Post-revolutionary Libya has been subject to violent competition, fragmentation and the breakdown of effective governance. Centralized political authority remained in some form following the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime but collapsed in 2014 when rival governments emerged. The internationally-backed Government of National Accord has been unable to function as the unity government it was envisaged to be. The fragmented security scene further complicates the picture, as a wide array of ar
med groups control territory. There is consequently no state monopoly on the use of violence and the prospects of developing a unified national force remain distant. The rival governments have been unable to provide many basic public services, with budget deficits increasing as the state payroll becomes ever more bloated. This affects the daily lives of millions of Libyans in a multitude of ways, from electricity blackouts to a liquidity crisis.
Libya’s breakdown has created dangerous ripple effects elsewhere. The ongoing instability and continued presence of fighters are of grave concern to regional players like Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria. The crisis in Libya also risks exacerbating existing conflicts in Libya’s Southern neighbours Sudan and Chad, as well as in the Sahel. Libya has become a hub for irregular migration into Europe. In 2016 alone, more than 180,000 migrants were detected attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean route along which Libya is the main departure country.3 And while flows declined significantly since mid-2017, Libya remains a key transit country and crossings could spike again. Political and material support for local groups from international actors continues to contribute to instability. Despite shared Western interests in stabilizing Libya, attempts to bridge the governance split and to reform the security sector have thus far failed. To be more effective in the future, Western actors must align their policies more closely.
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