Aiding Libya: The view from the ground

It is well known that there is a shortage of international funds being assigned to humanitarian operations generally, but, given the scale of the Libyan crisis, it receives particularly minimal attention.

There are several reasons for this:

Firstly, Libya was considered as a country with a majority middle-income population and has frozen assets estimated at $67 billion. Before conflict erupted in 2011, Libya had an operational and established infrastructure, which technically still functions despite the conflicting regimes. With dual (and now triple) administrations, more open channels of communication to facilitate services are necessary rather than haphazard humanitarian arrangements. One consequence is that funding agencies seem reluctant to designate scarce humanitarian funds to Libya, preferring to adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, hoping for a political agreement that will release the country’s frozen assets.

Secondly, humanitarian operations have to follow the usual aid narrative of neutrality and impartiality, as these are believed to be crucial for ensuring access and acceptance. Libya’s conflict is highly political – characterised by an ever-changing landscape, with alliances that shift constantly, according to interest and circumstance.

Thirdly, despite the reality of humanitarian needs, aid volunteers in Libya struggle to identify the priority areas for intervention. The chief reasons are cultural constraints and social barriers, as contact with vulnerable populations remains a challenge. In the Libyan context, this group includes stranded irregular migrants and refugees, the majority of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa, as well as IDPs, mainly groups of women and children.



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