BLOG| War and Peace and road to happiness

May 25, 2018

Kikla University in Libya, 2016. Photo: ©UNDP

Sultan Hajiyev, UNDP Country Director in Libya.

Tolstoy once said, ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’. One can question how universal the recipe of happiness is, but each unhappy family is indeed unique. Unhappiness being one of the forms of crises, this also applies to the unhappiness of countries in crisis. While we all hope Libya will soon overcome many of challenges it is currently facing, the bitter truth is it remains a country in crisis.

Many provide valuable comments on what UNDP’s role should be in such environment. Let me, instead, first focus on what I believe UNDP should not do. While rightfully claiming to be development partner of choice, we should avoid promoting ourselves as a ‘universal soldier’, willing and able to tackle every challenge. This is of particular importance in Libya, where needs are vast, but so is the need to stay focused. We must agree on our crisis-related/crisis-specific fortes, and further enhance our capacity to deliver in these specific areas. Crisis always comes with a package of danger and opportunities.  We need to be able to discern one from another, harnessing the latter and carefully managing the former. It is important to be healthily opportunistic, but we cannot forget that crisis-specific programmes and opportunities come and go, while UNDP stays. While playing important role in managing crises, our Organization is also one of the key partners in long term stabilization and post-crises development.

We also cannot talk about Government’s ownership and leadership without investing in nurturing Government’s capacity to discharge these functions. In Libya, we intend to support strengthening Government institutions in inclusive decision-making, designing and implementing improved social policies, enabling better service delivery and reducing inequalities. I know it sounds a bit heavy for external readers who are not familiar with this development jargon.  So, what does it mean, in terms of specific action? And what Libyans can expect from UNDP’s work?

First, we wish to help the Government stabilize areas affected by conflict and begin to restore a sense of normalcy. In doing so, we want to support our Libyan partners as they strive to provide better public services, which is crucial, not just for servicing the most urgent needs of the population, but also to restore confidence and ultimately the legitimacy and authority of the state. The history itself has proven there is no alternative to Government to Citizens/Citizens to Government dialogue.

We are also determined to partner with national institutions on their work to relieve communities through direct intervention to stabilize areas affected during the conflict. Resilience and recovery are other major areas for both our ongoing and future programmes. We look forward to supporting Libya’s electoral institutions to fulfill their mandate towards the democratic aspirations of Libyan citizens. We are also determined to contribute to reconciliation at all levels. There is no development without peace, but neither peace without development. Synergies between development and dialogue initiatives are crucial for peace process and social cohesion.

This list is not complete. There are many areas requiring support, and it is really important to have international partners effectively coordinating efforts to optimize results. We will work on the Sustainable Development Goals because we do believe they are crucial for achieving what Libyans want for themselves and their children– lives free of poverty and hunger, with access to healthcare and education, amongst other hopes/expectations. We need to give special emphasis to women and youth in our crisis response, promoting gender equity and targeting programming particularly for vulnerable young people.

The challenges Libyans are facing warrant calculated risks based on a careful balance between quality and speed, or speed and quality, without giving one away for the other. In doing so, we should act with resolve, using our judgment as often as possible.  

As I mentioned earlier, no crisis country is exactly alike, but one of the elements defining UNDP’s efficiency in dealing with crises at various stages is our ability to share experience and utilize mechanisms already applied successfully by UNDP in other countries facing similar challenges.  We should be able to build on our own success, and approaches and mechanisms proven to be successful must be within the reach. Some call it ‘lessons learned’ but let me simply say we also must learn from our mistakes. Libya has a lot to offer in terms of best practices and innovative solutions, but there is a lot we can benefit from experience of other countries facing crises.

And finally, when tailoring our crisis interventions, we must keep our beneficiaries in the fore. We are not humanitarians, but UNDP’s crisis response is as close to life-saving response as any non-humanitarian actor will ever be. Moreover, we know the value that peacebuilding and development perspectives bring to the population in these environments.  UNDP has a special role to play, spearheading the Nexus by finding natural areas of mutual gain for humanitarian, development and peacebuilding dimensions.

I started with Leo Tolstoy’s quote, and let me also finish with one: ‘And all this is mine, and all this is in me, and all this is me’. Libya belongs to Libyans. While it is currently a country of many challenges, its true friends are convinced it is also a country of many solutions, and opportunities. Most of those solutions do not need to be imported. They need to be empowered and reinforced, and this is what UNDP considers among its top priorities.

(Based on my contribution to the UNDP’s discussion on our Organization’s role in crises revised to reflect Libya specific context and dynamics.)

Kikla University afterKikla University in Libya, 2017. Photo: ©UNDP

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