Women’s Rights in Libya The movement for women’s rights in Libya has deep roots that date back a century. Libyan women acquired the right to vote in 1920, and women’s rights groups in Libya date back to the 1950s. In spite of this, the Gaddafi regime instituted a series of repressions that targeted women across its four-decade rule, rolling back civil rights and exacerbating their de facto exclusion from the Libyan political and economic spheres. Since a popular uprising violently deposed strongman leader, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011, instability in the North African nation has left its women in a state of political flux.

Women’s Rights in an Unstable Nation

In Libya’s post-Gaddafi era, attempts at consolidating rival administrations into a unified national government have systematically failed. Since 2014, two governments, the General National Congress based in Tripoli and the House of Representatives (or Tobruk Government) based in Tobruk, have fought for control of Libya against one another and other regional factions. Because of consistent fighting, the situation in Libya has at times resembled anarchy.

International relations think tank, Freedom House, in its 2020 annual Freedom in the World Report, designated Libya as “not free” with a score of 9/100. Its sub-scores in political rights and civil liberties rank at 1/40 and 8/60 respectively. Regarding women, Freedom House summarizes that “Women are not treated equally under the law and face practical restrictions on their ability to participate in the workforce.”

Further, the report states that many of the laws implemented under Libya’s warring governments are based on Sharia (Islamic Law) and personally disadvantage women in bodily autonomy, marital and financial status as well as civil liberties. Domestic violence is not directly criminalized and most instances go unreported. Further, Libyan law imposes penalties for extramarital sex and allow rapists to escape punishment by coercing their victims into marriage. As a general trend, Freedom House notes, “communities that lacked an affiliation with powerful militia were especially marginalized.”

International Organizations Report on Women in Libya

Because of Libya’s rampant factional violence, the Netherlands-based global advocacy organization, Cordaid, reports that violence against women at the hands of militias frequently goes unpunished. Cordaid also notes that restricted freedom of movement, driven by fear of violence, is leading to declines in schooling among women and girls.

The Atlantic Council, another globally-oriented policy think tank, points out that sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and forced prostitution are common practices in many conflicts. Of the hundreds of thousands of Libyan civilians currently displaced in refugee camps, a large proportion are women and children at risk of militia aggression. And after 2019 the abduction of Representative Seham Serghewa, a rights activist, Atlantic Council cites a larger pattern of violence and disappearances leveled against Libyan women in government.

Present Women’s Rights Work

In the face of continual conflict, networks of advocacy organizations continue to work on behalf of women’s rights in Libya. Some examples are:

  • The Libyan Women’s Union, established in 2012, works to support women in and around Tripoli by providing resources for women affected by violence, hosting courses and workshops to facilitate women’s political participation and professional development and spreading awareness for Libyan women in elections.
  • The Libya Women’s Forum, since its founding in 2011, runs courses in English language and legal literacy, trains women to communicate more effectively, facilitates joint dialogue sessions between women and men and helps draft laws advancing women’s rights in Libya.
  • International organization Jurists Without Chains publishes research advocating on behalf of women’s rights, female candidates, expanded suffrage and active political participation of women in Libya, along with holding workshops on women’s roles in human development.
  • Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice supports local women’s advocacy organizations in Libya through technical planning and consultancy, advocacy and network-building. These efforts culminate in the hosting of national conferences containing over 100 local organizations working to advance women’s rights in Libya.  

The Future of Gender Equality in Libya

In spite of the advocacy, education, support and other work being completed on behalf of Libyan women, issues associated with gender, including violence, sexual and marital repression and politically motivated violence, are endemic to Libya’s larger structural issues such as its ongoing civil war. Advancing women’s rights in Libya means ending the conflict and returning the country to a baseline of stability.

– Skye Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Libya
Torn by civil war and violent conflict since 2011, Libya is a centerfold for poverty and mass hunger. Due to its geographical location and long history of favorable migrant-worker policies, hundreds of thousands of migrants flock to Libya every year. However, coupled with the country’s instability and the burden of over 600,000 refugees, Libya is reaching a tipping point.

Moreover, when it comes to dwindling food supplies and collapsing regional markets, hunger in Libya is becoming a more pressing issue with each passing day. So far, international organizations such as the World Food Programme are teaming up with local and regional nonprofits to provide meal kits to internally displaced families. While these efforts are noble, more work is necessary to resolve hunger in Libya.

Overview

Since 2014, children in Libya have lacked access to clean water and nutritious food. In fact, “21% of children aged less than five are stunted [in growth and development].” The situation is dire, as both institutional and external reforms are needed for any change to occur.

One of the main challenges for citizens and refugees in Libya in search of food is high prices and stagnant job markets. In fact, one of the most significant challenges for Libyan migrants relates to finding a way to make a living, followed by high food costs.

Furthermore, key EU countries, such as Italy, are criminalizing humanitarian assistance and food aid to refugees. This makes it incredibly difficult for nonprofits and local organizations to take care of fleeing migrants. As a result, they frequently have to return to Libya, which in turn increases the scarcity of food in Libya.

According to the Center for Global Development, “France and Italy have forbidden citizens from giving food, water, and shelter to refugees and migrants. Hungary passed the “Stop Soros” law, criminalizing individuals and NGOs helping migrants claim asylum. Anti-smuggling laws are also being used to prosecute individuals who provide aid close to the borders.”

Overcoming the Challenges of Hunger in Libya

Despite challenges presented to them, nonprofits and international organizations are taking gradual and significant action to reduce hunger in Libya. For instance, one prevalent challenge is the ever-changing environmental landscape and sporadic resource availability. Due to dramatic fluctuations in global markets, food has become more scarce. Since the Middle East and North African region is one of the world’s largest food suppliers, rising temperatures and diminishing ability to sell food amplify hunger, especially in Libya. In fact, countries like Libya are also the most stressed for water, making matters worse.

Moreover, growing conflict in the region is straining already fragile food supplies in Libya. As Libya engages in a series of ethnic, political and military conflicts, millions have descended into hunger to the point where some are considering it one of the top 18 countries struggling with hunger.

Furthermore, warring governmental and political forces are amplifying corruption and halting aid. Since the government relies upon oil for 95% of its funding, tanks in the oil markets for the past two years have devastated the national reserve. Moreover, in a country where militias are a priority, mass Libyan hunger is often a backburner issue.

Reforms for the Future

Although hunger in Libya is a prevalent issue, if international organizations and governments work together, they can make the situation less bleak. For example, inter-regional cooperation between neighboring local governments and regional organizations can maximize food availability.

The opening of trade routes in the region has had positive effects in the past. Take, for instance, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA), which has so far provided a solid framework for increases in agricultural markets and boosting food supplies. Moreover, internationally sponsored research and development into sustainable food systems could provide fruitful prospects, such as:

  1. Increase evidence of the nutritional value and biocultural importance of these [sustainable] foods.
  2. Better link research to policy to ensure these foods are considered in national food and nutrition security strategies and actions.
  3. Improve consumer awareness of these alternative foods’ desirability so that people may more easily incorporate them into diets, food systems and markets. This approach already underwent testing in seven countries and has already shown several positive effects, reducing hunger and increasing food quality.

If international organizations, local governments and development aides spearheaded such policies, hunger in Libya could reduce if not resolve. Hunger in Libya is a serious problem, one that affects hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Nevertheless, if the world bands together to fight against poverty and hunger, Libya could see beyond tomorrow.

– Juliette Reyes
Photo: Flickr

 

Increase in Poverty in Libya
Following the 2009 overthrow of the authoritarian Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi, the country underwent serious social upheaval. Many citizens faced an increase in poverty in Libya. Libya is home to a wealth of natural resources. Markers such as life expectancy and literacy rates are substantially higher than other countries in the region. Nevertheless, ongoing political conflict combined with various refugee crises has dramatically elevated the number of people living below the poverty line. In fact, roughly one-third of the population lives in poverty, which is about 2.2 million people.

Violence and Politics

Numerous domestic parties and foreign countries have a stake in the political landscape. As a result, violence and fractured political relationships characterize Post-Qaddafi governance in Libya. Current Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj leads the Government of National Accord (GNA). It has garnered substantial support from the international community. However, the presence of militias and former Qaddafi supporters in the region have created lasting violence and contributed greatly to the impoverishment of its citizens. Opposition leader Khalifa Haftar has been leading a violent campaign against the GNA for the past several years. He envisions himself “a bulwark against extremists,” but his ties to the Islamic State worry his critics.

The Economic Aspect

Additionally, there are various international actors with an economic interest in the region. Countries like Italy, Russia and Turkey all have investments in Libya’s economic prosperity, and these investments tie closely to its remarkable oil and natural gas reserves. Historically, these countries have contributed to poverty in Libya by exploiting these natural resources. Ultimately, the conflict prolonged and intensified. It led to an increase in poverty in Libya by foreign leaders with personal interests in the outcome of the war. The fighting has destroyed important infrastructures such as roads and functioning sewage systems. This leaves many Libyans without access to clean water or food.

Improvements to Fight Libya’s Poverty

The political instability and constant violence increased poverty in Libya over the last decade. Moreover, the 90% of refugees migrating to Europe from Libya has compounded it. About 217,002 Libyans are currently displaced within the country, according to the UNHCR. This is in addition to another 43,113 asylum seekers who are passing through in search of a country that will take them in. Also, the number of “people of concern,” or those in dire need of aid, has increased by 50% since 2018. The political and social infrastructure to handle such numbers of displaced people is not available. However, groups like the IRC and UNHCR are working to improve the lives of Libyan citizens and asylum seekers. These organizations, among others, provide services such as community development centers and telephone hotlines in order to help identify, register and assist those who need it.

Furthermore, they work to provide humanitarian assistance to refugee camps and end the practice of detention centers in the region. Although terrorist and militia attacks on foreign aid centers have complicated efforts, there is noticeable improvement due to programs like these.

The Outlook

Ultimately, political violence and the competing desires of colonial powers has resulted in the increase of poverty in Libya in recent years. Religious conflict and foreign involvement have made the road to progress difficult. Aid will only reach 39% of those identified to be in need of critical assistance in 2020, according to the U.N. However, the outlook is not entirely bleak: the international aid community is working to provide relief to those in need. Also, the natural resources Libya possesses put the country in a unique position to recover and prosper. The region draws more international attention and humanitarian organizations continue to direct resources to Libyans in need. Therefore, there is reason to be hopeful that the country will soon be out of poverty.

– Leo Posel
Photo: Flickr

sanitation in Libya
Libya is an arid country that has been facing sanitation and water inadequacies for decades due to its geographic location. The Sahara Desert covers most of Libya, and political turmoil has embroiled the country for years, aggravating its problems. Many humanitarian groups that act in the region, like UNICEF, have aimed to improve access to clean water and sanitation in Libya. Despite new funding, the region requires significantly more work.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Libya illustrate its problems with sanitation and water access, as well as different organizations’ efforts to improve the quality of life in one of the driest and most turbulent countries in the world.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Libya

  1. Ninety-five percent of Libya receives 100 millimeters or less of rainfall annually. This makes Libya one of the most arid countries in the world. Libya has consistently suffered from water scarcity and ranks 20th among the top 36 water-stressed countries. Political instability and military conflict have held the country back from meeting the water security and sanitation needs of its people. Currently, only 60% of all households in the country are connected to a reliable water source.
  2. The man-made river project (MMRP) provides 95% of Libya’s water. Despite being one of the largest civil engineering constructions in the world, the pipeline provides water that is considered unfit for drinking. Safer, bottled water is hard to come by. As such, many Libyans rely on the pipeline’s poor-quality water for drinking.
  3. Libya’s dependence on the pipeline creates risks for the country. Both people looking to sell parts on the market and political groups looking to gain influence in the capital have disabled wells throughout the MMRP.  In May 2019, a militant group forcefully shut down all pipelines to Tripoli for three days, depriving the city of water. These strains, as well as inadequate chemical treatment and equipment shortages, have damaged water quantity and quality. Badr al-Din al-Najjar, head of the National Center for Disease Control, declared that “all water is contaminated,” and “there is no drinking water” in the country.
  4. Unsafe drinking water increases Libya’s risk of waterborne illness. In July 2019, UNICEF spokesman for Libya Mostafa Omar estimated that nearly 4 million people out of Libya’s 7 million people would not have access to safe water in the event of a pipeline disruption. Diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and diarrhea may spread as a result of this lack of sanitation in Libya.
  5. Bacteria often contaminates each of Libya’s water sources. In fact, coliform bacteria has contaminated piped, well and transported water sources at a certain level. Piped water presents the largest risk, making up 55% of contaminated water samples. Additionally, 26% of contaminated samples came from well water, with the remaining 19% coming from transported water. In this environment, finding a reliable clean source of water is a struggle for many Libyans.
  6. UNICEF delivered drinking water to 106,000 Libyans in response to heightened needs in 2019. Approximately 41,000 of these people were located in conflict-affected areas. UNICEF also established services providing sanitation in Libya for 166,000 people and delivering hygiene items and information to 57,000 Libyans.
  7. This lack of water and sanitation has a particularly negative effect on girls. Girls who bring water to their homes or travel to use a latrine risk sexual assault when they venture out. Additionally, poor sanitary conditions make menstrual hygiene difficult to maintain, especially at school. In 2018, the Humanitarian Response Program invested $5.3 million in helping school-age children with a focus on helping girls navigate these problems.
  8. On average, 71 students share one toilet in Libyan schools. The Ministry of Education standard is 25 students per toilet. In these school bathrooms, there is soap 49% of the time, and 17% of schools have soap on occasion.
  9. In Libyan schools, 54% of water contains potentially harmful bacteria. Some of these bacteria raise serious concerns. For example, E.Coli has emerged in 10% of water samples. UNICEF and the National Center for Disease Control have prioritized funding projects that brought water and sanitation improvements to schools. Such projects benefited conditions for 10,000 school children only months after their implementation, improving sanitation in Libya.
  10. In 2019, there were 267,000 people in need of safe drinking water, improved sanitation facilities and hygiene-related items and information. In 2020, only 242,000 people are in need of UNICEF’s WASH services. However, the effects of COVID-19 and continued violence through the pandemic are likely to create more work for humanitarian groups over the next few years.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Libya address concerns that have existed for years. Clean water is scarce, and many citizens drink water unfit for consumption. Military conflict has destabilized the country, and many Libyans are having increased difficulty finding clean water and taking proper sanitary measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the incredible circumstances in the country, however, many organizations working to ensure that thousands of Libyans receive access to the resources they need.

Brett Muni
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Libya
Libya is a country in North Africa that has been ravaged by an escalating civil war since 2014. This war has led to the collapse of infrastructure in many different sectors. Healthcare in Libya is one of the areas that has suffered most because of the armed conflict — and the problem has only been exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Context

Adequate healthcare in Libya has been scarce since the current civil war broke out. Libya’s healthcare system, according to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), was already fragile before the unrest, and has only worsened because of the rise in both civil disobedience and military crossfire. Hospitals and other essential medical facilities have been destroyed, including the Al-Khadra General hospital in Tripoli. This had led to deaths and permanent structural damage that an under-resourced system cannot afford to fix.

Despite calls for peace, shelling, ground assaults and aerial attacks continue to devastate civilian infrastructures, resulting in water and electricity shortages for medical facilities and households alike. Healthcare workers and professionals are subject to threats on their life that force many into exile, contributing to the rising total of internally displaced persons (IDPs) within Libya. Access to essential facilities and services is increasingly limited due to road closures, delays at checkpoints and the palpable fear of sudden violent outbursts.

COVID-19 has only exacerbated citizens’ struggle for healthcare in Libya. While the coronavirus is relatively new to Libya — with 156 cases as of June 1 — the World Health Organization (WHO) identifies the country as being at-risk for a massive explosion in cases. The organization also speculates the number of confirmed cases is much lower than the actual number of infected persons, due to the following factors:

  • Limited testing capacity, with the only two operational testing labs located in Tripoli and Benghazi
  • Failure to implement an effective system of contact tracing, which has proven to be one of the best ways to streamline the tracking of infected persons
  • Cultural stigma against seeking medical aid
  • Breaches in widespread communication and an over-saturation of manipulative media
  • A shrinking number of open medical facilities due to a lack of training and technique among doctors
  • Lack of available treatments and staffing, heightening the challenge for medical facilities that have remained open
  • Displaced individuals, including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, are more endangered and have lower accessibility to healthcare

Organizations Making a Difference

Libya relies heavily on foreign assistance to help quell its large-scale humanitarian crisis — one that threatens to become worse because of COVID-19. Several organizations are currently supporting healthcare in Libya. First, International Medical Corps (IMC) operates six mobile medical units that serve IDPs around large urban centers. The Corps also offers specialist training in reproductive health to medical professionals, provides mental health support for Libyan medical personnel and established a women’s and girls’ safe space. In 2019, IMC distributed more than 20,000 health consultations to displaced groups, trained 33 local staff members and reached more than 1,200 individuals during awareness sessions.

Another group, Medecins Sans Frontieres, deployed teams that operate within two regions of Libya: one in Tripoli and one in Misrata and the Central Region. The Tripoli team sends medical and humanitarian assistance to the local detention center and to migrants and refugees dispersed throughout surrounding urban communities. The team also conducts training seminars on infectious disease prevention and control in local medical facilities. Meanwhile, the Misrata and Central Region teams administer basic healthcare and psychosocial support, provide nutrition supplements and hygiene kits to detained people and offer primary healthcare and referral services to migrants who have survived captivity and trafficking — in addition to other services.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also working to improve access to healthcare in Libya. The WHO provides resources to combat leishmaniasis, distribute medical supplies to more than 40 primary health care centers and referral hospitals and train medical professionals to control and prevent deadly diseases. The organization budgets nearly $30 million to treating and regulating both communicable and non-communicable diseases. It promotes health through education, funding corporate services, maintaining an emergency reserve and developing humanitarian response plans.

The financial contributions and services these organizations provide are vital for the state of healthcare in Libya. Many of the strategies and systems in place have been making a positive change. However, greater financial backing is necessary if Libya is to fully extinguish its deficiencies in healthcare. The United States has spent $16 million on aid to Libya, but statements on exactly which organizations the aid is being funneled to have been vague. Aid focused directly on strengthening Libya’s healthcare system by providing sufficient medical supplies, staff and training could mean the difference between life and death for many Libyan civilians.

– Camden Gilreath
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Libya
Libya is home to historical Greek ruins, the Sahara desert and valuable oil reserves. However, it also currently suffers from a state of instability. The country has experienced division due to a civil war between Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s militias in the east. Militant groups who gained power amid the lack of government control, including al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia, have exacerbated this conflict. This fractured leadership has left civilians suffering from a struggling economy and the continual violence plaguing the region. Libyans must flee their homes to avoid imminent danger, often with nowhere to go. As a result, homelessness in Libya is a growing problem that requires attention and resources.

The Growing Homelessness Problem

War often leaves people displaced or lacking basic necessities, and the Libyan war is no exception. The threat of shellings and uncontrolled violence has left around 120,000 people homeless in and around Tripoli, the nation’s capital. Many have no choice but to sleep on the streets, under trees or with whatever materials are available. Others find makeshift shelters such as public gardens, tents or converted buildings to offer slightly more protection. Old hotels, abandoned factories and schoolhouses become temporary homes for those who have nowhere else to turn.

With so many severely in need of shelter and resources, Libya turned to the Government of National Accord (GNA) for help. In response, the GNA dedicated about $85.7 million to help displaced civilians. However, homelessness in Libya persists and calls for further solutions.

The Plight of Refugees

As violence escalates, some Libyans search for better lives in different countries. Many have tried to escape to Europe, Niger or anywhere that offers more peace and stability. Unfortunately, due to Libya’s proximity to Europe, even refugees fleeing other countries must first travel through Libya. This pathway to Europe is so heavily trafficked that some estimate there are over “645,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Libya.” Only a percentage of people successfully make this journey, leaving many stranded and homeless.

Detention facilities under the GNA are holding refugees who are unable to leave the country. According to the U.N., detention centers have been holding about 3,200 people as of February, 2020. The centers pose new problems. They are overcrowded, unsanitary and lacking ventilation and lighting. They also severely lack the resources necessary to feed those experiencing detainment there. One GNA employee told The New Humanitarian that each day the center allots residents only “one piece of bread” and a “plain pasta dish for every six people.”

Organizations such as Refugees International urge the E.U. to put pressure on Libya to improve conditions. For example, it asks that the GNA discontinues the detention of refugees in closed facilities and instead employs the use of open facilities. When detention centers are open facilities, they are subject to international standards and must grant access to NGOs wanting to help.

As homelessness in Libya increases due to war, organizations are working to ensure that people seeking refuge no longer have to endure inhuman conditions in detention centers.

NGOs Answering the Call

In addition to Refugees International, NGOs such as the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are working to address the current crisis in Libya. The UNHCR recognizes the needs of refugees and displaced people. In order to improve the lives of this demographic, the UNHCR provides a number of services:

  1. The UNHCR funds public services such as hospitals and schools. This improves the quality of life and creates an opportunity for growth in the community.
  2. It provides displaced people with shelter, money and resources to ensure that they receive some aid.
  3. The UNHCR fights to end detention centers, advocating instead for more humane alternatives like programs for child care and family tracing.
  4. It works to resettle and reunite families. The goal of resettling is to create a sustainable, safe and healthy life for families displaced due to war.

Looking Forward

For the first time in years, there is some hopeful news out of Libya. In June 2020, the GNA pushed Haftar out of the west and out of Tripoli. This may be an opportunity for international intervention and support in the form of increased security or economic aid. Libya may finally be able to imagine an end to its turmoil and look toward rebuilding. This should also grant hope for a solution to homelessness in Libya. Economic improvement and rebuilding could allow citizens to return to their homes and their lives so that they too can try to rebuild.

– Abigail Gray
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Slave Labor in LibyaIn the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, an outbreak of news coverage uncovered the mass institutionalized racism within the United States. However, it is important to also bring to light the racist acts in other countries, such as slave labor in Libya, that still continue the prejudice against black communities today.

The migration of more than 150,000 migrants from Libya to Europe motivated the government to allocate funding towards the Libyan Coast Guard. As a result, Libya accumulated at least 400,000 refugees in detention centers, concentration camps and slave auctions. Currently, there are three times the amount of people in these modern slavery systems in comparison to the transatlantic trade in the 1600s. Here are five ways to help end slave labor in Libya.

5 Ways to Help End Slave Labor in Libya

  1. Social Media: As social media is becoming more popular by the minute, try raising awareness about the mistreatment of migrants in Libya through social media. It is crucial, especially with the sentiment of the Black Lives Matter Movement, to provide resources to the community on how to help during this crisis.
  2. Email or Call U.S. Congressional and International Leaders: Support from the United States is instrumental in providing foreign aid to refugees in Libya. For example, calling attention to certain legislation, such as the International Affairs Budget or the Global Health Security Act, could ensure safety and enrichment for countries at risk. It is also important to grasp the attention of the most vocal leaders across the globe. One could also contact different U.N. ambassadors about taking priority in this cause and mobilizing efforts to solve this global issue.
  3. Boycott Slave Labor in Large Industries: Living in a primarily capitalistic economy, many do not realize how slavery persists through global businesses and industries. Popular brands, such as Nestle and H&M, have used slave labor previously in support of mass production. With over 850,000 textile workers since 2018, H&M does not provide its laborers up to minimum wage. In fact, many of the large industries outside of H&M have their laborers work up to 11 hours a day for six days a week. However, there are simple measures that one can take daily to boycott slave labor. For example, one could support smaller black-owned businesses, such as Aaks, to foster an antislavery sentiment within the community. Other examples of black-owned businesses that follow ethical guidelines are Moda Operandi and Aliya Wanek.
  4. Support Antislavery Movements: Many organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), protect victims from human trafficking and support safe departures for refugees. Adding on, smaller projects, such as the Polaris Project, have geared themselves towards ending global enslavement. The Polaris Project takes significant value in its name. It translates to the “North Star” which slaves used as a navigation tool for their freedom. To be more specific, the Polaris Project has run a national human trafficking hotline that has served as a model in many other countries. Having more than 4,000 service providers in the U.S. alone, the Polaris Project has helped survivors and victims who have experienced human trafficking. In addition, it has researched and formed databases, such as the Global Modern Slavery Directory, to connect various countries in ending the slave trade. As of now, more than 2,900 organizations have the database to end human trafficking and slave trading internationally.
  5. Restorative Justice Within Libya: Libya does not criminalize labor trafficking, which allows slave labor to endure. This is largely due to weak law enforcement and the judicial institution in Libya. For example, labor trafficking is not a criminal law, which allows for slave labor to persist. To take part in restorative action, it is necessary to assemble support to provide legal reform in overlooked matters, such as labor trafficking, within Libya. Some organizations that are combating this issue are the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the Directorate For Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM).

Although the slave trade remains to be an integral problem in Libya, some are making various strides in the fight against slave labor and labor trafficking. For example, the United Nations made it an official goal to end slavery by 2030. In addition, the United Nations Human Rights Council is providing more funding towards antislavery actions as well as providing health care to migrants and refugees. With this support, Libya is taking action in making internal improvements, such as collaborating with IOM on imperative initiatives such as the better treatment of migrants. With numerous efforts together, there is more solvency not just in Libya, but in the widespread systemic oppression that many face today.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in Libya
The country of Libya has suffered from civil war since the violent removal of its former dictator Muammar Ghadafi. Challenges with the country’s water supply was one of the many humanitarian problems that have arisen due to this conflict. Yet, even in darkness, there remains some light as one can see in the efforts to resolve the water crisis in Libya.

The Libyan Desert

In order to first understand how resolving the water crisis in Libya has taken place, it is important to understand the environmental qualities of Libya itself. The country is a dry and arid place and the presence of freshwater and rainfall is extremely scarce. However, Libya contains many groundwater aquifers, which offer available quantities of water underneath the ground.

The Water Crisis

The Libyan people have been tapping into this water supply to sustain life and plan on continuous aquifer use. Even with this underground supply, there has always been a struggle to ensure the availability of freshwater. This shortage of water does not mean that the aquifers are emptying, but rather that they are becoming contaminated by seawater intrusion. The extraction of freshwater has caused seawater to invade the aquifers. Due to the intrusion of seawater since the 1930s, it is alarming that no one knows exactly how much freshwater remains in the aquifers. Further, records have determined that seawater intrusion has compromised about 60 percent of freshwater wells. The freshwater in these aquifers cannot replenish either, meaning that every drop must count for use.

Another reason for the Libyan freshwater shortage is the expanding agricultural industry. Some crops demand vast amounts of water; typically this extensive use results in water waste throughout agricultural production and processing. In fact, Libya uses about 93 percent of its water for agricultural purposes.

Since Muammar Gaddafi’s ousting, a third strain has impacted water availability as a result of oil conflict. Gunmen forcing water-workers to turn off supplies in Tripoli for two days exacerbated this violence. Additionally, the country’s power grid and water control systems suffered damage due to fighting.

The Impact on Libyan People

These problems have adversely impacted the Libyan people. The country pumps about 6 percent of groundwater for drinking use and domestic wells. Drinkable water is a daily issue for the people of Libya; some local bottled water might even be unsafe. The fact that this small amount of water (6 percent) is not reaching people outlines the dire situation in Libya.

Some Libyans have resorted to looting their fellow countrymen and women in a desperate search for viable drinking water. According to UNICEF, these problems in the Libyan water supply have adversely impacted poor sanitation.

The Attempt Towards Resolution

As bleak as some of these problems appear, there are some attempts to solve the water crisis in Libya. The IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, for example, gives support and training to impoverished nations to better manage water resources. In 2018 IHE Delft reported training programs for Libyan governmental authorities in water management, water resources planning and water desalination. The IHE Delft training should allow Libya to accomplish the maintenance and management of the water supply in Libya effectively.

America has noticed the troubles the Libyan people have faced as well. In 2019, the U.S. government provided $31.3 million in aid to address the humanitarian needs of the country. With this aid, the Libyan people can fix the infrastructure including the damaged power grids and the water control systems.

Resolving the water crisis in Libya has been no easy task. Today, the country still struggles with the water supply. Although, victories due to the help of USAID and IHE Delft have been impactful achievements. These organizations have provided financial aid and programming to the Libyan government which is exactly the type of support necessary to formally resolve the water crisis in Libya.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Tackling the Civil War in Libya
Violence broke out in Libya in 2011 as a result of anti-government protests in Benghazi and Tripoli that ultimately resulted in over 200 deaths. The Prime Minister at the time, Muammar al-Gaddafi, blamed the protests and general societal unrest on al-Qaeda, despite the rise in protests being largely influenced by other uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia as part of the Arab Spring. Eventually, the opposing National Transitional Council was recognized by multiple nations, including the United States, as Libya’s legitimate government representative. This opposition-led movement arose out of a defection from Gaddafi’s government. His government was one that the Libyan people saw as corrupt, and Gaddafi himself was alleged to have committed crimes against humanity. Since its spring to legitimacy in 2011, the National Transitional Council has found itself situated in a civil war in Libya.

Civil War in Libya

Rebel groups form and commit acts of terrorism amidst international discussions on ways to help Libya transition to democracy. Gaddafi was eventually killed in October of 2011 and the nation’s freedom was announced in Benghazi just days afterward. However, this did not mean peace for the nation, as conflict has continued to engulf citizens as the war in Libya continues.

Some sources claim that the civil war in Libya technically began in 2011 and has continued since then, while others argue that violence renewed itself in 2014 and that the present war in Libya should be considered to have started from this point. Regardless of the timeline dispute, it is clear that the country has struggled with stability following Gaddafi’s death. This instability has made it difficult to rebuild necessary government institutions, a problem that has worsened over the years as more armed groups have spread throughout the country and attempted to lay claim to the territory.

Plans to End the War

With the war continuing all the way into 2020, some international groups have laid out new comprehensive plans to tackle the civil war in Libya. The UN Support Mission in Libya has recently launched a process consisting of three parts meant to bring the warring parties together for negotiations. These talks will hopefully consist of topics such as the current economic situation and security matters.

The first piece of this project was launched very recently on January 6, 2020. Representatives from both parties were able to meet in Tunis to primarily discuss economic and financial issues entangled within the war in Libya. For now, this is progress. The second part of this initiative will involve security issues like a ceasefire, the arms embargo, counter-terrorism efforts and disarmament practices to quell violence. Now that the first part of this UN-led initiative has taken place, it seems that there is renewed hope for tackling the civil war in Libya.

The UN is not the only organization with plans to address the war in Libya, however. An initiative known as Libya Vision 2020 has come alive thanks to the efforts from the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies based in Tripoli. This plan aims to specifically target developmental projects in the nation that look to recover from the war in Libya. It plans to accomplish its goals by implementing peace, security, rule of law, governance and public sector reform and above all, a stable democratic institution. Of course, a comprehensive plan like this first requires the war in Libya to at least take a turn toward negotiations before moving forward with any sort of developmental efforts.

International Support

The international community should keep an eye out for ways to help Libya. The United States, in particular, should consider immediate action, both for the interest of helping potentially end the war in Libya as well as benefiting the nation as a whole. The United States could potentially play an integral role in developing a credible framework for negotiations to take place. The U.S. currently supports the previously created Government of National Accord, which was negotiated through the UN. The continued alliance of the U.S. government, combined with the willingness of U.S. officials to consistently work with international organizations like the U.N. and Libyan forces, could lead to substantial progress toward mitigating the crisis in Libya.

All in all, hope for Libya is not lost. The country needs a comprehensive plan and intervention in order to be pulled from this crisis, but it is in no way impossible. Hopefully, the new decade will bring peace and prosperity to a nation that has been plagued with conflict for nearly ten years.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

Libyan Civil War
In the wake of the Arab Spring revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, protests broke out in Benghazi, Libya in February 2011. The protest was over the arrest of human rights lawyer Fethi Tarbell. When the government responded with greater and deadlier force to suppress the protests, demonstrators took up arms against the Qaddafi regime. NATO forces intervened in support of the rebels, who found and killed Qaddafi in October of that year. Libya has experienced a civil war between the Libyan National Army and the General National Congress. The ongoing conflict has had severe consequences for the Libyan people. Here are four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War.

4 Humanitarian Costs of the Libyan Civil War

  1. Displacement: The Libyan Civil War has resulted in the displacement of tons of Libyans. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the amount of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Libya was upwards of 217,000 people as of late 2017. By January 2020, the estimated number of IDPs rose to 343,180 Libyans. In addition to these IDPs, Libya is housing tens of thousands of refugees. Because of its proximity to Europe, Libya has remained a hub for migrants and asylum-seekers despite the civil war. Currently, Libya has 46,913 registered refugees and asylum-seekers. Refugees and migrants living in Libya face unsafe living conditions. This can lead to a litany of abuses at the hands of smugglers and members of militias and gangs including rapes, beatings and killings. This is due to weak law enforcement in Libya. Both internally displaced Libyans and refugees from other countries are often exposed to the violence of the civil war.
  2. Poor Living Conditions: The civil war has significantly worsened living conditions for Libyans. Three percent of Libya’s population, or 229,468 people, live in extreme poverty. Rural Libyans more commonly live in these conditions when measured proportionally. The incredibly high unemployment rate has worsened economic living conditions of young Libyans. At 48.7 percent, Libya now has the fourth-highest youth unemployment rate in the entire world. More young people in Libya are unemployed per capita than in the Gaza Strip or in Syria. More than 1.3 million are in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya. In addition, hundreds of thousands of them lack adequate access to health care and essential medicines, reliable food, drinking water sources, safe shelter and education.
  3. Violation of Human Rights: An important consequence of the civil war is the transgression of basic rights, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expression. Since the civil war broke out in 2011, armed militias and ISIS fighters have threatened and attacked religious minorities. This includes Sufis, Ibadis and Christians. They destroyed religious sites in Libya with impunity. Unidentified groups have committed several attacks of violence against Sufi religious sites including a historic Sufi mosque in Tripoli and Sidi Abu Gharara. The violation of freedom of speech and expression occurs when groups have intimidated, threatened and physically attacked activists, journalists, bloggers and media professionals. Journalists and members of the media have experienced arrests and detainments without charge.
  4. Human Trafficking: Another problem that has intensified during the civil war is human trafficking. According to the CIA World Factbook, Libya is a destination and transit country for men and women from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Migrants who seek employment in Libya as laborers and domestic workers or who transit Libya en route to Europe are vulnerable to forced labor. Traffickers often force migrants to work on farms and construction sites. Additionally, they frequently force women to work in brothels. Militias and armed groups have been forcibly enlisting children under 18 years old since 2013. The civil war exacerbates this problem. The violence and unrest of the conflict hinder the ability of international actors and of the Libyan government to gather information on human trafficking. Libya’s judicial system is dysfunctional. Thus, the government cannot investigate, prosecute or convict traffickers, complicit detention camp guards or government officials, or militias or armed groups that used child soldiers. The Libyan government cannot protect trafficking victims.

International Response

These four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War have significant negative effects on local civilians. In response to the civil war and its effects, organizations like the U.N. sought to provide aid to the Libyan people. The UNHCR has instituted a Quick Impact Project (QIPs) in Libya. It is a small project that helps support those in need with health, education, shelter or water and sanitation sectors. UNHCR provides vital assistance to refugees and migrants at 12 disembarkation points in western Libya. Other activities include working to end the detention of refugees and asylum seekers, resettlement, family reunification and voluntary repatriation.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr