North Africa, West Asia

The Libyan GNA: the rise and impending fall of the Libyan political agreement

A viable Libyan state that will restore normalcy and security to the daily lives of its citizens must be given the same priority as the international community’s immediate desire to combat Daesh. 

Azza K. Maghur
5 July 2016

US Secretary of State John Kerry greets Libya's Vice President of Parliament Emhemed Shoaib at UN, Oct., 2015. Kevin Hagen/Press Association. All rights reserved.After a year of intensive dialogue and shuttle diplomacy, an agreement between Libyan rivals was finally secured by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), culminating in the Libyan Political Agreement (PA) signed last December.  The following month, it was ratified by Libya’s House of Representatives (HoR). 

However, the Libyan legislature fell short in completing its duties by failing to take the next two pivotal steps required to legally activate the PA. First, it was supposed to promulgate the constitutional amendment that gives the PA the necessary legal force to be part of the Libyan Constitutional Declaration and second, it was to hold the required confidence vote on the new government proposed by the Presidency Council appointed by the agreement. 

After repeated attempts, a proper legislative session to complete these two tasks was never held. The result is a peculiar situation wherein an agreement has been adopted by opposing Libyan factions and recognized by the international community (Security Council resolution 2259/2015), but has not been enforced in the country.

From its inception, the PA was designed to create a new system of governing bodies and procedures to manage the remainder of the transitional period in Libya, based on separation of powers and the principle of checks and balances. It clearly identifies the Government of National Accord (GNA), a new executive authority with wide-ranging powers as the international community’s only counterpart and channel for providing support, and assistance to Libya.

This has been repeatedly underscored by statements from key international governments. It was hoped the GNA would serve as the rallying saviour of a country plagued by polarization, collapsing state institutions and militia-rule.   

The international community, eager to see the GNA in place, has rushed the process at the expense of faithfully adhering to the PA, consequently putting the PA at risk of failure. After all, the Presidency Council and its leadership are only one component of the GNA, and the GNA cannot legally function without a vote of confidence by the HoR. And while the HoR is under the obligation to execute and fulfil its mandate in accordance with the PA that it ratified, the GNA can only be activated as a government once its ministers are confirmed. The two are inherently interdependent under the PA.

A binding legal agreement is meaningless if the parties to it are not fulfilling their obligations as outlined and in good faith. Bending its perameters or omission of rules cannot be considered a valid response to challenges that arise. As it stands, the PA is facing setbacks that threaten its very core.

In addition to the HoR’s inability to carry out its responsibilities, there is also the boycott of two members of the Presidency Council, which controverts the requirement of unanimity in its decisions (article 8:2). The announcement of the establishment of the Council of State was in complete violation of the PA’s relevant articles. More importantly, there is a failure to implement the interim security arrangements mentioned in article (34) with the support of the international community.  

Despite the Presidency Council’s presence in Tripoli, the security situation in Libya is more precarious than ever, with militias still holding the capital and its population hostage. The international community may have the ability to exert pressure on parties to form an agreement and they certainly did in Libya. But as we see this will not necessarily lead to its successful implementation, especially when they are not abiding by its stipulations and fulfilling their roles accordingly.  

The above-listed obstacles must be addressed tangibly by the international community in order for Libya to move forward in any meaningful way. It is time for world powers to take ownership of the PA they pushed so strongly for as the only solution for Libya and create the conditions for it to be properly executed.  

Continuing the dialogue, applying more pressure on the different players, and the prevention of foreign meddling in Libyan affairs are a few key starting points.

Recent western allies’ praise for Libyan efforts to fight Daesh in Sirte under the banner of the Presidency Council ring hollow as ordinary Libyans continue to suffer. Thus, establishing a viable Libyan state that will restore normalcy and security to the daily lives of its citizens must be given the same priority as the international community’s immediate desire to combat Daesh or to stem illegal migration.  

The robust engagement of international allies and the preservation of the integrity of the PA in its execution are not just in the interest of the Libyan people, they are part and parcel of any successful strategy intended to ensure the security of the wider region. At this point, the PA will undoubtedly require further dialogue and major repairs for the breaches it has sustained so early on. The messy house that is Libyan politics needs quite a bit of tidying up before it can receive any guests. 

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