Libya: Briefing Note for the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General(DSRSG)/Resident Coordinator (RC)/ Humanitarian Coordinator (HC), Maria Ribeiro Security Council’s Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security
Excellencies Ambassadors of Sweden, Peru, and the UK, Co-Chairs of the Security Council’s Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security;
Colleagues, Expert-level representatives of Security Council members, UN Women, OSRSG-Sexual Violence in Conflict, DPA, OHCHR, UNICEF, OCHA, UNFPA, UNDP, PBSO, CTED, OSRSG- Children and Armed Conflict in New York;
Colleagues, Heads of UNSMIL Sections and UN Agenise here in Tunis.
Allow me, first and foremost, to thank the co-chairs for giving the UN in Libya the opportunity to brief you who are responsible for the oversight and coordination of the UNSCR 2242 on Women, Peace and Security.
I am joined by colleagues from UNSMIL and the UNCT and we will be happy to engage and discuss with you.
Resolution 2376, extending UNSMIL’s mandate, specifically urged the ‘full and equal participation of women’ in the democratic transition and called on UNSMIL to take fully into account a gender perspective to fulfil its mandate.
In his brief to the Security council in March of this year, SRSG Salame emphasised the importance of an inclusive process to bring all Libyans around a common national narrative. He also referred to how an economy of predation, that maintains, the political status quo is adversely affecting the lives of Libyans, women and youth being the first victims. Ensuring women are fully part of writing this new national narrative and ensuring their full participation in public domain in Libya as well as addressing from a gender perspective the effects of economic deterioration and the perverse system of impunity underline the action of UN family in Libya.
We are seeing a positive trend in women’s engagement in various political and social processes throughout the country since the revolution. By playing a key role in the 2011 revolution and embarking, alongside their male compatriots, on a journey to build the new Libya, women across the country, regenerated their legitimacy and positioned themselves as partners.
Today, the Government of National Accord has three women in decision-making roles, including a State Minister of Women’s Affairs and Community Development, the Minister of Social Affairs and the Minister of Institutional Reform.
This amounts to 16% in of ministerial positions – only half of the 30% representation that Libyan women’s networks are demanding in nationwide campaigns.
Of the 9 members of the Presidency Council (PC), there are no women.
Thanks to women’s organizations and UN advocacy, the Presidency Council signed a decree in September 2016 to establish a Women’s Support and Empowerment Unit, that reports to the Prime Minister and is in the process of recruiting a Chair and a Deputy Chair for the Unit. Women also advocated successfully with the Ministries of Education, Labour, and Economy o establish similar units. This to ensure gender mainstreaming throughout Libyan institutions.
Also today, more and more women are involved in local and national reconciliation efforts and indeed in national dialogues and political processes.
As part of the National Reconciliation Project funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund and supported by UNDP, UNSMIL facilitated four local dialogues leading to the signing of local reconciliation agreements between tribes or communities previously in conflict. This included a women-only dialogue between Awlad Suleiman and Qaddadfa in Tripoli on 7 November 2017.
Women representatives were part of the joint drafting committee for the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) amendment process convened by UNSMIL.
Women from all regions of Libya reviewed the draft constitutional proposal from a gender perspective, facilitated by UNSMIL. This month, they will present their recommendations the House of Representatives and the High Council of State.
The organisation of elections in 2018 is a critical aspect of the UN Action Plan, provided other political conditions are in place. Here, drawing the lessons from 2012 and 2014, HNEC and UNSMIL have pushed for increased registration of women during the recently completed registration exercise. Indeed, women account for around 45% of newly registered voters. Women need to be encouraged not only to register and vote but also to be candidates.
Yet, the participation of women in the election remains a challenge. A nationwide survey found that only 55 per cent of women were likely to take part in the next elections, compared to 80 per cent of men.
Libyan women have been advocating for a quota system in public representation. Interestingly, a recent survey suggests an increased support for this and for women as political leaders (Public Opinion
In 2015, 38 Libyan women from all regions of Libya met in Geneva and drafted for the first time, the Women” Agenda for Peace. The Peace Agenda was inspired by their own experiences. It gave the impetus for women to build networks and actions to ensure women’s participation. This year, on International Woman’s day, the Libya is Peace campaign was launched by women’s groups, nationwide to promote community-based organizations to spread the culture of peace and peaceful co-existence.
Convinced of the importance of dialogue to achieve sustainable peace, a group of women experts and academics from Benghazi who participated in drafting the Peace Agenda, are meeting with the legislation committee of the Higher State Council to share with them proposed legislation related to gender.
However, a backdrop of continued violence and localized conflicts persists in Libya and women are often the first victims.
The spread of arms, and armed groups, landmines, and terrorism expose women to displacement, violence and sufferings that limit their economic and social wellbeing and safety. It limits their freedom of movement and action.
Women bear the brunt of the breakdown of the economy and access to services, especially in their role as carers for their families. This is exemplified, for example, by the increase in maternal mortality as we saw in the Sebha region last year.
In certain areas, we have also seen that gains are being threatened. Prior to the political crisis that started in 2011, Libya had one of the highest school enrolment rates in the Middle East and North African region. Countrywide it was almost universal with no significant gender disparity.
Libya has not yet enacted any specific legislation for the punishment of and protection from domestic violence. While the Penal Code does address some forms of gender-based violence, the state’s accountability to protect women by preventing violence and punishing violators is impeded by a Penal Code which exonerates a rapist if he marries the survivor of his acts.
The main challenge is the lack of public awareness and capacity to address conflict-related sexual violence and more so when committed against migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. Another inhibiting challenge is the prevailing climate of impunity and power exercised by armed groups.
14% of survey respondents in a recent UNFPA study perceive that sexual violence in Libya is highly prevalent while 49% reported marriage of an individual younger than 20 years as common and 34% that physical assault is very common.
The plight of women migrant, refugee and asylum seeker is of concern. Evidence from IOM and UNHCR data indicate the persistent use of threats and actual sexual violence against women during the migratory journey, in detention centres, at the hands of traffickers and guards.
Local NGOs in Sabha reported that up to 10% of women smuggled or trafficked are under 18 years with numerous reports of forced labour and prostitution.
For our part, the UN is addressing violence against women through direct interventions working with the GNA, Libyan women’s organizations and local and international NGOs in all regions.
In the UN Humanitarian Response plan, protection, especially of women including migrants, is a central priority. This includes provision of psycho-social and the streamlining of referral mechanisms to ensure effective response to the needs of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. UNSMIL has intervened in individual cases of victims of sexual violence, arbitrary detention, providing psychosocial support and securing their release as well as providing other needed assistance.
We need to make it clear that there is no impunity around GBV and that the Government of National Accord be held to account to take the necessary measures to address conflict related sexual violence in Libya. This includes, the prosecution of perpetrators and impartial and full investigations.
The UN is working to strengthen the capacities of Libyan institutions at all levels, thereby ensuring accountability, transparency, creating economic opportunities and the provision of quality social services, especially health and education responsive to the specific needs of women and girls. We will continue to engage with our Libyan partners to address vulnerability and participation gaps and encourage economic recovery on the road to a diversified and inclusive economic model.
This is reflected in the recently validated ‘UN Strategic Framework for 2019–2020 that focuses on youth, women and the most vulnerable groups in the areas of governance and rule of law, restoration of basic services and economic recovery.
We are determined to continue listening to Libyan women across the country. UNSMIL is working with partners on a truly inclusive consultative process to lay the foundation for the national conference. Libyan women are participating and thus drawing the national narrative and future vision for a prosperous, stable and well-functioning country.
We are committed to the implementation of UNSCRs resolutions on Women peace and security. Starting in June, we are Libyan officials to begin the process of developing a national action plan for the implementation of UNSCR1325.
Libyan women have come a long way. But there is still a long way to go. The revolution brought the opportunity for greater freedoms and true participation of women. It is the UN’s role as as per UNSC resolutions to ensure that Libyan women can take their rightful place as peacebuilders in a democratic and stable country.
Lastly, allow me to urge you and other member states to support Libyan women by providing financial and technical resources for the Humanitarian Response Plan and the much needed political support to the UN SRSG’s Action Plan for Libya.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).