Peter Millett, Ambassador to Libya since June 2015, outlined five major challenges in Libya today: 1) the absence of national unity and willingness to compromise for the national interest; 2) the proliferation of militias; 3) the growing terrorist threat; 4) a collapsing economy; 5) a serious humanitarian crisis.

As consultations over the formation of a Government of National Accord (GNA) continue, the international community remains firmly behind the Skhirat agreement. Ambassador Millett warned that there could be sanctions against those who act as spoilers.

Once a unity government is formed, it will have to move to Tripoli. The security forces in charge of its protection will need training and support, but behind the scenes, not on the streets. The United Kingdom will be ready to help if the GNA requested it. It would also be necessary to end the practice of paying all militias and implement an effective Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration strategy. Daesh—also known as the Islamic State group—is a separate issue and the threat posed by extremist groups underlines the urgency of forming a national unity government. As Ambassador Millett explained, “it is difficult to deal with Daesh without a formal request from a government.”

When offering technical assistance to the new government, the ambassador stressed that Britain must learn from what happened after 2011. The previous Libyan administrations did not have the absorption capacity to cope with the quantity of projects that were offered by the international community. Ambassador Millett suggested that, this time, we should “ask the government to identify the priorities for the first 100 days, and then match these with projects that can help them deliver better services to the Libyan people”.

When asked if there was a “Plan B” in case the unity government did not materialise, the ambassador explained that “Plan B was more effort on Plan A.” Nothing could realistically move forward until Libyans found a way to compromise for the national interest.

The discussion was chaired by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne.

The Transitions Forum is a series of projects dedicated to the challenges and possibilities of radical political and economic change.