Building security: How Europeans can help reform Libya

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Publication Date February 2022
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Since 2011, divided governance structures in Libya have weakened the state’s monopoly on the use of force, as have the proliferation of armed groups and their gradual infiltration of security institutions across the country. One of the persistent errors of disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration in Libya is the assumption that combatants can be bought off. Another is the assumption that security sector reform (SSR) depends on the right personalities rather than systems and processes.

Europeans’ short-term stabilisation imperatives – notoriously, those related to migration and counter-terrorism – have repeatedly led to reactive policymaking that only deepens instability. For Europeans to play a meaningful SSR role, they will need a shared strategy and operational principles. But they will also need to recognise that they will initially have limited room for manoeuvre and that this will be a medium- to long-term effort. In the short term, Europeans should support the establishment of a Libyan-owned SSR body that can lead nationwide efforts in conjunction with UN diplomacy. This should be accompanied by a greater focus on strengthening bottom-up security initiatives that can help stabilise the country and restore European influence.

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