Context of the crisis
Political and security developments
Political and security developments After nearly a decade of hostilities and civil war, a Ceasefire Agreement between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army of the General Command of the Armed Forces was signed on 23 October 2020. The subsequent formation in March 2021 of the Government of National Unity (GNU) established a provisional governmental structure while striking a delicate balance between regional powers in the country. Although there has been an end to large- scale hostilities, portions of the ceasefire agreement remain unimplemented, namely the withdrawal of foreign armed forces. Uncertainties also remain around the proposed 24 December 2021 election date and who is eligible to stand as a candidate. These recent developments occurred against the longer running backdrop of general insecurity caused by the proliferation of Libyan armed groups and the competition and occasional clashes that occur among them.
The political situation remains precarious, as administrative divisions and the nonalignment of policies have hampered progress in defining legal frameworks on electoral procedures and the unification of some Government administrative entities. The House of Representatives (HoR) did not approve the GNU proposed national budget for 2021. While expenditures for salaries were carried over, the government has implemented other initiatives financed through decree. Through these measures, the GNU managed to expand a system of patronage increasing salaries, social benefits, and embarking on numerous development projects. However, the lack of an overarching budget has reportedly seriously hampered the work of line ministries and progress towards infrastructure rehabilitation and the ability to deliver basic services.
In June 2021, the Second Berlin Conference sought to strengthen the political roadmap towards finding solutions to unresolved legal, economic, and security issues. The reopening of the coastal road on 30 July was a critical development in the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement, directly benefitting the population due to the freer movement of commerce, greater access to medical and humanitarian services and family reunification spread across the former front lines.
While the ceasefire has resulted in the reduction in civilian casualties, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have continued to be reported. The ceasefire has also allowed for investigations into prior violations. The Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Libya reported that war crimes and crimes against humanity have likely been committed in Libya by all parties to the conflict since 2016 including by external actors. From arbitrary detention to torture, the recruitment of child soldiers and mass killings, the FFM listed numerous grave rights violations which impacted the country’s people, and which gave them reasonable grounds for the war crimes allegations1. Mass graves continue to be discovered in Tarhuna. As of 10 October, Libyan authorities reported the discovery of 163 bodies, including seven women and three children in and arround the outskirts of the city.
Migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in Libya— including thousands returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard after being intercepted at sea while trying to reach Europe—faced arbitrary detention, during which many reportedly experienced ill-treatment, sexual assault, forced labor, and extortion by armed groups, smugglers, and traffickers.
With the end of large-scale hostilities, a persistent security concern remains the presence of explosive hazards, such as booby traps, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). These explosive hazards pose a significant risk to the safety and security of returning residents and have resulted in civilian casualties, including children, as well as humanitarian workers and security personnel tasked with clearing explosive hazards.
Economic and social-economic situation
The conflict, the impact of the blockade of the oil sector for much of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have further debilitated the already weak economic situation in the country. With the ceasefire agreement in place, oil production and exports rebounded, though the state of oil production infrastructure that has been neglected during the past decade of instability has hampered production.
The collapse of oil revenues strained the ability of the monetary and fiscal authorities to defend the country’s currency peg, and in December 2020, for the first time in five years, the board of directors of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL), agreed to devalue the currency, setting the Libyan Dinar’s (LYD) value at 4.48 to the U.S. Dollar2. While the country’s liquidity crisis persists, particularly in eastern and southern parts of the country, there has been some improvement in 2021. With the abolishment of the foreign exchange tax in January 2021, the gap between the official and parallel market exchange rates has narrowed significantly. While the devaluation has improved macro-economic stability the adverse impact on purchasing power has been felt throughout the population, particularly affecting the most vulnerable. By June 2021, five months after the devaluation of the LYD, the cost of the minimum expenditure basket (MEB) reduced by 0.4 per cent from December 2020 to May 2021, despite a spike in certain imported goods, however it remains 13 per cent higher than pre-COVID-19 levels in March 20203.
At the start of the year, Libya, as elsewhere in the world, struggled with the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. A third wave of the pandemic in the second half of the year and the emergence of new variants, further exacerbated the already fragile health care facilities. A sharp increase by 660 per cent from June in the number of confirmed cases forced the Ministry of Health to declare a public health state of emergency.
A series of stringent restrictions were imposed across Libya, including a nightly curfew from 6pm to 6am, the suspension of all schools and universities, closure of borders, as well as the closing of summer resorts, parks, and public gardens.
With the national budget yet to be approved, the lack of sufficient funding impacted health facilities’ ability to remain fully operational, barely coping to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, with isolation centers and case management facilities overwhelmed and facing shortages in medical personnel and supplies, such as oxygen masks, oxygen tanks, medicine, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Health facilities across the country experienced temporary closures due to increasing transmission of COVID-19 among health workers, lack of PPE and other supplies. Of those remaining functioning, 880 per cent of public health care centers (PHC) did not have any of the essential medicines. As of end September, the Libyan National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) reported 340,084 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,651 deaths.
Libya’s enrolment in the Global Supply Portal for COVID-19 and the COVAX facility, as well as the deployment plan for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, was implemented by the Ministry of Health with support from the United Nations. The first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in April 2021 but saw limited distribution due to the slow rollout of the vaccination campaign, with few centers open and a mandatory online registration system further delaying the process. By July, efforts were put in place by the National Center for disease Control (NCDC) and the Ministry of Health to enhance vaccination campaigns with the opening of new vaccination centers across the country and abandonment of the mandatory online registration system.
Although more people are being vaccinated, the overall vaccination coverage remains low, with 18.5 per cent of the population having received the first dose by end September 2021, and only 2.8 per cent being fully vaccinated4. It is estimated that only 10 per cent of the high-risk population is vaccinated while 72 per cent are partially vaccinated. The vaccination of migrants and refugees started in some municipalities, with the NCDC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) beginning a targeted vaccination campaign for migrants and refugees at the end of September 2021. To date, a total of 4,199,390 vaccine doses were received in Libya, with 1,091,130 doses procured through the COVAX facility.
The cumulative positivity rate has remained at 19.1 per cent since October 2020, with 3,721 cases per 100,000 population, however it cannot be generalized for all regions. Southern Libya accounts for only 2.4 per cent of the total number of laboratory tests performed in the country but has an estimated positivity rate of 32-68 per cent. Similarly, eastern Libya accounts for only 4 per cent of the total number of laboratory tests performed in the country but has a positivity rate estimated between 18-30 per cent. Although the national testing numbers are relatively high, most of the testing for COVID-19 is concentrated in the west. Limited testing capacity in the south and east has likely led to significant under-reporting (only laboratory-confirmed cases are included in official statistics). Moreover, the mortality surveillance system is weak and disease surveillance in many locations is inadequate. These factors mask the true extent of COVID-19 in the country. Two variants of concern (VOCs): 202012/01 (B.1.1.7) and 501Y.v2
(B.1.351) have been detected in the country. Although, Libya has not reported an official confirmation of the Delta variant, its existence is likely because of its circulation in neighboring Tunisia and Algeria.