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Decentralisation Plan

1. Support, reform and expand on the national decentralisation effort

Five main principles currently guide the central government’s efforts at decentralisation:

  • Libya’s unity and national sovereignty must be preserved;

  • The process must be rational and gradual and aim to establish a balance of authority between central and local governments;

  • The existing legal framework must be respected;

  • Institution building that enhances governance must be prioritised;

  • International partnerships should be leveraged as much as possible to improve governance.

There are five interrelated stages in the main national decentralisation plan:

  • Institution building and the transfer of administrative powers;

  • Transfer service-providing authority (e.g., basic services, local licensing);

  • Transfer of the oversight on development projects;

  • Transfer financial functions (including local planning and budgeting);

  • Transfer of the security functions.


The LEFPD can advance this agenda by:

  1. Educating the mayors and local councils on these plans;

  2. Establishing monitoring and review mechanisms that include these local authorities (which have a strong incentive to push for their implementation);

  3. Lobbying the Higher Committee for the Transfer of Powers (which leads national efforts) to include the Higher Council for Local Governments in its decision-making processes;

  4. Developing a code of conduct that regulates the relationship between the central and local governments (which will strengthen the bargaining position of local authorities).



2. Identify and transfer local government best-practices and initiatives across the country


Identifying the most successful municipal initiatives or best practices and using them as models for other municipalities is the easiest way to expand capacity at the local level. Some examples of these initiatives are included in the appendix.


The LEFPD can advance this agenda by bringing together the main actors from various local governments to facilitate both the transfer of these positive experiences as well as provide an opportunity to develop them further. Creating booklets on these initiatives and lessons learned and distributing them would help, as well as the establishment of an online fora for local governance learning. The LEFPD could also select three municipalities in three different parts of the country and systematically work to transfer the best practices in order to create more comprehensive models of success for others to emulate. Twinning these municipalities with practically-oriented sister municipalities and creating municipal-level coordinating mechanisms to better manage international assistance could create other avenues for progress.


3. Establish and promote the use of mechanisms to enhance local government cooperation


Although the relationship between various local councils in different parts of the country is generally fine, there is little if any real cooperation between them. Five organisations (National League for Municipalities, National Network for Elected Women, Union for South Local Councils, Coalition for Historical Libyan Cities) have been established to provide positive networking between governments, but these are not very effective at this point.


The LEFPD could support the development of the local government cooperation institutions and encourage the expansion of their roles and functions. It could also encourage the creation and advance the decentralisation process. For example, it could help establish cross-municipal councils focused on specific sectors to encourage more learning and unified action among the more robust local governments.


4. Construct a local government coalition to advance the Bottom-up Vision


Substantial change requires the construction of a robust coalition of actors that share the vision that the best way forward for Libya is through the development of a new, bottom-up governance structure. These actors currently exist but do not cooperate to advance their common vision. Constructing a relatively small number of the most important such actors would establish a new political force that can encourage change in this direction. They can lobby the national government to advance reforms and merge the myriad efforts at it; work together to strengthen capacity and share lessons learned; develop mechanisms to monitor both municipal performance and national government implementation of its decentralisation strategy; and force a change in the narrative that currently drives politics in the country. They would jointly strategise on the best way to influence politics and promote change in the country. 


The members of this coalition must be carefully selected. They should be not only relatively powerful, but also complementary (so as to avoid conflict) and representative (o as you ensure every part of the country is included). The members should be small in number because of the difficulty of creating political agreement across many actors in the country. Some suggestions for possible members: central Tripoli, Misrata, Zleten, Zawia, Benghazi, Shahat Torrik, Sabha, and Jalo.


The LEFPD can help establish and facilitate the development of this coalition. It can assist in its many goals and provide various kinds of support for it to advance its agenda.


Local Government Capacity Building Initiatives

  • Data acquisition (creation of data centres): one of the major obstacles in moving forward on the decentralization process is the lack of reliable information. Many municipalities have attempted to gather data on the different aspects required for their work – from estimating the population to the number and type of businesses they have. Soq-aljoma has concentrated its efforts in building a data centre with geographic information that covers everything from schools to shopping areas. 

  • Solid waste disposal (cooperation with national service provider): one of the main problems for local authorities in caring out their main duties is the pre-existing large national companies that share the same functions. Funding from the central government flow to these companies without including the local governments. This undermines their ability to enhance public services delivery. Zelten in the west of the country is an interesting case study for developing a workable relation with the national solid waste disposal company while Benghazi in the east has managed to implement a new system for solid waste disposal that involves the private companies.

  • Water provision (cooperation with national service provider): water is another area where the existence of a large national company undermines the ability of local authorities to carry out their duties. In Albeda in the east a temporary arrangement with the government managed to improve water services by diverting part of the funding to carry out a series of small projects. Its ability to lobby the central government directly yielded this unique result. 

  • Community engagement: an interesting model for public participation and community engagement is found in three neighbouring municipalities (Jalo, Aojla and Gachira). The sensitive location of these municipalities in oil producing areas drove the strong bond between the people and their elected members. This is clear in the biweekly conferences held by the mayors to discuss events and ask for guidance.

  • Transparency and accountability: although Law 59 encourages transparency and accountability in a number of its articles, in practice few local municipalities are strong in these areas because of a lack of regulations from the Ministry of Local Affairs. Nevertheless, in Tajoras, the Mayor and Council have achieved noteworthy accomplishments by using simple internet platforms to provide all government information to the public. A weekly program on the local radio is used to answer questions directly from the people.

  • International cooperation: there is a clear difference in the amount of international support among municipalities due to great differences in their capacity to reach out to international actors to help in the development of their governance capacity. Zwara stands out here due to its unique demographical position and link to the human trafficking situation; the municipality has earned much recognition for its efforts at international cooperation.

  • Institution building and improved governance: due to central government delays in developing an institutional framework for local governance, municipalities have been left without a guide to strengthen their institutional performance. Alzenan and Gerian have developed their own framework in lieu of the national roadmap – a great contrast to most municipalities, which are working with somewhat primitive, undeveloped structures. Unfortunately, the Ministry is not consulting with these examples in developing a new national framework.

  • Planning: in the absence of a national planning process, the great majority of local authorities are working in an ad-hoc manner, which usually means that spending is managed with emergency procedures at best. A number of local governments have introduced a strategic, long-term plan for their municipalities. For example, Tubrok, Misrata and Benghazi have all developed local plans that will increase their capacity to improve governance over time. 

  • Increasing revenue: since national and local budgets have always depended on oil revenues, municipalities have never developed their own taxation framework nor a formula to distribute resources according to need. This greatly limits the resources at their disposal and their availability to increase public services, especially in the current climate. Nevertheless, there are a number of municipalities launching creative initiatives in this area. Zliten, for example, has introduced a local tax even though their power to do so may be legally questionable. Tobruk, in the far east of the country, has introduced a system that encourages local citizens to make donations to their local council. These initiatives promise to not only provide the councils with important resources but also to introduce a new relation between citizens and local authorities, where concepts of transparency and accountability take on a different dimension.

  • Security: many (if not all) local authorities are involved in providing security to its citizens in some form – from negotiating with kidnapers to providing guaranties for holding fire between fighting groups. In some cases, local militias are working directly with local authorities to ensure security. 

  • Education, health and business development: even though the demand for greater local government action – through the local councils – in these areas is very high, the lack of clear legislation has constrained every municipality. They even struggle to have a monitoring role. More thought could be undertaken on how to jumpstart efforts to improve these services. 

  • Women empowerment: the first female mayor is Dr. Zahia in Tripoli. She is a youth and civil society organisation activist.


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