Libya: The Politics of Power, Protection, Identity and Illicit Trade

Reitano, Tuesday and Shaw, Mark (2017). Libya: The Politics of Power, Protection, Identity and Illicit Trade. Crime-Conflict Nexus Series. United Nations University Centre for Policy Research.

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  • Sub-type Policy brief
    Author Reitano, Tuesday
    Shaw, Mark
    Title Libya: The Politics of Power, Protection, Identity and Illicit Trade
    Series Title Crime-Conflict Nexus Series
    Volume/Issue No. 3
    Publication Date 2017
    Place of Publication Tokyo
    Publisher United Nations University Centre for Policy Research
    Pages 14
    Language eng
    Abstract Post-Revolution Libya has fractured into a volatile plethora of political ecosystems and protection economies, in which access to resources has become critical to survival. The struggle for control over illicit flows has shaped Libya’s civil conflict and remains a decisive centrifugal force, actively preventing central state consolidation. Illicit flows exposed the deep fissures within Libyan society, divisions that the Gaddafi regime had controlled through a combination of force and the manipulation of economic interests in both the legitimate and illicit economy. The impact of illicit flows, however, has been different in different parts of the country: in a perverse resource triangle, coastal groups, while linked to the illicit economy (particularly through the control of ports and airports), have been paid by the state, while also relying on external financial support in a proxy war between competing interests centered in the Gulf. In the southern borderlands of the country, by contrast, control of trafficking, and the capture of the country’s oil resources, have been key drivers in strengthening conflict protagonists. For some of the minority players in Libya’s patchwork state, control over illicit resources became a way to bargain for attention in the transition. The gradual erosion of the legitimate economy following six years of protracted conflict and political stalemate has resulted in a status quo where the size and dynamism of illicit markets for fuel, human smuggling and subsidised goods far outweighs legitimate alternatives for several groups, thereby building the legitimacy of criminal actors over formal institutions. While the focus of much of the coverage of the external reporting of the Libyan conflict is on the divide between east and west, putting a spotlight on illicit trafficking also highlights the disparities between the coast and the interior. Unless the illicit economy, and the priorities of those who control it, are addressed holistically as part of the political transition, the possibilities for a peaceful settlement remain remote and the viability of the central state questionable. There are now no easy policy options.
    Copyright Holder United Nations University
    Copyright Year 2017
    Copyright type All rights reserved
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    Created: Fri, 16 Feb 2018, 16:25:56 JST by Ivanovic, Alexandra on behalf of UNU Centre