Interpeace started working in Libya in 2011 with an in-depth actor and issue mapping process that covered the whole country. As a direct result of that engagement Interpeace developed a programme aiming at establishing an infrastructure for peace in Libya with a pilot phase in the South West.
In 2014 the programme had been able to make significant progress. Interpeace’s local partner succeeded in putting together a diverse team that used Interpeace’s methodology to map people’s views on obstacles to peace and stability from Sebha to Ghat, as well as priorities for lasting peace. The mapping process concluded with more than 500 Libyans consulted in the South. A document capturing the broad array of perspectives was written with the goal of informing future expansion to other communities across the country.
However, by mid-2014 long simmering tensions between various Libyan political camps finally spelled into the open. Fighting spread rapidly from Tripoli to Benghazi and other parts of the country. Divisions that had been seething underneath since the revolution exploded across the political spectrum as two political and military alliances vied for power, control and legitimacy. In Tripoli, the General National Congress (GNC) spearheaded an alliance of several armed groups from the city and other neighboring communities. In Tobruk, an alliance formed around the newly elected House of Representatives (HoR) with the Libyan National Army (LNA) as its armed wing. Elsewhere across the country clashes wreaked havoc on the country’s already fragile social fabric, community relations, and nascent state institutions.
This development made it increasingly difficult for Interpeace to proceed with its programme activities as previously planned. Expanding acts of violence and deteriorating security conditions led Interpeace to significantly reduce the scope of the programme. While initially, the programme intended a gradual expansion at the national level, the context only allowed for an in-depth consultation process in the South.
Despite scaling back operations due to the conflict Interpeace continued to assess potential opportunities for reengagement in Libya. In the lead up to the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), Interpeace resumed its engagement in the country by the end of 2015 with a ‘peacemapping’ project. This new phase sought to highlight the numerous but less visible resilient Libyan communities that have remained relatively stable despite the conflict. The project’s key belief was that understanding the conditions and coping mechanisms these communities have developed to deal with conflict and extracting lessons learned from them could compliment national and international dialogue initiatives in the country and contribute to the overall peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts in Libya. In 2015 and 2016, Interpeace’s peace mapping study was widely recognized as enriching views on resilience capacities at the local level. It also shed light on factors that positively contribute towards this resilience, thereby indicating useful entry points for stabilization initiatives.
In 2017, the programme entered its second phase, which will consolidate lessons learnt in communities already covered, strengthen local capacity for resilience through dialogue, and expand into neighbouring communities with the goal of gradually building pockets of stability across the country. These pockets of stability will directly contribute to and enforce any national or international level dialogue initiatives, since they will rely on local communities for their success. Interpeace’s new programmatic engagement in the country is in consultation with local authorities in each community, and in coordination with national authorities to ensure the conflict sensitive delivery of the project’s objectives in line with the central authorities’ reconciliation efforts across the country.