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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

civil war in Libya
In Feb. 2011, civilians in Libya, inspired by the Arab spring, took part in protests against their government. Muammar Gadhafi has held complete control over power and wealth in Libya ever since overthrowing King Idris in 1969. Civil war in Libya broke out in early 2011 as rebels rose up in response to a police crackdown on protesters.

In 2011, during the civil war in Libya, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed. Those killed included civilians, government forces and rebels.

On Feb. 16, 2011, anti-government protests in Benghazi met violent opposition from police. Protests quickly spread to the capital of Tripoli, and more than 200 people were killed. The conflict escalated from Feb. 16 to Feb. 21, on which day Gadhafi made a speech vowing to die a martyr rather than step down.

The conflict drew international interest for humanitarian and economic reasons. Libya has a significant standing as one of the largest oil-producing countries in the world. It produces two percent of the world’s oil supply.

In March 2011, French, British and American forces took action in Libya. More than 110 missiles fired from American and British ships hit about 20 Libyan air and missile defense targets. A week later, NATO agreed to take command of the mission and enforced a no-fly zone over Libya. In October, Gadhafi was found and killed by rebel forces.

Seven years later, Libyans are still feeling the aftershocks of the conflict. According to Amnesty International’s most recent report on Libya, there are now three rival governments competing for power in the country.

The U.N. backs the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj based in the capital of Tripoli. The GNA has been unable to enforce authority over the area. The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar, refuses to recognize the GNA and continues to fight for control of Libya. The rest of the country is ruled by local militias and Islamist groups, including ones linked to ISIS.

The direct humanitarian impact of the civil war in Libya is that hundreds of thousands of people across the country are now living in unsafe conditions with little access to healthcare, food, safe drinking water, shelter and education. An estimated 100,000 people are in need of international protection and 226,000 internally displaced people.

A disturbing development of a slave trade has also become apparent in Libya. According to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Libyans and migrants are being detained and sold in open slave markets. Due to the split governments, no authority is able to stop the human rights abuses.

Civilians in Libya continue to suffer as a result of the conflict. The desire for reform was well-intentioned, but the transfer of power following the death of Gadhafi did not go as planned. The resulting fracture of the country has thrown Libya into turmoil without any indication of ending.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty in Libya

Prior to Muammar Gaddafi’s assassination, Libya was a thriving African nation. However, since then, the country has been trapped in an ongoing civil war, and poverty in Libya has increased.

  1. Before Gaddafi’s assassination, Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy of all African countries. According to Global Research, Libya actually had fewer people living in poverty than the Netherlands.
  2. Oil was the main driving force behind Libya’s economy, but the events of the past five years led to a slump in production. According to CNN, Libya extracted nearly 1.6 million barrels per day in 2010. In 2011, the year that Gaddafi was killed, production declined more than threefold.
  3. According to the CIA, Libya’s GDP declined by 49 percent because the Libyan government continued to provide salaries and subsidies to the workforce despite the lack of oil funds.
  4. Libya has received the largest number of African migrants trying to escape to Europe. According to CNN, about 700,000 to 1 million migrants were in Libya at the beginning of August 2016.
  5. Libya has successfully established a unified authority, called the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is supported by the United Nations. While the GNA still faces some opposition, it received majority support from Libya’s House of Representatives. Since its inception, the GNA has attempted to bring two formerly opposing factions, the House of Representatives and the Libya Dawn coalition, back together.
  6. The United Nations Security Council extended the activity of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) until December 15, 2016. UNSMIL was formed to help Libya solidify the legitimacy of its unified government, and the increased duration of the program will hopefully allow that goal to be achieved more quickly and peacefully.
  7. A rival government in Libya called the National Salvation Government stepped down last April in order to stop future violence. This development furthered the GNA’s goal of establishing itself as the sole authority in Libya.

Many of these factors have helped perpetuate poverty in Libya. However, though the situation in Libya appears bleak, some positive development has taken place with the GNA being established as a major power.

Edmond Kim

Photo: Flickr