Resolving the Libyan conflict: Twelve years of failure

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This article is featured in Orient IV/2023.

This article sheds light on the mediation that the international community and the United Nations have been attempting in Libya ever since the Arab spring reached this Arab North African country in 2011, only to be plagued by conflict and episodes of civil war, violence, human rights violations and foreign meddling. The author examines these efforts and assesses the role of the supranational organisation in conflict mediation, drawing lessons and conclusions that are valid for the entire MENA region and beyond. While mediation efforts continue unabated, the Libyan crisis seems to defy resolution. Reasons behind the failure could easily be identified by resorting to cliches that echo the orientalist tradition referring to the crisis and the failures to Libya’s lack of state and national identity. However, this article argues that the various mediation efforts failed because of their inherent deficiencies and the destructive effect of foreign powers’ rivalry, particularly between UNSC permanent members. At both the national and international levels, consensus has most frequently been hindered by conflicting foreign interests.

Youssef Mohammad Sawani is Professor of Politics and International Relations at the Department of Political Science at the University of Tripoli, Libya, where he has been engaged in teaching, research and other academic activities since 1985. For years, he was Director General and Director of Studies at the Center for Arab Unity Studies in Beirut, and was the editor-in-chief of its Al Mustaqbal Al-Arabi monthly journal. Between 2016-2021, he worked as the editor of Contemporary Arab Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal published by University of California Press. He is affiliated to a number of international entities, NGOs and research centres, and works as a consultant for a number of local and international institutions. He has also participated in and organised many seminars and conferences, and frequently publishes in the English and Arabic languages. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.

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