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The Situation in Libya: Reflections on Challenges and Ways Forward (June 2022)

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The Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) by the end of July 2022. The current mandate, adopted in March 2022, was a technical rollover of the previous mandate for the fourth consecutive time.

Deliberations on UNSMIL's mandate are unfolding amid a protracted political impasse. Since March, renewed competition between the two rival executives---the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) and the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU)---has paralyzed the UN-endorsed framework that emerged from the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. This competition among elites has also drawn attention away from the underlying drivers of violence and insecurity and caused the political, security, economic, and human rights situations to deteriorate. The special adviser of the UN secretary-general on Libya is leading track-1 facilitation efforts in the hope of bringing the two competing power centers to an agreement over the path forward for elections that were scheduled to take place in December 2021. The Security Council will also have to reach a consensus on a new special representative of the secretary-general to lead UNSMIL and replace UN Special Adviser Stephanie Williams, who is set to leave her post at the end of June.

In this context, the International Peace Institute (IPI), the Stimson Center, and Security Council Report co-hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on June 9, 2022, to reflect on the UN's strategic role as an international partner in Libya and identify the UN's comparative advantages and limitations with its current mandate. Participants also considered scenarios for the trajectory of Libya's political process as well as the state of security, human rights, and the economy.

Participants agreed that the UN continues to be an important partner to Libya and that UNSMIL's mandate is broad and flexible enough to enable continued engagement. Nonetheless, the current political stalemate, the uncertain trajectory of various mediation tracks, human rights and humanitarian concerns, and the upcoming expiration of UNSMIL's mandate underscore the importance of recalibrating international support to the country. To that end, several points were raised for consideration by the UN Security Council and UNSMIL.

Key considerations for UNSMIL's mandate renewal


  • Acknowledge the comparative advantages and limitations of UN engagement in Libya.

  • Clearly articulate and better communicate its strategic priorities and desired "end state." - Focus on fostering cohesion among dialogue initiatives and holding Libyan stakeholders accountable for following through on their commitments.

  • Sustain meaningful engagement with a broad array of civil society organizations.

  • Develop a more holistic approach to its mandate by focusing on economic issues and mainstreaming human rights in all aspects of its work.

To the Security Council and broader UN membership:

  • Continue prioritizing Libya and ensure consistency between stated positions and actions.

  • Provide UNSMIL more funding and staffing to engage on economic issues and mainstream human rights.

  • Support the renewal of the mandate of the International Fact-Finding Mission on Libya.

  • Ensure a speedy transition to the new UN special representative of the secretary-general for UNSMIL.

Security Council Report: For more information, please visit the Security Council Report website