In Tripoli a few years ago, we were very impressed with the facilities at an ultra-modern hospital. Our suspicions grew however after our questions about the lack of patients received the implausible response that they 'had all come in morning, received treatment and had gone home'.
Later at the People's Committee for Manpower, Employment and Training, we were regaled about 'full employment' in Libya. This was followed by a lecture at the University of Tripoli espousing the 'free and comprehensive education system for all.'
A few weeks later we stumbled across a different hospital. Unlike the one we were shown, it was a bit run down and full of patients. Evidently not many of the patients here were miraculously cured of their ills in the morning to make it home in time for lunch.
At around the same time the young official assigned to us began straying from the script and guardedly told us about some of the obvious realities. The state-of-the-art hospital was in fact a private facility for the upper echelons of the regime; behind the impressive looking facade of the Tripoli University there were considerable problems around student access and affordability; and full employment was more an aspiration than an accomplishment.
It was clear however, if you happened to be one of the elites or connected to the regime, you could bully, bribe and buy your way into the best educational and employment opportunities and public services. For the ordinary masses however, four decades of dictatorship resulted in a highly corrupt, totalitarian and failing form of governance.
Whilst the recent militia mob murder of Gaddafi was totally unacceptable, his removable, and the formation of a new interim secular government are momentous achievements for Libya. To progress from this juncture and achieve political and democratic transformation and a functional government administration that provides for economic and social development, equitable public services, reconstruction, security and stability, will require considerable resources, reforms and resolve.
On the resource front Libya is in a strong position with oil exports on course to return back to pre-war levels shortly and its considerable funds held overseas are already being channeled back to the country. In addition if peace prevails, there is a huge potential for tourism.
For its part, though the international community can tick a box in relation to the intervention, but experience from other places demonstrably proves it is not particularly effective at rebuilding post conflict countries. An overarching lesson that should be learnt from other such places is the need to embrace a framework of transparency and accountability to the people. In Libya, the adoption of this approach, would not only set the NTC apart from the previous regime but also help to cultivate the confidence of the people which will help augment a smoother path to peace and prosperity. Specifically, the NTC should:
- Commit to providing the Libyan people with full and transparent reporting on all the funds received and spent. This accountability should be supported by the establishment of an independent anti-corruption and audit offices and independent media outlets.
- Provide credible opportunities for ordinary Libyans to have their say on the design of the emerging democratic polity (constitution) and the strategic and public service priorities.
- Define and publish a credible and transparent framework for the extractive sector and make public the terms of agreements with international oil companies to ensure Libya gets a fair deal and is not exploited.
- Introduce an integral system of justice that is in line with good international practice.
- Enable civil society to flourish and ensure ordinary Libyans are supported to stand for election.
Even with the above steps, Libya still faces a major risk of civil conflict, as groups vie for positions of power and influence. Most worryingly, many of the militia remain largely 'unknown quantities' and their recent acts of retribution are deplorable. What is certain is that it will take more than allowing Libyan men to have three wives to pacify many of these men. It is therefore vital that the NTC and international community also adopt the following measures:
- Bring to an end the extra-judicial behavior and fully account for all the persons detained and provide full access to human rights groups.
- Build the 'new' security apparatus (integrating 'rebels' where appropriate) with new operational guidelines that uphold human rights.
- Account for all the weapons and funds the international community plunged into Libya and begin a process of disarming militia as the state security and governance system strengthens.
- Ensure Arab states (and others) stop funding and resourcing militia groups and instead channel their support for Libyans through the NTC in a transparent and coordinated way.
Ultimately, to achieve the future that Libyans have long desired, the new interim regime and militia need to accept that the only spoils from the conflict, is the opportunity to achieve an inclusive political, social, economic, just and peaceful order that supports freedom, democracy and human rights for all the people of this amazing country.