The Socio-political Situation
Libya’s interim authority, the National Transitional Council (NTC), announced the country’s liberation on 23 October. This came after seven months of intense fighting, which culminated in the death of Muammar Qaddafi and the fall of his stronghold in Sirte. This ushered in a period of political transition with three immediate priorities: (i) the formation of a new interim Government; (ii) the restoration of law and order, integration of disparate armed groups into the official security forces, and collection of weapons; (iii) the preparation for national elections in mid-2012.
Transitional justice and national reconciliation processes, the establishment of the rule of law and the revival of the economy are crucial for a return to stability. In September 2011, a political mission was established to support the country's new transitional authorities in their post-conflict efforts. The mandated tasks of UNSMIL include assisting the Libyan authorities in restoring public security and the rule of law, and promoting inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation. It will also assist the NTC with elections and the drafting of a new constitution. UNSMIL is further mandated by the Security Council (S/2011/580) to help the Libyan Government extend State authority by strengthening emerging accountable institutions, restoring public services, promoting and protecting human rights and supporting transitional justice. The mission will also assist economic-recovery efforts and coordinate support that may be requested from other multilateral and bilateral actors.
The Humanitarian Situation
Humanitarian concerns in Libya have been primarily related to the protection of civilians in war during the conflict. While accurate numbers are not available, it is estimated that 30,000 to 50,000 civilians and combatants may have died or been injured in the conflict.
At the peak of the crisis, medical facilities lacked staff and ran out of life-saving supplies; water networks broke down, affecting millions of people in Tripoli, Bani Walid and Sirte for prolonged periods; and migrants and minority groups were reportedly assaulted. The contamination of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) has been extensive throughout the country.
Over 200,000 IDPs were recorded during the height of the conflict. Most have since voluntarily returned to their areas of origin, without the need for international humanitarian assistance, particularly to eastern Libya, Tripoli and the Nafusa Mountains. Approximately 50,000 IDPs from minority groups remain. They were displaced as a result of their association with the former regime, and have been unable or unwilling to return to their areas of origin due to protection threats and fear of arrest.
The most concerning issue has been the conflict’s impact on migrants and third-country nationals (TCNs). Between February and September 2011, more than 700,000 million people crossed Libyan borders. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) it was “one of the largest migration crisis in modern history”.  TCNs, including citizens of neighbouring countries, represented almost half of the flows. Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, accused by many in Libyan society as belonging to the previous Government’s militia, continue to be faced with complex protection and socio-economic challenges. Coping mechanisms and the absorption capacity of neighbouring countries, already struggling to provide for their own populations, have been strained.
Throughout the conflict, Libyan local councils and volunteer groups proved to be well mobilized and resourced. They were the primary delivery mechanism for international assistance, with effective NTC support. In some areas where fighting ended in the earlier months of the conflict, including in Tripoli, Misrata and the Nafusa Mountains, the situation stabilized quickly and life returned to relative normality. Shops reopened, banks resumed operations, and primary and middle schools began the new school year. Basic services, such as water and power supplies, were also largely resumed. Fighting continued in other areas, mainly Sirte and Bani Walid, until mid-October, causing extensive destruction to civil infrastructure and devastation to communities. In these localities, the pace of recovery is expected to be slower.
The Humanitarian Strategy and Response
Following the cessation of hostilities, the humanitarian and relief operations that are outlined in a Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) for October through December 2011 are expected to wind down. Since February 2011 humanitarian relief efforts in Libya have focused on the following four priorities:
Procurement of essential drugs and equipment using €100 million in unfrozen Libyan assets; provision of INGO-managed field hospitals near front lines, providing direct surgical care to the wounded; WHO/WFP provisions of supplemental fuel supplies to ensure the functioning of hospitals.
Relief assistance to IDPs through food and non-food distributions throughout the country, including bulk water supplies and the management of temporary transit facilities.
Assistance to TCNs and migrants; over 200,000 assisted to leave the country by air, land and sea; food, non-food provisions; transit camps at borders, including for 3,000 people near the border with Chad.
Emergency water and sanitation support, in particular during Tripoli’s water crisis when nearly 4 million people were without tap water during several weeks of fighting in August. Water supplies for 500,000 people were delivered.
The emergence of humanitarian needs in Libya this year has been a direct result of the fighting. In 2012 they are not expected to surpass the ability of national authorities or any one international agency to respond. This eliminates the need for a CHAP or appeal. In addition to Libyan assets being unfrozen for use by the new Libyan authorities, national councils and civil society groups have shown their own resource mobilization capacity. Much of the relief they provided has been sourced from their own revenues.
Assuming hostilities do not resume, most IDPs are expected to have returned to their homes by the end of 2012, or be otherwise effectively assisted by sustainable Libyan Government programming. All basic social services are expected to start returning to full capacity in early 2012.
Humanitarian needs that are likely to continue into next year, but that would not require a CHAP, include refugee response, support for TCNs and minorities, and mine action. In 2012, these programmes will be coordinated through UNSMIL and the Office of the RC/HC.
Transition periods are often fragile. The following risks need to be considered for contingency planning purposes:
Sporadic conflict and political tension result in delayed elections or in results that are not seen as credible.
The security situation deteriorates with inter-tribal or inter-factional fighting.
New internal displacement within Libya and into neighbouring countries occurs.
The interim Government is unable to meet the high expectations of the population, especially young people, causing discontent and unrest.
IOM, Humanitarian Emergency Response to the Libyan Crisis, 28 February – 27 September 2011 (October 2011).