Libya: Eleven years since the uprising, a deepening political crisis threatens rebuilding efforts
By: Samah Hadid
Regional Head of Advocacy,
Middle East Regional Office Norwegian Refugee Council
Eleven years since Libya’s uprising, a deepening political crisis now threatens progress made to help communities rebuild over the last year. Tens of thousands of Libyans risk losing access to adequate housing and services, warns the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
Political paralysis over the last several months, which prevented the country from approving a national budget, has deprived local municipalities with the much-needed funds to rebuild conflict-affected neighbourhoods and scale-up services to their communities.
Reconstruction in areas affected most by the last round of fighting in Southern Tripoli have progressed but could be sidetracked by further instability. Areas like the Benghazi city center where fighting ceased more than five years ago also remain in rubble. A recent assessment conducted by NRC in Tawergha, a town that saw nearly all of its 40,000 residents displaced in 2011, revealed that 65% of residents who managed to return were still living in heavily damaged or destroyed homes. Many Libyans displaced by multiple waves of conflict do not have the funds to rebuild their homes.
Additional surveys by humanitarian agencies have shown that one in ten Libyans in conflict-affected areas were living in damaged or destroyed shelters.
The Norwegian Refugee Council has shelter programs in Southern Tripoli, Tawergha, and Benghazi. Working closely with local municipalities, NRC has rebuilt community infrastructure like medical clinics in areas like Abu Salim in Tripoli and helped rebuild 293 homes across Libya in the last year alone.
“The energy and commitment of ordinary citizens to rebuild their country is there, but this potential is mired by continued instability. The international community must step up efforts to ensure gains made in the last year are not undone by the current political crisis,” said Dax Roque, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Libya Country Director.
“My family and I are tired of being displaced in every war, and our financial and psychological situation does not allow for more. I avoid social media and the news so I don’t think about the past. What I want is for me to settle in my house with my grandchildren like the days before,” said an elder man supported by NRC’s shelter team in Tripoli.
In 2020, a tenuous ceasefire brokered with the backing of international governments brought genuine hope that years of recurrent conflict in Libya would finally come to an end and that the people of Libya would finally have the stability to allow them to rebuild. The country also witnessed an improvement in the humanitarian situation with the number of people in need of assistance decreasing from 1.3 million in 2021 to just over 800,000 in 2022. The number of displaced Libyans has also declined in the last year.
NRC is calling on the international community to redouble its efforts and prevent the meaningful progress made from being reversed. International humanitarian assistance and scaling up development support will ensure vulnerable Libyans, as well as the country’s migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, are not abandoned. The international community must also put the protection and needs of people at the centre of future decision-making and any political solutions.
“People have worked hard to begin to rebuild communities themselves. Every day we work with these communities that have been absolutely devastated by the events of the last decade and help them through the recovery process. A resurgence in conflict would take us back to square one. We need all parties to come together and prevent further instability for the people of Libya,” said Roque.
According to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, there are currently 179,047 internally displaced persons in Libya; there are 621,007 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers across the country. According to the 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview, 803,000 people in Libya are expected to require some form of targeted humanitarian assistance.
According to a Multi-Sector Needs Assessment conducted by REACH in 2021, 12% of Libyan households surveyed in conflict-affected areas were living in damaged accommodations. The Norwegian Refugee Council conducted a rapid needs assessment of 247 returnees to Tawergha and found that 18% had homes that were completely destroyed and 47% had sustained heavy damage.