Young and angry in Fezzan: Achieving stability in southern Libya through greater economic opportunity – Libya

Libya’s Fezzan region is home to both the country’s largest oilfield, making it key to Libya’s oil economy, and some of its most extreme poverty. Young people are the most affected by the region’s chronic development problems, making them vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups and criminal networks. This report focuses on the grievances of Fezzan youth and explores how peacebuilding efforts can channel their needs and aspirations into broader conversations about the region’s long-term political and economic development.

Summary

The Fezzan is home to Libya’s largest oil field, making the region the key to the oil-dependent country’s economy. Yet Fezzan remains the poorest region in Libya, with its youth the most affected by chronic development problems. This makes them vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups and criminal networks. As a result, young people have become engines of conflict and instability in the region. Some have used controversial tactics, including sabotaging energy infrastructure, thereby disrupting the national economy, to voice their grievances.

Youth studies in Libya tend to have a national focus. Rather, this report focuses on the grievances and demands of young people in Fezzan in particular and how they perceive the dynamics of security, development and reconciliation. It explores how their voices can be amplified to constructively contribute to the conversation regarding medium and long term development challenges in their communities and in the wider region.

Peacebuilding in Fezzan should integrate the needs and aspirations of young people into conversations about policy and development frameworks, including those related to corporate social responsibility. With elections slated for December 2021 expected to give birth to Libya’s first unified government with a popular mandate since 2014, there is an opportunity to ensure that Fezzan is the priority of Libya’s future executive and international partners. In addition, the National Oil Corporation, which oversees the energy sector, should be encouraged to engage more with young people by engaging in dialogue about the future of their region and investing in programs that pave the way for the economic self-sufficiency, which could pay a peace dividend.

About the report

Limited economic opportunities in the Fezzan region of southern Libya have sparked local conflicts and fueled a narrative among young people of widespread marginalization. This report, based on a survey of young people in Fezzan, seeks to elicit what they consider to be the main challenges they face and the solutions they envision, with a particular focus on the region’s oil industry. The work was supported by the Libya program of the American Institute of Peace (USIP).

about the authors

Mary Fitzgerald is a writer, researcher and consultant specializing in Mediterranean countries, with a particular focus on Libya. She has worked with several international organizations operating in Libya and is one of the authors of The Libyan Revolution and Its Aftermath (Oxford University Press). Nathaniel L. Wilson is USIP’s National Director for Libya.


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