By Sami Zaptia.
Tunis, 15 October 2015:
At a forum of ‘‘Libyan Experts’’ held in Tunis 11-12 October sponsored and organized by UN . . .[restrict]agencies, the IMF and World Bank, more than 30 Libyan and international experts debated a plethora of Libyan policies that could be adopted by the forthcoming Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA).
The daunting topics that the forum attempted to cover in two days included: peace-building and state-building, emergency humanitarian relief and reintegration, needs assessments, short term policies and action programmes, current socio-economic situation analyses: conflict sensitive challenges and policy options for early recovery, lessons learnt from other countries in judiciary reform, social reconciliation and transitional justice, restoring service delivery.
Reconstruction of social and physical infrastructure, rehabilitation and rebuilding of state institutions, public sector reform, transformational institutional building, social development, and macro-economic policy framework and constitution-writing and related social contract were all listed on the forum’s agenda.
However, it was the section on the social contract that attracted the most attention and input from this particular writer and participant at the forum.
This writer felt that whilst detailed policies needed to be debated and prepared for offer to a new GNA, many of the topics being discussed were being discussed in a moral, political and philosophical vacuum.
This claim may seem strong if you subscribe to the view that there currently exists a widely accepted political social contract amongst the Libyan people in the form of the National Transitional Council’s (NTC) August 2011 Transitional Constitutional Declaration, which was endorsed by the 2012 General National Congress (GNC) elections, the February 2014 Constitutional Drafting Authority (CDA) elections, and finally the June 2014 House of Representatives (HoR) elections.
However, if we are to put aside the assumption or claim that a Libyan social contract currently exists and is widely accepted by the majority of the Libyan people, and assume that its legitimacy had been challenged due to the weak central state, insecurity and the new Libyan state’s inability to provide public goods for its citizens, then a new Libyan social contract needs to be established.
The majority of Libyans have historically had very limited ability or opportunities to consider and debate what kind of Libya they would really like to live in. Such debate has always been limited and conducted by an elite.
And although now with Libya’s troubles the royal era of King Idris I is looked back upon with golden nostalgia by the relatively small number of Libyans who lived through the 1950’s and 60’s, the overwhelming majority of Libyans today were born after the Qaddafi dictatorship overthrew the King in 1969.
Under the Kingdom, the majority of Libyans were uneducated and mass media in the form of radio and television was still very limited. Political debate and discussion was limited to the elite and after violent demonstrations in the run up to elections, the King even banned political parties.
Therefore, in view of the military challenge to the legitimacy of the Libyan state and the current social contract by the various militia groups, minorities, regional tribes and certain political streams, the majority of civilian Libyans must be given an opportunity to debate and decide on their new social contract
It is only after thinking about and considering what kind of social contract Libyans want for themselves that they then need to put this into a document, usually – but not always – a written document or a constitution.
This debate on Libya’s new social contract in my opinion goes beyond the work of the CDA in its efforts to draft a legal-political document drafted by elites and most probably mainly discussed by elites.
Whilst I accept that the CDA has been engaged in a roadshow to all the various parts of Libya, I believe in view of the legitimacy troubles and challenges we have had since 2011 regarding the central state and in view of Libya’s short history of political independence, this public engagement is insufficient.
I also believe that Libya’s unique case makes the need for the over-selling of any new Libyan social contract even more imperative.
I fear that the educating of Libyans regarding their social contract, their political and economic choices for the new state and their understanding of their citizenship role may be insufficient to achieve near universal acceptance of the new political and social contract. The challenge to any new social contract will, I am afraid, be made all the more easier as a result of the widespread availability of arms.
Whilst in other societies objections to current social contracts exist and are expressed in writing, through the media and even through sometimes violent demonstrations, the demonstrators and dissenters do not generally possess the means – heavy weapons – that are capable of overthrowing the actual state.
In current day Libya, however, this is exactly the case with the state enjoying very little coercive power in order to be able to enforce the rule of law as set out by the social contract. Whilst, on the other hand, the militias enjoy the overwhelming coercive capability to not only resist the state, but as was shown in the events of July 2014, they are fully capable of overthrowing the still born state.
Political states are often not natural organic creations but are artificial creations as in the case of Libya whose borders were drawn by the colonial powers. Libya’s borderline with Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, and Algeria could have all been moved by a few hundred kilometres in either direction by the colonial powers. Libya is not a natural organic nation or entity. Its political history could have been so different if the colonial map drawer was in a different frame of mind.
Some political states are formed by use of force, invasions, colonialism, imperialism, and hegemony whilst others emerge after decades or even hundreds of years. Some come together peacefully whilst others are forced together.
For Libya to continue to be a sustainable political state its post-Qaddafi politically awakened people should be given the opportunity to decide on their political destiny. Libyans should be allowed to consider, debate and decide on whether they want to remain united or breakup into a number of smaller independent states.
Indeed, they may decide that they wish to divide up into small independent republics, into emirates, Islamic states, secular states, princedoms, military dictatorships, tribal fiefdoms or royal kingdoms.
And if they decide they wish to remain united they must also decide whether they wish to remain in a centralized or a devolved federal state with reduced central authority and increased regional powers.
Once the overarching political format has been decided and the relationship and dynamic between the rulers and their subjects is established, this in turn would necessarily affect the social and economic dynamics and relationship of the new state.
Libyans can decide what kind of economic system they would like. The social contract would set the tone for the role of the state, for the rentier state, for the welfare state as well as for the investment and distribution of hydrocarbon revenues, subsidies, free education and medicine.
For example, do Libyans want a progressive productive society and state or do they just want to spend their oil revenues on consumer products, nice houses, cars, TVs, mobile phones, travel and lavish weddings.
Are Libyans in the post Qaddafi era interested in leaving their positive thumb print on human history? Does Libya want to find an economic or commercial niche on the world economic system? Do Libyans want to plan for a post oil era or an era of even lower international crude oil prices?
Equally, do Libyans want to think and plan for a future where the world is even more advanced and complex and even more competitive? Where do Libyans see Libya’s place in this world? Why does Libya spend billions sending students abroad on educational scholarships if the country is not going to gain from these thousands of students armed with bachelors, masters and PhD’s?
Do Libyans want to build a better, progressive, productive, scientific, knowledge-based society? Do they want a better standard of living, better healthcare, education, housing, transport and entertainment?
Libyans in eastern Barqa (Cyrenaica), in western Tripolitania and in the southern Fezzan region need to decide and need to be given the opportunity to decide if they want to remain in a united political entity called Libya. They need to consider if they feel they want or need each other? Do they feel they would be better off separate or together?
Is there an organic and natural shared consensus amongst the various people who occupy the land called Libya? Do they share enough common ground, beyond their shared religion of Islam and the Arabic language?
And if they feel that there are differences between them, do they feel that these differences are mutually exclusive? Can these difference and variety act as a positive or can Libyans only coexist with homogeneous Libyans who are perfect carbon copies of themselves? Do Libyans like differences, and more importantly, can they accept, respect and tolerate differences?
If Libyans agree that variety in political, religious, economic and social interpretations are acceptable, what civilized mechanisms will they put in place to resolve differences and conflicts?
A country is up to an extent like a company or organization. There needs to be a hierarch and a pyramid of authority and responsibility. Libya cannot be ruled by a committee of 6 million people. A small number of specialist administrators must be appointed to run a complex modern state even as small and as undiversified as Libya.
Libya after the Arab Spring events of February 2011 needs to move out of its state of revolution and change from the authoritarian dictatorship of the Qaddafi era to a new state and system. If the 17th February revolution was against corruption and against the lack of transparency, accountability, fairness, justice and rule of law, and for the equitable productive and profitable investment of hydrocarbon resources – a new social and economic blueprint and social contract needs to be agreed.
Absolute freedom can lead to anarchy and chaos, as some western media characterize the Libyan state today. It is a state where those possessing the most coercive powers impose a society of the survival of the fittest and a society of the law of the jungle based on the use of naked coercion and force taking Libya back to a Hobbesian state of nature.
Human political and social history has shown, however, that such a society of absolute rights and freedoms but no obligations, responsibility, tolerance and restraint does not work. Human history has shown that most humans are also social beings. They need, prefer and like to live within and be part of societies – be it families, tribes, cities, economic levels, political and sporting affiliations or artistic groups.
Human history has also shown that a single human being cannot survive alone in the new modern and complex society. In a modern, complex, civilized society a human being needs a doctor, a pharmacist, a farmer, a fisherman, a baker, a butcher, a teacher, a builder, an electrician, a plumber, a pilot, an IT engineer, a transport vehicle driver, a marine captain – to name a few.
But living in a complex modern civilized society a modern human being also needs a politician, a judge, a philosopher, a moralist, a religious guide, a policeman, a soldier, a spy and a bureaucrat to name another group.
A human being cannot live in isolation as an island in a modern complex society such as Libya – a hydrocarbon, dollar-based, rentier-dependent society that is necessarily and unavoidably interconnected with the rest of the world system.
If Libyans accept that they live in an interlinked international society of states they must then accept that societies or systems have norms and rules that as members Libyans must respect and adhere to. And just as Libya as a state must live within these rules externally, Libyans must accept that Libyans need a set of pre agreed norms and rules to govern their internal societal relationships.
The overwhelming majority of human beings need rules and norms so as to base and organize their everyday lives around. Human beings need stability and order. They need to know that their jobs are stable and that they have an income to provide for their immediate personal society: their family. They need to get to work, to transport their kids to education. They need roads and electricity and water and shops to buy everyday needs.
Modern human beings need some kind of ordered society and law and order. They need rights, and yes as citizens, obligations too. They need to know that their legal property and home are their possession and that the law will protect their rights. They need access to education, medical care and the ability to obtain medicine. They need a host of everyday basic needs which include access to internet, satellite TV, news, films, sport, entertainment, art, books, poetry, philosophy and religion.
However, all these basic and complex needs that a modern complex and at times sophisticated human being needs can only exist in a society. A society is a natural, voluntary desired coming together of a group of people in order to peacefully coexist in as much peace and harmony as possible in order to maximize utility and gain from such a coexistence.
Only by living in a society based on pre agreed rules and norms can human beings, as Thomas Hobbes says, dedicate their time to more progressive endeavours of business, art, philosophy, poetry, creation, construction, invention etc.
If there are no rules and norms in society, and if there is not a legal legitimate Leviathan that is a legitimately chosen strong state that enjoys a monopoly on the use of force on behalf of its citizens – there can be no peace and stability and no progressive society.
If there is no peace, security and stability in Libya, the Libyan state would continue to be a dysfunctional state and a dysfunctional society. In such a society, as we have seen for most of the time since February 2011 and more so since July 2014, the average Libyan will be too busy trying to secure the basics in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to engage in any progressive endeavour.
Libyans are too busy trying to achieve the basic psychological security of food, shelter, water electricity, cooking gas, petrol for their cars, fuel for their generators, bread, cash from their banks and foreign exchange for their medical needs abroad.
In such a dysfunctionally unprogressive society with no legitimate strong central authority that can impose law and order and the rule of law most Libyans will not have time or the frame of mind to set up new risky business ventures or engage in luxurious creative activities.
And as long as Libya and Libyans do not have the right environment and state of mind to think and act in a developmental and progressive manner, Libya will remain standing at the station where Qaddafi left it in 2011 and the rest of the world will leave it even further behind.
Libyans need to have a long deep and meaningful debate about the identity of the new post-Qaddafi Libya they wish to build. They need to agree what kind of society they want to be. They need to agree on their social contract of rules and regulations. They need to decide if they want to be a progressive society or not, and if yes, they need to define what kind of progressive society they aim to be.
Libyans need to agree on all these rules, they need to write them down and they need to agree to stick to them. They need to agree a process of how they may change these rules in the future and who and how administrators of these rules are chosen and what are the penalties for citizens of this society who infringe these rules.
A society without rules and regulations is a society of chaos, of disorder and disharmony. It is a regressive society, a society of a state of nature that will slowly die or barely exist surviving at the lowest and most basic form of existence at the bottom of nature’s food chain and hierarchy of existence. Libyans need to ask themselves if this is the type of society they want to live in and if this is the kind of society they want to leave as a legacy to their children [/restrict]