In a ‘‘Joint statement’’ yesterday, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the U.S.A gave their strong support to an earlier statement by UNSMIL on the reconstruction response to Libya’s flood-affected areas.
The statement read: ‘‘We strongly support the SRSG’s call for a unified Libyan national mechanism coordinated with local, national and international partners that can deliver transparent and accountable relief and responds to the reconstruction needs in the wake of flood disaster.’’
UNSMIL’s statement of the same day read: ‘‘Following his visit to Derna on 16 September and his interaction with many Libyans, including people of the areas affected by the floods in eastern Libya, relevant local and national authorities, and Libya’s international partners, SRSG Abdoulaye Bathily is concerned about the emergence of unilateral and competing initiatives from various Libyan actors and institutions on the reconstruction of Derna and other flood-affected areas. These unilateral efforts are counterproductive, deepen the existing divisions in the country, impede reconstruction efforts, and are at odds with the outpouring of solidarity, support and national unity shown by Libyan people from all corners of the country in response to the crisis.
A unified national mechanism is required to effectively and efficiently take forward the reconstruction efforts in the flood-affected areas. The reconstruction process should proceed, speedily, based on a credible, independent, and objective assessment of the damage and needs, professionally determined cost estimates, and transparent contracting and procurement processes. The Libyan people have expressed their concerns about arbitrary cost estimates and unilateral reconstruction initiatives announced without transparency and buy-in from all relevant authorities and stakeholders.
UNSMIL calls on all relevant Libyan national and local authorities and Libya’s international partners to facilitate agreement on a unified and coordinated Libyan national mechanism to direct the recovery and reconstruction efforts and to ensure transparency and accountability, based on an objective assessment of the situation and needs on the ground. The example of the High Financial Committee shows that Libyan leaders and institutions can come together to take important decisions and address issues of national concern, including through existing platforms.
SRSG Abdoulaye Bathily urges Libya’s leaders to rise above divisions and come together to agree on a unified response to the reconstruction needs. The impact of Storm Daniel also underscores the imperative to expedite negotiations on breaking the political stalemate. The SRSG therefore looks forward to receiving the revised draft electoral laws, and to facilitating an urgent discussion among the main Libyan stakeholders to reach a political settlement of all contested issues and agree on a pathway to elections in keeping with the aspirations of the Libyan people.’’
Richard Norland’s 29 September statement
Both the Joint Statement and UNSMIL’s statement followed on from U.S. Special Envoy Richard Norland’s statement on 29 September. That statement read:
‘‘Ensuring Libya’s Resources go to Flood Recovery and Reconstruction.
Special Envoy Ambassador Norland: “Libyans affected by the flood are struggling to rebuild their lives even as they cope with unimaginable personal loss. As focus on reconstruction increases, Libyans need to be assured public funds are used transparently, accountably, and that assistance goes to those in need.
The international community is preparing to assist in this effort with financial and technical expertise. First, the Libyans must establish the structures that bring authorities from across the country together to agree on priority expenditures and ensure funds are efficiently and properly allocated. We urge Libyan authorities now to form such unified structures – rather than launching separate efforts – that represent the Libyan people without delay.
A proposal to hold a reconstruction conference in Benghazi on October 10 would be much more effective if it were conducted jointly and inclusively in coordination with institutions that manage resources and funding taking into account the best interests of the Libyan people. Such coordination is essential to ensure flood victims receive the support they need. The United States will continue to work with Libyan officials across the country and with the UN to support a reconstruction program that Libyans will have confidence in.”
Reconstruction conference postponed until 1 November
Norland’s 29 September statement was then followed by an announcement by the Supreme Preparatory Committee for the ‘‘International Conference for the Reconstruction of the City of Derna and the Affected Cities and Regions” on 1 October in which it postponed the conference from 10 October to 1-2 November.
The announcement said this postponement was in order ‘‘to provide the opportunity for international and local companies to present their studies and projects for reconstruction’’.
Carrots and sticks
The outbreak of statements by the international community sent several messages to the Libyan authorities in the west and east. They came in anticipation of the reconstruction conference being held by the eastern-based Libyan government in the east. The statements led to the conference being postponed. The west were not ready to attend/participate and maybe contribute financially directly or indirectly until they understood the terms and conditions.
Aid comes with strings
Reconstructing Derna is not going to be cheap. Aid comes with strings. The international community wish to continue to recognise only one Libyan government: the government based in Tripoli headed by Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba.
Using aid for political leverage
The reconstruction conference offered an opportunity to leverage financial aid into encouraging the Libyan political entities to unify. The recent unification of the Central Bank of Libya has its distractors, but it is seen as a model and hope for further unification.
Transparency and accountability for any Western-backed aid
The international community are saying to the eastern military strong man, Khalifa Hafter, House of Representatives Speaker, Ageela Saleh and their eastern-based government that there is a price for aid. There needs to be transparency and accountability for any Western-approved financial aid, but also political unity.
West does not want its aid to bankroll Wagner
Moreover, following Hafter’s visit to Moscow recently, the West are keen to end Hafter’s relationship with Moscow and Wagner. The West do not want their money ending up in the personal accounts of eastern-based political and military elites. Nor do they want it ending up bankrolling Wagner’s operations in eastern Libya.