The UN's plan for Libya

A reporter at Inner City Press got his hands on the United Nation's blueprint for its post-conflict involvement in Libya.

By , Staff writer

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    Rebel fighters patrol the road near the village of Heisha, some 38 miles east from Misrata, LIbya, Tuesday, Aug. 30.
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On Friday, Mathew Russell Lee, who covers the United Nations for the Inner City Press got a pretty nifty scoop: The United Nations blueprint for "post-conflict" deployment to Libya drawn up by Ian Martin, a British national who has held senior human rights and transitional government roles for the UN from Rwanda to East Timor to Nepal.

Mr. Lee headed to a UN afternoon briefing and asked for comment on what he had – "we won't comment on an internal report" was more or less the response – and banged out a story on the highlights.

He even published the full document, as well as the longer "Consolidated Report of the Integrated Pre-assessment Process for Libya Post-Conflict Planning" written by Dirk Vandewalle, a Dartmouth professor of government and a Libya specialist.

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But with New York battening down the hatches for tropical storm (née hurricane) Irene and press attention elsewhere, most of us missed it.

Lee says the document was passed to him by some UN folks who thought it was "presumptuous" and "doesn’t have the kind of self-effacing multilateral advise-and-consent" tone you'd expect from a UN document.

Of course, most UN plans don't survive contact with the people they propose to help (to borrow from the Prussian General Helmuth von Moltke), but Mr. Martin has been leading the group working on UN plans for post-Qaddafi Libya for months, and the "post-conflict" plan will probably serve as a good guide to UN efforts in the coming weeks and months as Libyan revolutionaries try to create a new order.

Here are the highlights of the post-conflict document as I see them. I'm going to read the much longer "Consolidated Report" this evening, and post stuff that jumps out at me from there tomorrow.

Security:

1. Martin's pretty worried about what he terms "military spoilers" – both rebels and members of Qaddafi's defeated army – under no clear "command and control." The document proposes unarmed UN military observers that might "act as some deterrence against ill-treatment of the former enemy by rogue elements." The fear for Qaddafi's fighters that if they lay down their arms they'll simply be shot is warranted, and is certainly worth addressing. Whether Libya's emerging new leaders will agree to them, is another matter. The current proposal is for "up to" 200 unarmed observers. The document also says that an "interim protection force" may be needed for the observers, and that two states (doesn't say which ones) have been contacted about possibly supplying troops if requested.

2. The document implies, without directly saying so, that a situation in which foreign peacekeepers would be required. "If the stabilization of Tripoli after the collapse of the Qaddafi regime becomes such a major challenge that the transitional authorities seek more robust international assistance, this is a task clearly beyond the capacity of the UN," it says. "The Security Council's 'protection of civilians' mandate implemented by NATO does not end with the fall of the Qaddafi government and, therefore, NATO would continue to have some responsibilities."

3. Martin's team is also thinking about UN police, if asked to provide them by interim figures. The document suggests that 78 UN police officers could be in Libya within 45 days, and 190 after three months.

Politics:

4. The document has lots of boilerplate calling for transparent and inclusive government, protection of human rights, and warns against purges of government officials beyond those implicated in crimes (a crucial point given the experience in Iraq). The UN wants a constitution written under the authority of a "Provisional National Congress" that, it estimates, could be elected in six to nine months of the transition starting. That sounds like a very fast timetable, particularly for a country that has almost no electoral apparatus of its own, no recent experience of political parties, and little practical experience in freely choosing leaders. The UN also wants the constitutional drafting body "fully representative of all segments in Libyan society, including women." This implies that the UN will be pushing for quotas, as does another section which says an electoral law to written by the provisional council should consider "seat allocation/female quote/minority representation."

5. The document says that 40,000 "registration and polling staff" will have to be recruited and trained to make elections work.

Economy:

6. "Leading roles on economic recovery are expected to be taken by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, together with the European Union and leading bilateral actors," the document says. It calls for "immediate action" to end sanctions and unfreeze Libyan assets abroad. Not surprisingly it says resuming oil production is "the most critical element of economic recovery" and envisages a role for the UN Development Program in "by facilitating the participation of youth and women in the recovery process through vocational training, involvement of civil society and women's groups."

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