Editor’s note: Blair Glencorse is an expert on governance and development. He was selected as member of the Transatlantic Network 2020 and as a UN Alliance of Civilizations Fellow for the Middle-East and North Africa. You can follow him on Twitter @blairglencorse.
By Blair Glencorse - Special to CNN
The fighting in Libya is coming to an end, but years of dictatorship, repression and brutal violence have left very deep social, economic and political divides within Libyan society. The extent of these problems is only just becoming clear as attention turns from war fighting to post-war reconstruction.
The West feels the urge to support a better future for the Libyan people as it should - both because it is in our interests and is the right thing to do - but if past experience is any guide, our efforts will hurt as much as help this process.
From Kosovo to Afghanistan to Sudan, post-conflict development efforts by well-meaning people have been plagued by a host of problems that have ranged from a focus on the wrong goals to the use of the wrong tools. Therefore, it is worth thinking through at this point how we can avoid the pitfalls of the past in Libya. Here are four thoughts on immediate tasks:
1. Support rule of law. Do this through intelligent use of international forces. In the long-term the UN may need to deploy troops (hopefully from Arab and other non-Western countries), but in the short-term Europe has soldiers that could be assigned to protect key Libyan infrastructure, networks and organizations. European Union troops did a great job in Lebanon in 2006 and the EU indicated several months ago its willingness to support a mission of this sort. The rule of law also involves building legal systems quickly. Experience shows that carefully structured incentives for soldiers to give up their arms - and the use of armed police and legal and judicial experts to support due process - will be important.
2. Generate trust. The Transitional National Council (TNC) has declared itself as the only legitimate representative body for the Libyan people and is now recognized by 79 countries. Internally, however, its leaders are already showing signs of disagreement on key issues and different factions are emerging. Trust is the key issue here and the international community can help to build confidence between these groups in a variety of ways. One idea is to make sure that a concrete process is laid out ahead of time for the transition - such as the formation of a transitional government, elections, national consultations and agreement on a new constitution - so political groups become tied into a clear timeline and understand the way forward. This prevents them from taking up weapons again. Countries like Mozambique and Sierra Leone have carried out these types of processes and we should learn from them.
3. Move beyond relief. Thousands of Libyans are suffering from lack of vital necessities including drinking water and medical supplies. It is critical that we mobilize all possible help for these people through the relevant agencies and relief organizations. At the same time, it must be recognized that this has to be a short-term solution and planning should begin as soon as possible for the hand-over of responsibilities to a new, representative Libyan government. Too often, in too many similar contexts, humanitarian organizations operate without exit strategies. In Sudan, for example, many have been doing the same work for 30 years. At this point they may be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
4. Create institutions. Gadhafi tried to create a “stateless society” in Libya, but it is a functioning government that the country needs the most. This is not a financial problem. And aid flows from the West, handed out by numerous agencies, are not the solution. Libya is a wealthy country - what it requires is support for institutions that can allow for transparent spending that benefits its people. The UN appointed a Special Advisor on Post-Conflict Planning several months ago, but the UN is not the relevant organization to deal with these financial issues. For this, appropriate experts from the World Bank should be brought in immediately to quickly build Libyan capacity to manage money and monitor results.
Other issues require simultaneous thought and attention, of course - from oil management to job creation to Libya’s relations with its neighbors - but immediate emphasis on the ideas above would provide a solid basis for the transition. Ultimately, this has to be a Libyan process carried out by Libyan people. It cannot and should not be led by the international community. Avoiding the mistakes of the past is the very least we can do for the Libyan people.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Blair Glencorse.