The past year has brought Libya several tangible developments that have benefitted the population including the most vulnerable. The cessation of major hostilities codified in the Ceasefire Agreement of October 2020, the subsequent resumption of oil exports at scale and the eventual opening of the coastal road in mid-2021 opened the door for people to resume their lives and livelihoods. The formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in March 2021 led to the reunification of some of Libya’s governmental institutions.
As the world entered a second year of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines become available, there was hope the worst was over.
Objective indicators demonstrated progress made, most notably a reduction by 36 per cent in the number of people requiring some form of humanitarian assistance, from 1.3 million to just over 800,000. In 2021, humanitarian partners reached more than 450,000 people in need, including displaced and conflict-affected Libyans, and migrants and refugees with assistance. Of the 278,000 Libyans internally displaced at the start of the year, almost one-third were able to return home as government and non-governmental partners undertook the dangerous work to remove mines and explosive devices left by the conflict, some paying the ultimate price to ensure the safety of others. As the number of IDPs decreases, so does the pace of returns as the remaining individuals and communities have concerns that go beyond housing, infrastructure, and explosive hazards to include personal safety and social cohesion.
Despite these trends, there was also reason for concern.
The continued political and institutional divisions in the country and the absence of an approved national budget resulted in limited improvements in basic service infrastructure and delivery, ranging from water and waste management, health care and education. The poor state of these services continues to be a driver of humanitarian needs and the requirement for sustained support. The prospects for renewed armed conflict were not erased by the ceasefire and the continued tension among power centers, lack of comprehensive national reconciliation and influence of foreign actors, including the continued presence of foreign armed fighters, threaten what is a fragile peace. Planned presidential and parliamentary elections present an opportunity, as well as a concern.
The refugee and migrant populations experienced more challenges in 2021. For people attempting to cross the Mediterranean, by mid-year, the number of those intercepted surpassed the total for all of 2020, with associated deaths and missing persons. Migrants who are returned to Libya face a system of arbitrary detention without due process under inhuman and degrading conditions, and are subjected to a range of human rights violations and abuses. Targeted roundups of migrants and refugees residing in Tripoli swelled the population in detention centers despite a lack of adequate space, services and access to life saving humanitarian assistance.
In view of the situation on the ground, the Humanitarian Country Team took the unprecedented decision to extend the existing Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for an additional five months to the end of May 2022.
This will allow for political and socio-economic developments to unfold and inform the nature and scope of any appeal going forward. It is with great thanks to the international donor community that we can say the 2021 Libya humanitarian appeal is one of the highest in terms of percentage funding in the world. It is imperative that this support is sustained through the initial five months of 2022 to support Libya’s most vulnerable people and the refugee and migrant populations that require assistance. For our part, UN and international NGO humanitarian partners will continue to deliver and remain vigilant in the face of any changes in the context and impact that has on peoples’ needs.
Georgette Gagnon Humanitarian Coordinator State of Libya
In 2021, humanitarian partners estimated 1.3 million people to be in need, of which 451,000 people were identified for targeted humanitarian assistance through the Libya Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). The response aimed to reach vulnerable people, assessed as those with the most severe needs due to a partial or total collapse of living standards and basic services, increased reliance on negative coping strategies, and widespread physical and mental harm. Affected populations in need of humanitarian assistance in the HRP included: internally displaced people (IDPs), non-displaced Libyans, returnees, and migrants and refugees, across all 22 mantikas in the country. UN and NGO partners reached nearly 99 per cent of the targeted population by end November 2021 and raised 73 per cent of the total US$189 million requested in funding from the donor community. The 2021 HRP focused on two strategic objectives aiming to prevent disease, reduce risks to physical and mental wellbeing, and strengthen the protection of civilians in accordance with international legal frameworks, as well as facilitate safe, equitable and dignified access to critical services and livelihoods.
Moving forward into 2022, while noting steady improvements to the humanitarian situation as evidenced through needs assessments and surveys, due to achievements on the political and security fronts, the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) agreed to extend the 2021 HRP programming into the first five months of 2022, from January to 31 May. The extension considered the changes in the situation in Libya with the number of people in need seeing a 36 per cent reduction in 2022, to 803,000 people in need from 1.3 million people in need identified in 2021. A recalculation of the target population estimates that 211,000 people will require humanitarian assistance for the first five months of 2022, representing specifically the revised target for people in severe need encompassing the HRP extension. The 211,000 people most in need includes: 56,000 IDPs; 18,000 returnees; 52,000 nondisplaced; 41,000 migrants; and 43,000 refugees.
A total of $75.3 million is required for humanitarian programming into 2022 until the end of May. As the overall situation improves and progress towards early recovery and humanitarian-development nexus building gains momentum, the HRP extension allows the humanitarian community to evaluate and monitor developments on the ground to determine the scale and scope of any future appeal. Should there be any reversals in the political or security context, the humanitarian community is well placed to adjust accordingly.
Protection remains at the core of the humanitarian response in Libya. In addition to specific protection activities and services, a Centrality of Protection approach aims to ensure protection is integral across all interventions, ensuring a response that seeks to reduce protection risks while addressing needs. For internally displaced persons, work has begun on developing a strategy on IDP durable solutions, as part of the Centrality of Protection Framework to accelerate the voluntary, safe, and sustainable return of displaced communities, or their local integration, in collaboration with the Ministry of State of Displaced Affairs and Human Rights. For refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, improvements in the overall humanitarian situation did not result in significant changes as the number of persons held in arbitrary detention, either having been returned from attempts to cross the sea to Europe or subject to targeted security operations, increased significantly throughout the year, from 1,100 in January to nearly 6,000 in August to more than 10,000 during the October security crackdown and standing at 5,738 at the end of November. Human rights violations and abuses, and crimes including sexual and gender-based violence, torture, extortion, forced labor and exploitation, and forced evictions against the migrant and refugee population are widespread in Libya, representing substantial risks to the migrant and refugee population, particularly for women and girls.
Capacity-building for national counterparts is a commonly agreed priority for all sectors and will be a key component of activities, as partners move forward with facilitating recovery and development processes, while ensuring that the underlying drivers for needs decrease. Similarly, focus on improved evidence-based planning and response through better data collection and analysis will continue. Coordination at all levels will be targeted to support services, such as logistics, and ensuring a more people-centered and accountable response through support to the inter-agency Common Feedback Mechanism (CFM).
Response modalities will include in-kind assistance and service support, as well as conditional and unconditional cash assistance. Multi-sector response approaches, such as the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), will strengthen intersectoral complementarity and maintain the flexibility and speed in humanitarian response required in Libya’s operating environment. Response approaches are also built around key thematic areas of intervention or geographical locations of people in need, such as health and education facilities, area of displacement and detention centers.