Published: January 22, 2020
This month there have been several failed attempts by foreign powers to negotiate a ceasefire in Libya.
First, Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads the UN-backed National Agreement Government (GNA), refused to travel to Rome when he learned that his adversary, the renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, would be present at a meeting convened by the Italian Prime Minister. Guiseppe Conte.
A week later, in Moscow, al-Sarraj signed a ceasefire agreement negotiated by Russia, but Haftar withdrew without signing.
And then, the leaders of Germany, France, Russia, Turkey, Egypt and several other countries met in Berlin to drive a peace process in Libya.
The final communiqué of the conference summoned everyone matches to respect the almost decade UN arms embargo in Libya, an embargo that many of those powers have repeatedly violated, and reaffirmed the need for a political solution, rather than a military one, to the conflict.
The renewed call to respect the arms embargo is sensible, but it lacks a plan to sanction countries that continue to violate.
Meanwhile, the complex situation on the ground in Libya has worsened. Even while the Berlin meeting was in session, pro-Haftar protesters and militias blocked four key oil terminals.
Recently, Turkey announced the deployment of its troops in Libya to support the GNA. The country has already seen the presence of mercenaries from several countries, including Chad, Sudan, Syria and Russia.
This has exacerbated an already complex situation on the ground, which hinders the navigation of the UN and other peacekeepers.
In this context, the failure of European and Middle Eastern actors to stabilize the situation in Libya is not a surprise, especially since many of the so-called peace intermediaries actually fed violence through, for example, repeated violations of the arms embargo.
In their interventions in the Libyan conflict, some foreign actors have been pursuing opposing visions for the future of the region. Others, in particular the Europeans, have intervened in the hope of obtaining economic gains in Libya and their assistance in maintaining emigrants of the European borders.
None have taken into account the best interest of the Libyans. This is quite clear from the absence of representatives of Libyan civil society and grassroots organizations in many of these "peace,quot; initiatives sponsored by foreign powers.
While the fate of Libya continues to be negotiated in several European and Arab cities, the aspirations of the Libyans continue to be neglected. But it does not have to be this way.
Libyans can still take the peace process in their own hands. An existing framework, known as the National Conference Process (PCN), is a good starting point.
The PNC was a consultative process launched in 2018 and led by the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue with the support of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The consultations were informed by the participation of 7,000 Libyans throughout the country. They turned out in a final report That outlined the Libyan consensus on various policy areas that must be addressed to build the country.
It may seem pointless to return to a process of national reconciliation while the struggle is ongoing, but the results described in the final PNC report still provide a critical opportunity build a Libya for Libyans for Libyans, even during a prolonged conflict.
Given the current fragmentation of political leadership in Libya, national civil society and business actors should guide this process, even outside the brutal theater of war. These actors include local military and security figures, municipalities and community leaders, many of whom participated in the PNC consultations in 2018.
Much of the current struggle is due to the distribution of resources and power, no doubt a central reason why several foreign governments in Europe and the Middle East are struggling to maintain influence and control in Libya. The distribution of power and resources is one of the five policy areas identified in the PCN report, along with national and government priorities, security and defense, constitutional and electoral processes and national reconciliation.
The Haftar offensive in April 2019 was an attempt to take control of Tripoli by force, and abruptly ended plans to hold the national conference that same month.
The process of national reconciliation. It was intended to pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya, after which the priorities outlined in the report would be among the issues addressed to build the country.
No wonder, then, that Haftar and his army timed their offensive to thwart any kind of meaningful dialogue, especially one of Libyan ownership, for which their legitimacy would certainly have been undermined.
But the NCP is, as the name implies, a process rather than a simple two-day conference. The work of the leaders of the Libyan community, civil society and the figures of the security sector that drove the consultations of the national conference do not have to stop due to the continuing clashes.
It could, as the leaders of Yemen's civil society have done through initiatives such as the Yemen Peace Forum, will be used to organize strategic workshops at community level in more stable areas in Libya.
Of course, certain Libyan organizations have been working together, but there must be a more coherent process that also aims to develop the political areas identified in the PNC. If the military conflict makes this option difficult, there is a robust group of Libyan civil society leaders operating in the diaspora who could, together with the leaders of the local community based in Libya, carry out such initiatives in other safe spaces.
It is difficult to foresee a follow-up of the implementation of the PNC policy areas in the absence of the participation of the rival governments of Libya, or at least of the GNA. It is even harder to imagine this without elections. But it's not impossible.
Libyan civil society, both nationally and in the diaspora, has been working quietly, but actively, to support the various political areas described in the PNC. These efforts must be supported, and not interfered, by the international community. They form a crucial part of the base needed to rebuild Libya once the violence subsides.
Without support for such efforts, military interference and foreign policy, the same problem against which the PCN explicitly warns, will continue to have more space as the demands of the Libyans continue to be ignored.
As the political dispute continues in European cities, and the struggle continues in Tripoli and other parts of the country, the vision that the Libyans proposed in the PNC should no longer be deferred.
It is time to revive the process of the National Conference in Libya, with or without a ceasefire agreement.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera. source