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What’s Next for Libya

Mahmoud Jibril is the leader of Libya’s National Transitional Council, the official name adopted by the group of Libyans who have nearly overthrown Muammar Ghaddafi’s government. He has been educated in Egypt and the United States and represents an interesting paradox. His connections with both the West and the Arab world have given him the ability to work closely with partners in both regions with the result that countries as diverse as France, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have officially recognized the NTC as the governing body in Libya.

Mr. Jibril also worked in the very government his movement has overthrown. He was the head of the National Economic Development Board from 2007 until the fall of the Ghaddafi regime. As head of the NEDB, Mr. Jibril lead efforts to privatize many of Libya’s industries and to liberalize the overall economic structure of Libya. through his position at the NEDB, Mr. Jibril worked closely with the United Nations Development Programme in an effort to spur and sustain economic growth and development in Libya.

Now that the NTC seems poised to take over the halls of government in Libya, it remains to be seen what kind of leaders they will be. There have already been reports that the armed rebels are filling in the peace-keeping roles abandoned by Ghaddafi forces and that they are doing a rather admirable job. The rebels may be filled with joyous exuberance, but it seems that most of the rest of Libya too is filled with a sort of cautious optimism. Let’s hope that the people of Libya can realize true self-determinaiton and self-rule and can create a model for the world.

*Author’s Note: While I respect the fact that, geographically Libya is traditionally considered to be part of Africa, by custom, tradition, religion, lifestyle, and societal norms, the Libyan people share a great deal in common with the people of Southwest Asia.

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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Africa, Asia

 

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Striving for a Better Life

The tiny island of Lampedusa lies in the Mediterranean Sea about 150 miles south of Sicily, and like Sicily is part of Italy. Because of its proximity to Tunisia and north Africa however, it is the chosen port of call for thousands of refugees every year. There are only 4,500 permanent Lampedusans, yet it is estimated that some 20,000 refugees have passed through Lampedusa over the past few years. These people are fleeing wars and unrest in Tunisia and Libya and are seeking a better life in Italy and the EU at large. However, as with any situation where two cultures collide in frenzied fashion, there are many misgivings feelings of hostility. The problem has been festering for a while, in April Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi paid a visit to the island and promised to “[C]lear the island of migrants in record time.” The situation is similar to that occurring in the south-western United States with migrants form Mexico looking to cross the boarder and start a new life in the U.S.

Unfortunately, as with the Mexican migrants, the Tunisian and Libyan refugees are willing to take any means necessary to get to a better life. Many do not make it. Just today, 25 bodies were found in the engine compartment of a 50-foot boat. What’s more, there were 271 survivors. This boat, no bigger than a small commercial fishing boat, was smuggling more than 300 people. While we have seen the numbers of people seeking asylum shrink dramatically over the past decade, new struggles in north Africa, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, and elsewhere are putting strain on international humanitarian organizations. And this is just one incident. It’s estimated that one in ten refugees dies on their journey. There have been at least 800 people who have died trying to get to Lampedusa over the past months. Stories similar to today’s highlight these tragedies and have been documented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees here, here, and here.

The UNHCR celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and is just as relevant today as it was in 1951. Originally founded to help Europeans displaced after World War II, it has since aided refugees from every major conflict on every populated continent. In 60 years, the UNHCR has helped some 50 million people get their lives back in order following displacement due to political, economic, military, or environmental factors.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Europe

 

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