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Spring 2014 marked the beginning of formal meetings of Libya’s Constituent Assembly, charged with drafting the country’s new constitution. In the lead-up to this process, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) facilitated discussion among legal professionals and within Libyan communities around key constitutional issues, helping to foster citizen participation. From July 2013–April 2014, ABA ROLI held 12 workshops and roundtables in eight locations across three Libyan regions.
The events attracted more than 400 participants, including local business owners, civil society representatives and council members. The sessions were led by Libyan lawyers and constitutional professors—from Benghazi, Derna, Tripoli, Misurata, Tarhuna and Zin—who also serve on a Constitution Working Group, that strives to facilitate citizen understanding of the constitutional process and to engage citizens in informed dialogues. In preparation for the sessions, ABA ROLI trained members of the working group on comparative approaches to select constitutional issues, such as governance structures and resource allocation, as well as in facilitation skills.
Event participants discussed a range of issues related to decentralized and participatory government, including: various models for distributing authority between national, regional, district and municipal government units; management of natural resources and shared revenue; and mechanisms for inter-governmental relations and dispute resolution. Several noted that the discussions helped to frame the wider conversation around a national governance structure. A member of the Misurata municipal elections committee said, “This has helped us understand the importance of local government in a democracy and shed light on points that will be important to include in our constitution.”
Further, with the advent of the country’s first elections for municipal and district governments, the sessions helped citizens in Gharyan, Zintan and Misurata more fully understand their prospective roles in a decentralized system of governance. In Zintan, the local council president made workshop attendance mandatory for all council members and administrative staff, and actively encouraged civil society leaders to participate. One of the council members from Zintan praised the open discussion format, saying, “The workshop has opened my mind on the importance of dialog and understanding among Libyans in developing our constitution.”
Additionally, in January, the Constitution Working Group compiled a set of recommendations—including on the constitution-drafting process, decentralization, legislative composition and election process—for consideration by the Constituent Assembly. ABA ROLI is working with the group to disseminate the compiled report to key stakeholders.
To learn more about our work in Libya, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at firstname.lastname@example.org.