Since the 2011 revolution, Libya has been heavily involved in conflict that spans ethnic, regional and political divides. One key issue in the conflict is economic insecurity; fewer opportunities for sustainable income leave certain groups of Libya’s youth open to recruitment by militias. To resolve the situation, Libya’s next generation must actively engage in social and political dialogue to reform Libya for the better.
Active civic participation reveals a community’s priorities and responsibilities in impacting societal transition. Existing data already suggests where Libya’s youth may choose to engage. According to surveys, 63% of Libyan youth believe that there is widespread government corruption. Youth unemployment has maintained if not steadily risen since 1999; 2020 statistics suggest the youth unemployment rate is over 50%. Moreover, the percentage of Libyan youth in debt sits at 34%, just below the regional average for the Arab world.
These and other opportunities for youth civic engagement was the topic of conversation at a recent virtual discussion held on January 26th by the Transatlantic Leadership Network. In the past month, TLN has announced efforts to highlight the voice of Libya’s “next generation” in efforts toward reconciliation and institution-building processes.
Dr. Ali Abusedra, a Research Fellow at the University of Hull, UK delivered the opening remarks at the panel discussion, which was held entirely in Arabic and is available online – soon to have English subtitles for the global audience. Dr. Abusedra noted: “The future of Libya rests on our brilliant youth. That is why I am fully committed to facilitating and supporting the empowerment of the next generation of Libya’s leaders, in all walks of life, from politics, entrepreneurship, academia, health, to culture.”
Moderated by Dr. Nezar Krikish, Chairman of the Al-Bayan Study Center, the panel featured entirely rising stars among Libya’s youth across business, nonprofit, academic, and journalism sectors.
Said Mohamed Algarj, research and journalist: “Libya needs economic projects tailored to societal culture that will reduce the influx of new fighters seeking to work with armed groups. The stronger the state’s institutional tools, especially economic, the less potent will be guns as a tool of power.”
Said Ensaf Omar Al-Ansary, founding member of a volunteer organization: “We must build a Libyan state based on diversity and respect for all cultures and languages. We should continue to oppose doctrines calling for any supremacy–whether of national, ethnic, religious or cultural origins.”
Said Osama Aboamer, CEO of Radio Nass and founder of the ‘180’ Organization: “Freeing the economy and putting an end to the monopoly and suppression of Libya’s natural resources and marketplace are the challenges that need to be addressed.”
The platform emerged following TLN’s recently-published book Unheard Voices of the Next Generation: Emergent Leaders in Libya, edited by Dr. Sasha Toperich and Dr. Ali Abusedra and distributed by the Brookings Institution Press in Washington, DC. The book featured twelve young Libyan scholars addressing a variety of issues that the country faces today, and also offering innovative ways forward.
There is hope for the future of the country. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is actively supporting youth civic engagement in Libya through the Youth Track of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF). Stephanie Williams, head of the UNSMIL, stressed at the dialogue that the “lack of trust among the youth in the status quo and those responsible for it, but despite the bleak picture of the current situation, we saw that the Libyan youth still have hopes for peace and a better future for Libya.”
The Transatlantic Leadership Network’s next panel discussion with Libyan youth leaders engaged is scheduled for February 16.
Ariel Schwartz is a research assistant at the Transatlantic Leadership Network.
Jonathan Roberts is a researcher and project manager at the Transatlantic Leadership Network.