What is urgently needed is the political will to break the protracted political stalemate and achieve progress on multiple fronts”, UN Secretary General António Guterres said at the recent meeting of the High Level Committee on Libya, which took place in Addis Ababa.

Progress is really needed against holding elections and progress in security, national reconciliation and human rightshe said, adding that the UN continues to engage in Libyan-owned and Libyan-led solutions.

Priority action areas

Noting that the UN has been “fully committed to overcoming the misunderstandings of the past”, he outlined priority areas for action.

“We have no agenda and no goal but one: to secure the right of the Libyan people to live in peace, to vote in free and fair electionsand to share in the prosperity of their country,” he said.

The challenges are difficult. A UN human rights inquiry in late January included testimony of extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, human trafficking, internal displacement and the existence of mass graves.

Since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, who had led Libya since 1969, the oil-rich nation has struggled with several crises and rival administrations – a UN-recognised Government of National Accord, based in the capital Tripoli, and the so-called Libyan National Army based in the east.

“No Alternative to Choice”

In December 2021, legal disputes and other challenges forced the cancellation of historic presidential and parliamentary elections. To address this urgent issue, the Secretary-General said his Special Representative has engaged the Libyan parties and international partners. to agree on a constitutional basis for elections at the end of February.

“I share the growing frustration of the Libyan people,” the secretary-general said. “The The absence of elections exacerbates economic uncertainty, increases political instabilityrisks renewed conflict and raises the specter of division.”

But, without agreement, UNin close collaboration with key Libyan stakeholders, the African Union and international partners, should propose and pursue alternative mechanisms to find solutions, he said.

“There is no alternative to elections,” he said. “They remain the only credible path to legitimate, unified governance.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the African Union High Level Committee on Libya.

© UNECA/Daniel Getachew

UN Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the African Union High Level Committee on Libya.

“Instrument of Hope”

Meanwhile, the 2020 ceasefire agreement continues to hold, he said, praising progress on security challenges. Efforts include work with “5+5” Joint Military Commissionconvened by his Special Representative, which represents “an instrument of hope for all Libyans”, he said, as well as the commitment and support of the African Union.

Withdraw foreign fighters

“The next priority for the Joint Military Commission must be the complete withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya,” he said, recalling that outside interference had fueled Libya’s descent into conflict.

Welcome recent meeting in Cairo between the military commission and representatives of Libya, Sudan and Nigerhe said the decision to establish a committee for coordination and information sharing marks “an important step towards greater stability and peace in Libya and the wider region”.

Progress towards national reconciliation is also a priorityhe said, pointing to the AU’s ongoing efforts to support an inclusive process.

Human Rights

He described serious human rights problems, he said migrants, refugees and asylum seekers continue to be abused with impunity. Thousands attempting to cross the Mediterranean are returned to Libya and detained in inhumane and degrading conditions with limited humanitarian aid, and thousands more are missing.

He repeated his call on all countries involved to respect the integrity of international refugee lawand for Libyan authorities to find rights-based alternatives to detention.

“The United Nations and the African Union – along with other key regional actors and organizations – must work together to support the Libyan people in realizing their legitimate aspirations for a more peaceful and prosperous future,” he said.