The Libyan Revolution's Hard Reset: A UN Solution to Unblock the Libyan Stalemate

04/14/2014 12:49 pm ET | Updated Jun 14, 2014

Very little has been achieved in Libya since the country held its first free elections amid much euphoria. The elected General National Congress and the appointed government are seen by most Libyans and many observers as responsible for the current deteriorating situation. The leadership of the army, which was kept weak under the Gaddafi regime to guard against his overthrow, was forced into retirement along with the leadership of the police forces, and the intelligence apparatus was totally dismantled. Security has worsened amid growing corruption and administrative system incompetence, and the general perception is that politicians failed to build a consensus that would pave the way for a new prosperous Libya. This is in contrast to the achievements of neighboring Tunisia, which is now seen by many Arabs as the new post-revolutionary model for the region. The Tunisian experience is a reflection of the statesmanship of some of its politicians and the maturity of its institutions and may not apply in the Libyan case, but the status quo is not a solution and Libya can at least learn from the mistakes and successes of the Tunisian experience and in particular the process and consensus for the drafting of the new constitution.

The Libyan people are disillusioned and have lost faith in their politicians to manage the country effectively. There is now a general sentiment that Libya has to urgently find an alternative way to fix the country or face pandemonium. The former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's plea, in his recent interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, on the need for multilateral assistance to Libya was greeted with cynicism by the Libyan street that questioned why nothing concrete was done during his tenure. The Libyan politicians have talked the talk but not walked the walk and the country is on the edge of a precipice.

The UN Could Be the Honest Broker

A neutral and trusted multilateral brokerage is needed to tackle the short-term challenges of managing the political transition, normalizing the security situation, and addressing severe institutional capacity constraints. A possible solution would be a coalition headed by the United Nations, a solution that was already tested successfully more than 60 years ago. The UN mission in 1950 -- headed by the Dutch diplomat and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Adrian Pelt -- supervised the formulation of the country's first constitution. On December 24, 1951, Libya was proclaimed an independent and sovereign state with King Idris as the first sovereign of a unified and federal Libya. Pelt became very popular in Libya because of his success in bringing together the peoples and tribes from Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, administered by the British, and the French-administered territory of Fezzan to form a new state and drawing up a constitution with his help.

The UN High Commissioner for Libya would need assistance from representatives of Libyan civil society and professional associations and a mandate and empowerment by the Parliament for the selection of an Emergency Government of National Competence. A working committee of representatives from the Islamic, Liberal and Independent Parties together with Libyan civil society and professional associations under the chairmanship of the UN and endorsement by the Parliament would then need to be urgently constituted. The committee should be given a deadline for the appointment of a new government and the criteria would be independent Libyan technocrats not affiliated to any political party, with proven technical competences. The key prioritization issues should be security and the economy. The disarmament of the militias and the convening of a National Reconciliation Conference cannot be postponed and need to take place through a process which has both popular legitimacy and a multilateral dimension.

The Libyan people deserve better, and urgently need concrete steps that will have popular endorsement and the patronage of the UN in order to break the zero-sum politics of factions fighting for national resources. Success depends on leadership and consensus building.

The first Libyan Constitution under the chairmanship of the United Nations led to the country's independence, giving birth to the Libyan state. Monarchical rule, which lasted from 1951 to 1969, started on the long and difficult path of institution building, which was stillborn during the 42 years of the Gaddafi era. The Libyan people have been incredibly patient since the Revolution of February 17, 2011, but let's not test this patience to its breaking point.