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Expert meeting

Exchanges on the Middle East III| Libya: Prospects for National Reconciliation

  • Claudia Gazzini
  • Tarik Mitri
  • Youssef Sawani
Friday 8 December 2017
Application before 29 November is required
Kamerlingh Onnes Building
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden

Exchanges on the Middle East III | Libya: Prospects for National Reconciliation

Over six years after the 2011 February Uprising that ended Gaddafi’s dictatorship, Libya has become a deeply troubled country. Subsequent governments failed to deliver on their objectives of building a unified, secure, capable, democratic and just state. Yet, neither the Libyan people nor the international community would like to see Libya fail as a state. For most Libyans this is obvious. The international community is concerned about the humanitarian situation as well as Libya being a source of instability and a safe haven for migrant smugglers and extremist groups.

About the expert meeting

In this expert meeting, experts on Libya from academia, NGO’s, journalism and civil service will engage in a lively discussion with Claudia Gazzini, Tarik Mitri and Youssef Sawani.

The workshop will be in English, participation is free. We have only a limited number of seats available. In order to guarantee the quality of this expert meeting you are required to apply before 29 November at lucis@hum.leidenuniv.nl! You are kindly requested to send us an email in which you:

  • identify yourself: who are you, of what does your expertise on Libya consist?
  • motivate why you want to attend the expert meeting

As preparation for the expert meeting, experts are invited to attend the lectures and panel discussion which will take place on the evening before 7 December 2017 at 19.30-21:30 hours at De Rode Hoed, Keizersgracht 102, 1015 CV Amsterdam.

Participating Experts

Claudia Gazzini

Claudia Gazzini holds a PhD in Middle Eastern History from Oxford University, and was a researcher at the European University Institute in Florence and a visiting fellow at the Northwestern University. Her academic research on Libya has been published in various outlets, including the Middle East Report and the Arab Media and Society journal. She served as senior analyst for Libya for the International Crisis Group from 2012 to 2017, before joining UNSMIL as policy advisor to the current Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Ghassan Salamé.

Tarek Mitri

Tarek Mitri received his PhD in political science from the University of Paris X, and was a lecturer at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. His main areas of interest include the history and sociology of Christian-Muslim relations. He held several ministerial positions in Lebanon, including Minister of Culture and Minister of Foreign Affairs. From 2012 to 2014, he was the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). He currently serves as the Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Relations at the American University of Beirut. 

Youssef Sawani

Youssef Sawani is Professor of Politics and International Relations at Tripoli University. He was Director of the Qadhafi Foundation before resigning in February 2011 to join the uprising. He is a member of the board of trustees of the Institute for Arab Unity Studies, and editor of the journal Contemporary Arab Affairs. His publications include ‘The February 17 Intifada in Libya: disposing of the regime and the issues of state-building,’ in Ricardo Laremont (ed), Revolution, Revolt and Reform in North Africa (Routledge, 2013).

National reconciliation in Libya?

National reconciliation appears to be the key precondition for state-building and pursuing the abovementioned objectives, but is hampered by a number of core problems:

  • Libyan society is divided by several political, social and military fault lines;
  • there is a lack of consensus among major political actors about several major governance issues;
  • there is no united army or police force due to the existence of armed groups which for different reasons maintained their autonomy and refuse to hand over their arms and be incorporated in legitimate national army and police forces;
  • external powers, by either supporting one party or another, exacerbate existing divisions. 

Still, most actors recognize that the only future for Libya lies in national political agreement and reconciliation. Processes of national dialogue have seen some successes too. On 17 December 2015 the international community and many Libyans welcomed the new UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), which detailed a sensible course of action. Since then, its implementation has been challenged, amongst others by the elected House of Representatives (Tobruk) and General Hafter. On 17 December 2017 the LPA is to expire.

On the eve of the expiration of the LPA, this series of encounters will address the regional, political, religious, and tribal fault lines which have kept Libya divided, identify strategic actors and groups which may decisively help to bring about reconciliation, and discuss major issues of governance which remain to be solved, including the control of the armed forces and the police.

About Exchanges on the Middle East

Exchanges on the Middle East is a collaboration between the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS), and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs North Africa and Middle East Department. In this edition of the Exchanges on the Middle East the Van Vollenhoven Institute participates as co-convenor.


Jan-Michiel Otto

Prof.dr. Jan Michiel Otto (1952) is professor of Law and Governance in Developing Countries and director of the Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society. He studied law at Leiden University and specialised in development administration at both Leiden and the Free University of Amsterdam.

Suliman Ibrahim

Suliman Ibrahim is an Assistant Professor of private law at Benghazi University, Libya, and the director of the Centre for Law and Society Studies (CLSS) in Benghazi. He is currently a visiting senior researcher at the Van Vollenhoven Institute where he coordinates a project on assessing legislation for Libya’s reconstruction executed by the VVI and CLSS. 


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