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………………….. …….. 5
2. Newly constituted CSOs in a newly developing environment ………………………….. ………………. 7
 CSOs’ Legal Framework ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………………….. ……………. 8
3. Libyan CSOs in 3 themes and 3 priorities ………………………….. ………………………….. …………….. 9
 Women Participation ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………. 9
 Youth E ducation ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………………….. ……………………. 10
 Political and civic participation ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………………….. … 11
Priority 1 Uniting Libya ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………………….. ……………… 12
Priority 2 Build capacities ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………………….. …………… 12
Priority 3 Inclusive networking ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………………….. ……. 13
4. Conclusions and recommendations ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………….. 14

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
3

=ntroduction: the Foundation’s mission to Libya

As Libya was progressively shifting from a period of open conflict to a period of transition, the
Foundation for the Future decided it was time to pay a first visit to a population which would
probably be facing new needs and support. An assessment mission was consequently
conducted by the Foundation’s President, Ms. Nabila Hamza, and Ms. Nadia Moussa, Grant
Officer for North Africa Region, accompanied by of a team of consultants whose task was to
establish a need assessment report for the Libyan civil society.

The exploratory mission to Benghazi and Tripoli, fro m Oct. 31 to Nov. 5 2011, was intended to
get an understanding of the shape in which Libya’s civil society is at the moment, and to assess
the needs of Libyan CSOs which are mainly in an early phase of existence . In the course of this
mission, our team acq uired reasonable knowledge about civil society under Gaddafi’s regime
and under the new and current governing authorities. In this regard, particular attention was
paid to the previous and current legal framework regulating CSOs. An emphasis was also give n
to collecting information on the needs for technical and financial support as well as on the
challenges facing CSOs.

The mission proved particularly fruitful as our team succeeded to meet with civil society
activists who could share first -hand knowledg e of the challenges and opportunities for CSOs in
today’s Libya. The week -long trip comprised two large meetings, one in Benghazi with
representatives from around 25 CSOs , and one in Tripoli, co -hosted by the University of
Tripoli’s Programme for Rebuildi ng Libya , which was attended by representatives of about 35
CSOs. The rest of the time was dedicated to smaller meetings in both cities. For better
outreach, and in order to maximize the allotted time, the team split into two groups and
consequently met wi th representatives of about 60 CSOs as well as with scholars, political
delegates and consultants to the National Transitional Council (NTC). Our team was positively
impressed with the variety of actors present on the ground as they met with young people
newly involved as well as with women and members of the Diaspora who came back with the
intent to seize such an opportunity to rebuild their country.

The Foundation for the Future’s representatives met with CSOs working on most aspects of its
mandate, tha t is to say human rights protection and promotion, civic participation and
empowerment, women empowerment and protection, in addition to children’s rights
promotion, economic and social development, and so forth.

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
4
In order to accurately and clearly present the findings and recommendations emanating from
this assessment mission, this report is divided into three parts. One part will introduce Libya’s
political and societal situation and challenges; one will be situating CSOs in this context, and
one will und erline pressing priorities for the civil society.

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
5

1. A context of political and social transition

A difficult political transition

In February 2011 was initiated in Libya an uprising which progressively opened and transformed
the country’s political a nd societal spectrum. Namely, the removal of the 42 -years -long
dictatorship undid an extremely restrictive legal and political framework which was prohibiting,
among other, any sort of gathering of the civil society.

It is impressive to note that as soon as the field of possibilities expanded, that is to say as soon
as Benghazi fell under the control of the opposition, CSOs started mushrooming, accounting for
a genuine craze of the population to take part in the reconstruction and development process
neede d in Benghazi and more generally in the country. In this regard, emerging CSOs were
principally focusing on emergency response providing medical supplies and food to populations
in dire need due to the ongoing conflict and halt of the economy.

The quest f or Gaddafi’s removal, and the resulting state of armed insurgency, produced a
number of armed factions which now represent a potential destabilization factor which will
have to become a focus for the authorities as well as for civil society. As fighting wa s put to an
end, with the concrete removal of Gaddafi, a new task surfaced: collecting weapons to disarm
the various militias accounting for an unprecedented number of heavily armed ex -combatants
with no clear understanding of what their future could be an d how their reintegration into the
society could happen. Solving this issue is key to prevent future revival of violence. Resurgence
of hostilities would indeed be a terrible destabilizing factor not only for Libya but also for the
region. Hence the necess ary mission for authorities as well as for civil society to rehabilitate
combatants and to work on a cohesive dialogue to bring back national unity.

It was noticed that o ne of the major political challenges for Libya now that a transitional period
has be gun is to reach national unity and cohesion. Indeed, the NT C movement was initiated in
and by people from Benghazi, yet it now has to prove a united and coherent front in order to be
representative of the whole country and to extinguish any risk of intesti ne conflict or worse,
civil war, over power between various tribes and/ or political and regional coalitions.

Furthermore, u ntil, and even after, elections are held and an interim government appointed,
the country has to be built from scratch. There is i ndeed no parliament or electoral supervision
body in Libya. The scars from Ga ddafi’s regime are numerous as the regime was probably one
of the most repressive to have been overthrown in the region this year — no political parties
whatsoever, no trade unions, no independent press or CSOs .

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
6

Those are just some of as many challenges with which authorities are faced today, but which
have to be equally taken into account by the civil society as issues to get involved in, not only
for the sake of Libya’s future, but also because when those issues are resolved, CSOs have a
base on which to thrive.

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
7

2. Newly constituted CSOs in a newly
developing environment

It is quite safe to say that since they emerged at the same time, the CSOs which have survived
their f irst few months of operation have all reached a similar level and are all facing issues,
challenges and opportunities that are consistent.

As such, currently the dominating Libyan organizations are mostly related to the personalities
of their founders, w hile most of the small and youth -led ones are still far from getting enough
support and access to CSOs networks and capacity building opportunities. On the other hand, a
large number of organizations stopped their activities mainly because they couldn’t co me up
with a clear agenda and mandate due to lack of experience, gradually decreasing motivation
after the end of the revolution , or because they had to resume their regular occupation (work,
studies) and could not find enough extra time for non -profit wor k.

It was noted that although most CSOs seem to suffer from a real lack of funds, they share a
common skepticism about international donors, which they fear will earmark their donations in
order to promote their hidden agenda. They consequently claim t hey will only accept
international donation if it is completely unconditional. Local sources of funding, however, are
quite limited and only available through members’ contributions and individuals’ donations .
The latter are particularly scarce at the mome nt since people have a tendency to focus on their
own economic survival. Another source of income CSOs hope to be relying on would be
government funding.

There was a consensus among representatives met in November that in the end training and
transfer of experience is much more important at this time than pouring money o nto the Libyan
civil society . They did acknowledge thereby that they desperately need the “know how” to
actually manage and use funds efficiently and that funds should be mainly directed a t building
the capacities of CSOs to be able to transform their ideas into professional and meaningful
projects. =n order to do so, they requested support to build their organization’s vision, mission
and goals, as well as strategic planning, project devel opment and management, leadership and
consensus -building , training of the trainers, civic and political education, advocacy campaigning,
corruption and government monitoring, English language , and computer and new social media
skills , and so forth.

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
8

CS Os’ Legal Framework

The legislative framework which governed civil society under Gaddafi’s regime was embodied
by the law number 19 of year 2001 which was drastically restrictive and arbitrary. The vetting
process to register a CSO would take up to two y ears and the CSO could still be rejected . The
existing associations had be en appr oved by the security apparatus and had to include members
of the government among their executive board or leadership . Incidentally, several women
associations’ representative s recalled that they tried to be registered under the previous
regime yet failed, even after lengthy registration battles and constant questioning about
motives by authorities. One activist was asked by authorities why she would want to set up an
organizat ion to support poor people when there were officially no poor people in Libya 1.

Since the revolution, the registration process has been facilitated, with only little limitations on
ethical aspects . It cannot be said, however, that a clear legal framework exists and it is now to
hope that the future interim government rules on a clear and fair CSO law. The NTC has
apparently been working on a new law for associations which is said to meet international
standards. At the moment, t he only requirements are the presentation of by -laws and a
minimum of 15 members. 3 61 organizations have consequently been registered in Benghazi ,
with around 60 of them still truly active . Additionally, more than 500 were registered in Tripoli
in the past 6 months. It is worth notin g that 240 of the Benghazi -based CSOs have a
humanitarian mandate. Furthermore, in Tripoli, 270 CSOs were registered in less than three
months after the city’s liberation from Gaddafi’s troops. This mushrooming effect surrounding
the creation of CSOs will likely diminish as the political situation settles and the population goes
back to strengthening the country’s economy.

1 “Libya: Civil society breaks through”; =R=N, 16 August 2011.

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
9

3. Libyan CSOs in 3 themes and 3 priorities

Libyan CSOs are faced with challenges of their own and , as previously underlined , the y include
the internal development of knowledge in order to become professionals and to survive on the
long -term. Externally, the challenge for CSOs is to remain focused on holding the new
authorities accountable so that they vote on a fair CSO law. Finall y, and in a very near future,
many Libyan CSOs have to succeed their conversion from emergency -driven organizations to
development -driven ones. Looking towards the future, CSOs have 3 broad themes of focus in
mind and 3 priorities to succeed developing the se themes.

Women Participation

Meetings held in Benghazi and Tripoli underlined the encouraging fact that many activists are
fully committed to advocating for political and social participation and empowerment of
women. Many activists such as journalist s, judges, leaders or representatives of movements
and networks have, for instance, explained how they wanted to combat social exclusion of
women and the system of traditional culture , obstacles to women’s participation in politics as
voters and candidates , and advocate for the role of women in the political sphere. It is indeed a
sphere women want to be included in, as government employees and representatives, but also
as elected members of assemblies (They call for quotas to be set up ). The women met also
requested training s o n constitutional matters in order to be able to voice their demands as the
new constitution is drafted. In fact , at least half of the people met were highly motivated
women eager to fight for their rights and remain as involved in the transition al period as they
were during the insurgency.

However, those women are not necessarily representative of all women and classes where
much work remains to be done. There is indeed, for instance, a certain lack of knowledge
among the Libyan wome n with regard to their rights as prescribed in international agreements
and convention s. Moreover, in the Libyan male -dominated patriarchal society, women
leadership is very weak and close to being u n-advocated or un -lobbied for. Furthermore, w ith
the rece nt episodes of violence, violation of women’s rights has escalated, with numerous
accounts of violence strategically targeting women and girls (use of rape, intimidation and
persecution as a weapon of war).

Women of all ages have been an integral part o f the uprising . Thus, the promotion of the role of
women will be central to the post -conflict stabilization of the country and the creation of an
inclusive civil society in Libya. Although , as noted by the University of Tripoli “The transitional
authoritie s have made women’s empowerment a priority and also have promised a bigger role

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
10
for women in public administration ”2, and two ministries have been allocated to women, there
is a need to remain vigilant and to hold new governing authorities accountable .

In this context, the Foundation will seek to organize a conference, in cooperation with the
University of Tripoli, which will gathering a coalition of women’s representatives, leaders and
civil society organizations of women actively engaged in public spher e to come out with
propositions and recommendations for the government.

Youth Education

It is only recently, when relief and humanitarian emergency became secondary, that the civil
society realized that supporting and advocating for a democratic foundati on was to become a
priority. As this conclusion spread through civil society, the involvement of young people in
project linked to the future of Libya dramatically increased. International NGOs have even been
impressed by the “volunteering spirit” demonstr ated in Libya and the ability to mobilize,
organize, and start new organizations from scratch 3. Yet, Libya’s youth has never witnessed an
election or taken part in any sort of civic participatory mechanism. The need for education on
topics of democracy and civic duties and rights is so enormous that even , and especially, the
youth itself yearns for guidance and training.

Furthermore, many young people have idealistic expectations of rapid transformation of the
country and expect immediate and d urable impro vements in politics as well as economic
inclusion. If disappointed, this massive fringe of the population could lead the country to
instability and unrest. Their call for advocacy and training on what democratic values entail and
on the steps and drawbacks that should be overcome in order to create such a political system
therefore needs to be heard and taken into account . Indeed, the return in Libya of highly
educated and socially engaged young members of the Diaspora from the West will not be
sufficient t o quench the youth’s expectations.

In the light of meetings with youth organizations, t he Foundation has established that it will
unde rtake several capacity building workshops, study groups and youth exchanges with civil
societies across the region in or der to support youth in Libya to face the new challenges of
transition, in p articular how to support the pa rticipation of youth who have been pushed aside
by the preceding regime.

2 Strategy Outline for the Programme for Rebuilding Libya, University of Tripoli, November 2011 3 “Libya: Civil society breaks through”; =R=N, 16 August 2011.

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
11
Political and civic participation

Libya’s current authorities have deci ded to conduct –within eight months of the declaration of
Liberation – an election to establish a National Conference which will form an interim
government and a body to draw up a new constitution. At the moment , it is foreseen that this
commission will pro duce a draft constitution within sixty days which will , in turn, be submitted
to the National Conference for approval and presented to Libyan citizens in a referendum
requiring , for approbation, a majority of two -thirds of the electorate.

However, Libya has no experience in holding an election or in adopting a new constitutional
framework. Neither does it have experience in organizing and participating in electoral and
constitution -making pro cesses such as those planned. Indeed, t he public has never pa rti cipated
in any similar event and has little knowledge and u nderstanding of such processes since only
Libyans who are 60 years -old and more have witnessed parliamentary elections and have lived
under a constitution. This is probably why some of the people m et reckoned that going back to
the 1951 constitution, while adding some amendments to it, would be the safest and fastest
way out of the transition and into the future. Others, on the other hand, advocated for the use
of a constitutional template to compen sate for the lack of knowledge of most citizens.

Indeed, a number of lectures and workshops have lately been organized by local CSOs to
educate the public about the constitution and elections, but these efforts remain superficial
and on a small scale. Th is is e specially accurate since t ransforming the political culture of a
society who is deeply engrained by practices built -up over forty -two years is one of the most
difficult aspects of any post -conflict transition. A number of extensive civic education, and
engagement awareness campaigns, at a local and national level are therefore essential
components of any strategy 4 to be implemented .

Consequently , CSOs need at first to be equipped with tools, techniques and skills to understand
what is at stake duri ng the transition and the upcoming elections. Indeed, when well -informed
and well -prepared, CSOs can play a key role in leading initiatives to build political awareness of
the population. As such, t hey should be trained on the general political system, ele ction
monitoring, women’s political participation, youth mobilization, and ‘c ivic journalism’.

In this regard, t he Foundation would be eager to conduct training for trainers, as those already
implemented last year i n Tunisia after the Revolution, to deve lop a sustainable value within the
civil society sector and the country. The Foundation is also willing to engage people at
grassroots level s, including youth and women , and reaching popular areas where expectations
are high but political awareness is low . This strategy would help sensitizing remote areas
through community meetings , focus groups and round tables that can easily be organized by
4 Strategy Outline for the Programme for Rebuilding Libya, University of Tripoli, November 2011

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
12

leaders and representatives that will have been strengthened through trainings and capacity
building workshops.

It also appeared in the course of this mission that p olitical activists, who formed parties or
intend to, are eager to learn about political party activities such as constituency -building,
electoral campaigning, broadening membership, enhancing internal part y democracy,
supporting voter education and finding grassroots supporters. Finally, s ome activists also
started to run ro und table discussions about building the state’s institutions, transparency a nd
fighting corruption. However, t hey are strongly asking f or further education about these issues
and about efficient ways to advocate for them.

The democratic life in Libya will commence with a constitution assuring a multi -party system
and the election of president, parliament and local councils as a mean of p eaceful transfer of
power based on the well of the people. Based on this, the foreign assistance needs to build the
capacities and maintain a participatory approach of the Libyan third sector but also to bring an
expertise as well as best practices example s to the Libyan newly formed civil society. In order to
achieve those three aforementioned themes, CSOs have three priorities: Unify the country
trough civil society mechanisms, build capacities (theirs as much as the Libyans’), and build
integrated CSO ne tworks to develop knowledge acquired from one another.

Priority 1 Uniting Libya
CSO activists met in Libya believe they are the main actors to build a sense of belonging and
nationalism in order to avoid the danger of tribalism in political games. Emergi ng Libyan CSOs
are keen to participate in building the state’ s institutions and constitution and dissolve tribal
affi liation into the country’s main stream thro ugh engagement in civil work. In addition to
creating a sense of common belonging beyond tribal c leavages, the civil society will also need
to take part in disarming and rehabilitating former combatants. This issue is particularly
complex as it tackles notions of transitional justice and gender. Indeed, justice and memory will
be key issues to be deal t with in order to build a strong Libyan society.

Priority 2 Build capacities
As previously mentioned the need for building capacities is enormous, within CSOs and within
the Libyan society at large, women, y outh, activists, politicians, all Libyans.

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
13

Priority 3 Inclusive networking
Networking is a priority on a local, regional and international level. Locally, CSOs are demanding
tools to communicate and establish dialogue in order to form an efficient web able to include
all parts of the population. Lo cal networks are also conducive to best -practices learning
mechanisms. At the regional level, CSOs are asking to learn and share from fellow societies in
transition following a dictatorial rule. Finally, internationally, Libyan CSOs expect to learn from
ex perts and well -established CSOs.

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
14
4. Conclusions and recommendations

The issues facing civil society and the transition are very specific to Libya, a country where there
has been no constitution, no political system, and no civil society. The tribal cl eavages of the
society will have to need to be toned down and kept out of politics in order to build a
consistent government representative of the country as a whole. The role of the Diaspora,
bringing fresh experiences and know -how, will also be decisive in helping the country get
rebuilt and the civil society empowered.

At the end, it is the greatest challenge for the civil society to create the democratic mindset in
Libyan people from public officials to layman.

Some key conclusions emerged from the a ssessment mission to Libya. The can be summarized
in just a few lines: The country is living a historic moment that is extremely precarious since all
institutions, infrastructures and even the constitution have to be built from scratch. The Libyan
civil so ciety is in a similar shape as it needs training, building, strengthening, in other words
shaping. However, and although the achievements to be accomplished are daunting to say the
least, members of the civil society met in Tripoli and Benghazi proved and demonstrated
enthusiasm, determination, motivation and commitment.

The hopes and vision of civil society need to be supported by experience and knowledge in
order to form a vivid civil society. The Foundation for the Future has decided to focus its effor ts
on skills and capacity building to further the chances to develop a strong civil society in Libya. In
order to do so, the Foundation is committed to identifying promising CSOs worthy of support
and to provide them with the whole necessary agency.

As u nderlined in the course of this report, training is found to be the urgently needed for all
CSOs. Based on the data collected from CSOs representatives, training programs are needed in
almost every field related to the management of the organization and th e implementation of
community based projects. The Foundation therefore recommends that donors support:

Projects having to do with capacity building assistance

 Good internal governance promotion (defining mandate, drafting by -laws, building
membership, el aborating strategy and planning activities, budgeting and financial
sustainability, human resources management including volunteers, organizational
memory, communication and information sharing, developing good organizational
culture and values, Transpare ncy and accountability towards beneficiaries and donors)

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
15
 Project development and management (e.g. logical framework approach, needs
assessment and problem analysis, fund -raising, monitoring and evaluation, activity and
financial reporting, managing grants, etc.)
 Advocacy campaigning
 Marketing and media relations
 Computer and social media tools
 Interpersonal skills development (leadership, conflict resolution and consensus
building, dialogue and active listening, negotiation and facilitation, team working, etc.)
 Teaching English language
 Building pedagogical skills to train other people within the community (training of the
trainer)

Projects supporting civil society network empowerment and CSOs networking

 Create national networks of CSOs in order to favor knowledge exchange and best –
practices exchange.
 Promote regional cooperation through workshops sharing regional best -practices from
the MENA region (virtual platforms, international workshops, training sessions in well –
established foreign CSOs, work -shad owing, etc.).

Projects in favor of civic empowerment

 Civic and political education (e.g. democracy and human rights concepts and practices,
constitution, elections, political systems, etc ) .
 Political party activities (e.g. constituency -building, drafti ng party platforms, electoral
campaigning, managing resources, broadening membership, enhancing internal party
democracy, supporting voter education and get out the vote activities) .

Projects in favor of women empowerment
 Increase women’s participation at all dec ision -making levels in national and regional
institutions and in mechanisms for the prevention frames , managem ent and resolution
of conflict.
 Include a gender perspective in their peacekeeping and peace -building measures and
address protection, rig hts and specific needs of women 5.
 Undertake capacity building workshops to build and strengthen women’s skills and
capacities as well as leadership.
 Set up study groups and exchange of regional experiences and best practices to involve
Libyan women in the political life and decision -making processes.
5 Str ategy Outline for the Programme for Rebuilding Libya, University of Tripoli, November 2011

Organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the
United Nations since 20 11
16

Projects in favor of youth empowerment

 Put an emphasis on projects of civic education and participation, community
involvement, political awareness and participation, and empowerment activities.
 Set up i ntro duction workshops to democratic principles as well as human rights
concepts such as International Conventions workshops .
 Teach foreign languages (English, French …) .

Based on the feedback from some activists who attended training programs provided by som e
international organizations, the following points should be taken into consideration:

 Trainers are preferred to be from Arab countries due to the language barrier and to the
similarities in cultures of Arab countries.
 Selection of participants should no t exclude small CSOs and youth. It should be en sure d
that the trainings do no t benefit only the same persons.
 Training should be followed by a follow -up process and continuous support .

To conclude, t he main challenge for Libyan CSOs will be to employ local and foreign know -how
and resources to transform the energy released by the Revolut ion in to concret e and efficient
work that contributes to building a new democratic Libya.

-->