Can Stephanie Koury revive Libya’s political process?

To revive Libya’s political process, the Deputy Special Representative to the Secretary-General (DSRSG) of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) will have to be careful about several factors that could harm her mandate and help the country’s status quo thrive.

In March of this year, the UN Secretary-General appointed American-Lebanese Stephanie Koury as deputy SRSG to Libya for Political Affairs. This appointment was widely seen as a prelude to the resignation of SRSG and Head of UNSMIL Abdoulaye Bathily, after the latter’s failure to garner the necessary national support for his political initiative, which was supposed to bring Libya’s five main institutional parties to the negotiating table and resolve outstanding differences in the electoral laws.

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Since 2019, no UN envoy to Libya has succeeded in fulfilling their mandate. The failure of former SRSG Ghassan Salamé to hold a National Conference in Ghadames in 2019 — a result of the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) assault on Tripoli — was followed by the failure of former SRSG Stephanie Williams to implement the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum’s (LPDF) roadmap to national elections on December 24, 2021, and finally the failure of SRSG Abdoulaye Bathily to reconcile the differences between Libyan factions and move forward with the political process. These successive shortcomings underscore a lingering crisis in the UN’s approach to Libya and suggest that the tactics used by Libyan politicians to cling to power have not only been successful, but are much more effective than efforts by the UN and a divided international community to break the status quo.

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