Remarks of the UN Special Envoy for Libya, Ján Kubiš at the Consultative Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Neighboring States of Libya
Algiers, 30-31 August 2021
At the outset, I would like to thank the Government of Algeria for organizing this important and timely meeting. The presence of the high-level representatives from the neighboring countries and regional and international organizations demonstrates the importance of this event gathering us in support of Libya.
I am coming from Libya where I held consultations with a wide range of actors, leaders, and officials including Her Excellency FM Mangoush, to discuss how to safeguard and advance the course to national inclusive, free, and fair parliamentary and presidential elections this December and progress on other files – security, economic and human rights/humanitarian established and followed by the Berlin process. All interlocutors reiterated their commitment to holding elections on 24 December, and the Government has provided the necessary funding for the HNEC and works on the security measures to ensure safe conduct of the elections. Yet, what is still missing is a legal framework and clarification of the constitutional basis to be enacted in due time, in the coming days to enable the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December.
In the meantime, the House of Representatives (HoR) is in the process of finalizing electoral laws for both presidential and parliamentary elections, but the time is running out. I urged the leadership of HoR and the members of HoR to shoulder their legislative responsibility and enact both legislations without any further delay while following the necessary procedural requirements.
Against this backdrop, the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) is continuing with the preparations for the elections that can be done in the absence of the legislative framework, including voter registration that has reached an estimated total of registrants 2.86 million (43% women), work on registration for out of country voting is still on-going in consultation with Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Libya and will require cooperation and support from countries hosting Libyan citizens including your countries. As confirmed by HNEC, the GNU has allocated sufficient funding for the commission to enable the preparations and organization of elections on 24 December. The UN continues to provide technical support to HNEC.
In order to help ensure the integrity of the electoral process, international and domestic observation of the whole process is critical. I urge all member states and regional organizations including your countries to send observation teams, in coordination with Libyan authorities and institutions, notably HNEC, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when the time will come.
Approval by the HOR of a unified national budget, which is still pending, remains of critical importance to allow the GNU to improve the delivery of services and assistance to the people equitably throughout Libya and to create the conditions for a conducive environment for holding the elections in December of this year.. All this is happening in a very fluid and polarized situation, to create the best possible conditions for preparing and running smooth, safe, secure, inclusive free, and fair elections with the results accepted by all.
On 8 July, I delivered the report of the international financial audit to the Presidency Council in the presence of the Prime Minister and the Governor and Vice Governor of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL). The main finding of the audit is that the unification of the Central Bank of Libya is no longer simply recommended but required. While Libya’s foreign currency reserves were largely protected during the past five years, the division in the Central Bank of Libya has eroded the integrity of the banking system and impeded monetary reform.
In my recent meeting with the Central Bank Governor, I was informed that there have been some steps taken in preparation for the implementation of the audit report recommendations. The Central Bank Governor will be briefing the IFCL Economic Working Group in early September to provide an update on the authorities’ plan to implement the recommendations and initiate the unification process. The GNU and PC have confirmed their willingness to support this process.
On the security front, the persistent efforts of the 5+5 JMC led recently to the reopening of the Misrata-Sirte Coastal Road, with the support of UNSMIL and UNMAS as well as the members of the IFCL Security Working Group. The people of Libya warmly welcomed this development, which brings clear benefits for all Libyans.
Nevertheless, the continued presence of mercenaries, foreign fighters, and foreign forces remains a cause of concern for Libya and the international community, including neighboring countries. The Security Council in a number of resolutions notably in UNSCR 2570 and recent statement on 15 July, strongly urged all Member States, all Libyan parties and all relevant actors to respect and support the full implementation of the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement, including through the withdrawal of all mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces from Libya without delay.
The deployment of an initial first group of UN ceasefire monitors is underway. Temporary facilities in Sirte have been identified, the first group will deploy (conditions permitting) in the coming weeks to support the Libyan-led and Libyan-owned ceasefire monitoring mechanism (LCMM).
To ensure gradual buildup towards full implementation of the ceasefire agreement, the 5+5 JMC intends to develop an action plan for a sequenced and a phased, verifiable withdrawal, starting with the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters. The intention is to consult this plan with the respective international partners and seek their support and cooperation. Neighbors of Libya need to be engaged as well in this process notably concerning the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries. We are also working with FM Madame Mangoush on the Stabilization Initiative that has similar objectives. We are also ready to support the Libyan-led process of DDR and SSR for the stabilization of the country and the wider region, to work on this with Libya and international partners, including countries of the region.
Withdrawal of foreign fighters and armed groups has to be accompanied by scaled-up efforts across Libya and the wider region to address root causes of instability, notably through inclusive reconciliation, peacebuilding, and development programmes with a focus on the youth, on women empowerment. Coordinated, complementary measures and programmes supported and co-financed by the international community coupled with resolute international action against criminal traffickers of people, weapons, and drugs, and cooperative measures to enhance control in the border areas, including integrated border control and management must be a part of the solution if it is to be durable and sustainable. Here partnership of the UN, AU, LAS, and EU is critical.
Paving the ground for inclusive reconciliation, UNSMIL and AU participated in a series of workshops launched on 31 May by the Presidency Council to prepare the legal framework and structure of the Libyan High National Commission for Reconciliation. This should lay the groundwork for a longer-term national reconciliation process, to promote unity and social cohesion ahead of the December elections. Several events bring together women, youth, and diverse segments of Libyan society are envisaged to take place in the coming period. A ‘whole-of-government' approach should guide the work. I note the UN/AU shared vision of this process that is grounded in key principles of justice, accountability, and human rights which is critical to ensure long-term peace and stability and welcome the expressed readiness of Algeria to share its experience n national reconciliation. In my meeting last week with President Menfi, he reiterated the commitment of PC to make progress on this important file.
I would like to reiterate the UN’s long-held position that Libya is not considered a safe port of disembarkation for migrants and refugees.
The international community needs to increase its collective and bilateral engagement to address the causes fueling irregular movements of people, including lack of or only limited protection in the transit countries like Libya or in first countries of asylum, and to provide legal pathways to avoid the continuing loss of lives on the central Mediterranean route. Here, I acknowledge the potential of proactive efforts of the AU-EU-UN Task Force on Libya.
Such arrangements or agreements should reflect Libya and neighboring countries’ responsibility to uphold the international principle of nonrefoulement that includes halting all collective expulsions of migrants and asylum-seekers, while facilitating voluntary humanitarian evacuation, return, and resettlement flights.
It is important that Libya and neighboring countries manage and control their borders; border control measures and procedures should, however, be implemented in line with applicable obligations under international law including international human rights and refugee law. Positive developments in this regard are bilateral labor agreements currently being negotiated between Niger and Egypt with Libya towards managing migration flows. At the same time efforts to sign and operationalize bi-lateral and multilateral agreements to promote security and cross-border cooperation between countries sharing a common border with Libya are essential in maintaining regional security, fostering economic development, and building trust for closer cooperation among themselves and with Libya. The border management Quartet Agreement between Libya, Chad, Niger, and Sudan is a positive example of multilateral cooperation in securing common borders and tackling trans-national crime, violent extremism, activities of armed groups.
As cooperation continues to develop, the potential of such agreements including bilateral agreements with Libya will continue to build peace and stability in the region.
Libya is at a critical stage where the significant achievements and progress of the past period must be consolidated with an added momentum to continue the political transition towards a unified, fully sovereign, peaceful, and stable country. This is important not just for the Libyan people but for the region as a whole. Continued, concerted and aligned efforts of neighboring countries and the international community are essential to support and encourage the various sides and parties in Libya to work together, achieve the unification of State institutions and the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement, deliver needed services, protect and promote human rights, justice, and accountability for Libyans and migrants and set the stage for holding the parliamentary and presidential elections on 24 December.
I would like to reiterate my appreciation to the Government of Algeria for organizing this important event, and the participation of Minister Mangoush and foreign ministers from neighboring countries of Libya is a reaffirmation of your commitment to peace, security, and stability of Libya and the wider region. Libya’s stability is Africa’s stability too.
Thank you for your attention.