Makeup Post #6 UN Involvement in Libya

Kate Burke

The UN has been actively involved in Libya due to the widespread violence in the region. Following six months of armed conflict, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) was established in September of 2011 at the request of Libyan authorities. The aim of this mission is to support the Libyan political process, mediate conflicts, and protect human rights. (UNSMIL)

UNSMIL has an organization mandate that consists of four sections outlining the main goals of the mission. Section A states that the first priority is to ensure Libya’s transition into democracy. This is to be done while providing assistance in creating a single national dialogue, a Libyan electoral process, and a new constitution. This assignment also involves promoting political participation in all parts of Libyan society, especially women, youth, and minorities. Section B focuses on enforcing the law and protecting human rights by aiding the Libyan government in ensuring humane treatment and due process of detainees, reforming judiciary processes, and constructing accountable law enforcement and correctional facilities. Section C aims to control unsecured arms in Libya and ensure their safe management or disposal, strengthen border security, support facilitation and coordination of international assistance, and develop effective national security. Section D, the fourth and final section, seeks to build the capacity of the government by providing support to the cooperation between national legislature and local government, as well as the UN itself. (UNSMIL)

Clearly, the UN set its sights pretty high when creating these mandates. It seems like it has been hard to accomplish all these things, since this mandate was established in March of 2014 and the country is still battling political instability and violence. However, the UNSMIL did do a good job of outlining a wide range of the most important issues in Libya. I found it important to include these mandates because they detail the exact concerns that are currently troubling Libya. Although the UNSMIL may not have eradicated all of these problems from the country, they have formed a solid plan and taken action to generate political and societal change in Libya.

In addition to UNSMIL, there are fifteen other UN specialized agencies, funds, and programs operating in Libya. These include some well-known organizations such as United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Orgnization (WHO), and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There is also a UN Information Centre (UNIC) in Tripoli and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has a representation in the Libyan Capital.  (UNSMIL)

With the heavy amount of involvement in Libya and the Middle East, the UN has a lot of influence in the region. Especially with the recent development and presence of ISIS in the area, the UN has been taking action. UNSMIL met in February of 2015 to form a plan on resolving the political crisis in Libya, and the UNSMIL mandate was renewed in late March with intentions to mediate the Libyan political process. (UN News Centre)

UNSMIL Meeting in February to Discuss Crisis in Libya

UNSMIL Meeting in February to Discuss Crisis in Libya

Photo Source: UN News Centre

From what I could find, I did not see any direct involvement with the US and the UN in Libya. However, with the wide range of UN programs contributing to the region, it is probable that the US has significant influence when working with these organizations. Further, as of January 2013, UNSMIL was made up of 205 national and international members, some of which are surely American. (UNSMIL)

Much of the mandate focused on addressing human rights issues. In a country with almost no working government, these sorts of problems are commonplace. I have discussed the range of human rights violations in previous blogs, but some of the most important include violence, gender inequality, and human trafficking. Due to militia groups and ISIS, there are frequent attacks against civilians including shootings, bombings, and airstrikes. Many Libyans are also living in terrible conditions where they struggle with poverty, water shortages, and electricity blackouts. On top of all this, there are still even more issues for women in Libya, who often deal with restrictions on their most basic human rights. Human sex and labor trafficking is also common for migrant travelers in Libya. Human rights violations are one of the most pressing and widespread issues in Libya currently, and these issues desperately need to be addressed by the Libyan government with the help of the UN. (Human Rights Watch)

Farish Noor speaks of moving past Eurocentrism, in his excerpt of Dealing with Human Rights. Ethnocentrism, or Eurocentrism, is “the tendency of individuals and cultures to view themselves as well as the environment around them from the perspective of their own culture, values, and beliefs” (Noor, 51). He also claims Eurocentrism to “entail a favorable evaluation of one’s own culture while perceiving any differences from this norm as inferior” (Noor, 51). Noor believes that Eurocentrism is at the core of many Western countries’ attitudes, and it is reflected in their actions regarding the rest of the world. He disagrees with how “Western governments and elites have tried to impose their own ethnocentric/Eurocentric values and beliefs on other communities and cultures” (Noor, 52). This makes them feel threatened and move more towards maintaining their culturally-specific values, instead of adopting the Eurocentric beliefs. Noor argues that the US and other Western countries need to neglect their urge for pushing Eurocentric views and instead focus on understanding and appreciating other cultures’ values. He believes that only then will we be able to establish a global standard for human rights. I think this is relevant to the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, and that the elimination of Eurocentrocism would benefit the reformation of Libya’s government.

Sources: Meijer, Martha, and Farish Noor. Dealing with Human Rights: Asian and Western Views on the Value of Human Rights. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian, 2001. Print.

Advertisements

Post #10 Human Trafficking in Libya

Kate Burke

As I have explored in previous blogs, Libya is not very progressive in the field of human rights. Last week I focused on the issues and injustices that women have to face in Libya. However, I did not go into depth on one of the major human rights violations that Libya struggles with: human sex trafficking. Unfortunately, this is currently a widespread issue in Libya.

Libya is a transit and destination country for forced labor and sex trafficking. This means that some victims are exploited in Libya on the way to another destination, and some are kept in Libya permanently to be trafficked. Libya’s location along the Mediterranean coast makes it a prime setting for trafficking to take place, as often both migrants and smugglers are traveling to Europe. Trafficking networks in Libya are connected to many other surrounding countries, which makes it even harder to enforce. (Protection Project)

It is common for migrant men to be forced into manual labor and for women to be forced into prostitution.  The majority of human trafficking victims in Libya are from Sub-Saharan Africa, trying to find refuge in Europe. As Sarah E. Mendelson states in Born Free, “People without legal identities are more vulnerable to victimization in general and to being trafficked specifically” (Mendelson, 4). This is because they are often looking for work or migrating to a new location. It also makes it easier on the traffickers to ensure that they wont get caught. If a victim has no identity, the sad truth is that the government most likely will not concern itself with their problems. Mendelson highlights this by offering striking numbers; “Since 2008, when the U.S. State Department began tallying numbers on identified victims, it has found only 246,798 trafficking victims worldwide, and since 2006, it has found an average of only about 6,675 prosecutions of human traffickers worldwide annually, with an average of fewer than 4,000 convictions” (Mendelson, 1). Even though mendelson meant for these statistics to demonstrate the inconsistency and uncertainty of the numbers on trafficking, they can also display other information that is just as valuable. These figures illustrate just how prevalent and widespread human trafficking is, but how little it is enforced. (The Milla Project)

Libyan Child from Mercy Wings Organization Website

Libyan Child from Mercy Wings Organization

Photo Source: Mercy Wings Organization 

According to the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report from the US Department of State, Libya’s government currently “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is not making significant efforts to do so”.  Libya has been labeled a Tier 3 country since 2011 because it has no laws against human trafficking and is not making any effort to change this.  Investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders is rare in Libya, as well as identification and protection of trafficking victims.  The US Department of State also claimed that “Libyan authorities continued to treat trafficking victims as undocumented illegal migrants and frequently detained and punished victims for unlawful acts that were committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking”. Furthermore, allegations have surfaced that militia groups that provide security on behalf of the government recruit and use children under the age of 18 years old. Clearly, the country has many pressing issues along the lines of human trafficking, and not only is the government failing to help the problem, it is contributing to it. (US Department of State)

Fortunately, there are NGOs that are taking action to prevent human trafficking in Libya. One NGO that I found particularly interesting was the Mercy Wings Organization. MWO is a Libyan NGO that was established in 2013 solely to provide aid in the area of human trafficking. Many NGOs from America and other developed countries have pulled out of Libya due to the violence there, so it inspiring to see an NGO still serving, especially an NGO from Libya. MWO focuses on three principles when providing aid; prevention, protection, and prosecution. They aid in prevention by holding public awareness campaigns to spread knowledge on human trafficking. MWO employs “3 Rs” when providing protection aid for victims: rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The NGO also advocates for policy change and stricter prosecution laws to enforce traffickers. Personally, I think that MWO is a big step in the right direction for Libya. Although human trafficking is a severe issue in Libya that will probably not be solved any time soon, organizations like MWO are taking action and making a difference in the fight against human trafficking. (Mercy Wings Organization)

Source: Mendelson, Sarah E. “Born Free: How to Prevent Human Trafficking.” (September 22, 2014): n. pag. Web.

Post #9 Women’s Issues in Libya

Kate Burke

Libya has been struggling with human rights violations ever since Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011.   Women’s rights have taken a major hit amidst the civil unrest. There are various reports of harassment of women by militias with the increased violence, including death threats, attacks, and murders of women in public positions. In less extreme cases, women deal with the restriction of even the most basic of freedoms.

Libyan Women Protest Militia Violence

Libyan Women Protest Militia Violence

Source: Deutsche Welle (DW)

There are many issues that women face in the area of home and family life. Women are not allowed to get married until they are 20 years of age, unless they get special permission from a court, which is pretty rare. Once married, a woman is then legally obligated to “ensure the comfort, physical and psychological well-being of their husbands, and to assume all domestic and childcare responsibilities”. In return, she receives financial support from her husband. It is obvious that this is not exactly a fair trade, or a fair share of responsibilities. (Social Institutions and Gender Index)

Speaking of unfair, men are considered the natural guardians of their children under Islamic law, even though women are considered the caretakers. Custody is often granted to mothers in the event of a divorce only until the daughters marry or the sons reach puberty, where they will move in with the father. Libyan men are allowed to divorce their wives even if it is not mutual, but women do not have this right and are only allowed to divorce their husbands under very specific and rare circumstances. Sometimes, women are forced to give up custody of their children in exchange for a divorce. Even if they are granted a divorce, women then have to face social stigma and financial difficulties. (Social Institutions and Gender Index)

Libyan women also struggle with domestic violence. There is no legislation to protect women from this, and it is thought to be fairly common and acceptable in Libyan society. One survey showed that 52% of men and 41% of women justified a man beating his wife if she went out without telling him. This is alarming not only because the numbers are so high, but also because women think it is almost as acceptable as men do, even though they are the victims. Clearly, the views on this subject in Libya have a long way to come to catch up to the United States’ standards. (European Country of Origin Information Network)

On a similar topic, sexual abuse towards women is prevalent in Libya as well. Rape is a criminal offense, but so is sexual relations outside of marriage. Therefore, women often don’t report a rape because of they fear being prosecuted of extramarital sex. It is also not uncommon that women who are raped are pressured by their family and by society to marry the man who raped them. Between this option and imprisonment, most women choose to keep silent. Abortion is only legal when the woman’s life is in danger, but they are also limited on their access to contraceptives. It is difficult to find information on reproductive health for women due to the social stigma surrounding discussion of sexuality. Women also need their husband’s approval to obtain contraceptives, or even be accompanied by someone when they visit a doctor. (The Guardian)

There are still other constraints on women’s freedoms in Libya. Most women do not travel alone, or without the permission of their husband. Even further, 57% of women say they feel completely or somewhat restricted in leaving their houses without permission. 96% of men and 82% of women believe that “a good wife should obey her husband even if she disagrees”, according to the 2013 IFES survey. Women also felt restricted in associating with people of their own choosing, being in public places without fear, and expressing their views on critical issues to family and friends. Women are banned by law from working “strenuous or hazardous” jobs, working at night, or working over 48 hours a week. As expected, there is a significant disparity in the income of men and women. The majority of women do not even have paying jobs, as their role is to stay at home and tend to children and housework. (International Foundation for Electoral Systems)

However, not all aspects of women’s rights in Libya are negative. Libya is ranked as one of the best countries for political representation. During the Libyan Revolution, women were actively involved in both protests and government. In 2012, 33 women were elected to the 200-member General National Congress in Libya. Relatively high numbers of women (66%) voted in the 2012 election as well. (Reuters)

The bottom line is that women in Libya, although not completely repressed, are living with a lot of restrictions on their actions. It can be agreed upon that women should have the autonomy to control their own life, instead of their husbands or family members. But we are far from taking action on these issues. With political instability in full swing, Libyan officials do not have the time or resources to put towards a problem that is not utterly critical. Both Libyan government and society are inhibiting women in the country, and unfortunately women’s rights are not the top priority for a country in peril.

Post #8 Humanitarian Aid

Kate Burke

Humanitarian aid may not be as good-natured as society often thinks. Linda Polman illustrates the flaws of aid organizations and non-profits in her novel, The Crisis Caravan. One of the main concerns she raises is the paradox of who benefits from the aid that NGOs provide when there are conflicting groups in a country. The example she uses is that of the Rwandan Genocide. The war consisted of the opposing groups of Hutus and Tutsis. The infamous genocide was a mass murder of thousands of Tutsis and even some moderate Hutus. Ideally, humanitarian aid would be provided strictly to the Tutsis (the injured and targeted tribe), and the Hutus that were wounded as well. But Polman points out that achieving such outcomes is much easier said than done. She explains, “Mindful of the Red Cross principles of neutrality and impartiality, the aid organizations in Goma were committed to helping anyone they could” (Polman, 26). Consequently, the dangerous Hutus that were causing harm received aid and money, along with the injured Tutsis and Hutus. To be fair, it was seemingly the only way to provide aid to the Rwandans that genuinely needed it. But Polman calls for readers to rethink their stance on aid and doubts that this is our only option. She provides the views of Florence Nightingale and Henri Dunant to help make things more clear. Nightingale believed that if the parties at war use the aid to their advantage, then the purpose of the aid fails altogether. On the other side of the spectrum, Dunant sides more along the lines of the Red Cross, claiming that one should help those in need, regardless of the circumstances. It is clear that Polman agrees with Nightingale’s position on humanitarian aid, and she tries to challenge readers to reconsider how much progress is actually being made with humanitarian aid in these sorts of situations.

Another main concern with humanitarian aid that Polman points out is with the state of NGOs and non-profits in themselves. Since the organizations have to spread awareness to the public in order to get funding to provide aid, they all compete with each other and in turn lose sight of what their goal was in the first place. Many times the founders and volunteers of the organizations are living rather comfortable lifestyles while providing aid, when in reality that money could, and in Polman’s view, certainly should be given to the people that need help. Polman also speaks about the process that aid organizations have to go through in order to get donor contracts to work in areas that need relief, and only further points out flaws in the aid process. A crucial issue is how the organizations use media to get attention and money for their cause, as well as how inefficiently the media handles their news stories and information. Polman states that “Significant portions of aid organizations’ budgets are devoted to “press and publicity”” (Polman, 42). I certainly think that there is a problem with the aid process if the money that the uninformed public is donating for those in need is instead going towards media coverage, whether that blame falls on the specific organization or the system as a whole. I believe this process that organizations go through in order to get money for their assignment is the reason why Polman said that “Aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa” (Polman 177). While the main focus should be how to effectively and efficiently help the people that need aid, most organizations spend their time and resources trying to compete with other NGOs, get donor contracts, and fight for attention in the media. Personally, I think it is important that Polman is drawing attention to the faults of humanitarian aid. I never thought that the system might be unjust or flawed, and the public needs to be aware of how the humanitarian aid process works, especially if they are the ones donating their money.

It is up to us to take action towrds the methods of how aid and relief is given to people that need it. Yes, the media needs to present the story of people who need help in a way that will get attention. But that does not mean that they have to compromise the integrity of their writing and their journalism. They must commit to spending more time and effort in order to get the facts correct. Researching the culture of a country or conflict may take more work, but it is their duty as journalists to present factual information to the public. If the goal is to spread awareness, they must strive to spread awareness truthfully and effectively. The public plays a vital role in humanitarian aid because they are the ones donating much of the profits.  There is some responsibility on the public to do their own research on the cause to which they are donating, and even the organization to which they are donating. The humanitarian aid process could also be helped by supervision of NGO activity or budgets, or at least some regulations or standards that NGOs and non-profits must be held to. However, the government cannot get too involved, obviously, in Non-Government Organizations. Therefore, I think it is crucial for all three segments to play a role in order to make a change. The media, the public, and the government must all work together to make the humanitarian aid process more effective and efficient and for the aid to actually reach those in need.

Source: Polman, Linda. The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid? New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.

Post #7 NGOs in Libya

Kate Burke

As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, most of the problems in Libya have taken a back seat to the violence that is enveloping the country. This makes it hard for NGOs, or Non-Government Organizations, to have specific goals or missions that they are actively working towards right now because it is too dangerous to send people into the region. However, I have found a few NGOs that are trying, despite the widespread violence and chaos, to work towards a safer and more stable society in Libya.

One NGO that is particularly involved in Libya is the UNHCR, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The term NGO was first coined when the UN was created in 1945, and the UN claims that any non-profit organization that is independent from government control is an NGO. Therefore, the UNHCR qualifies as an NGO, as it is governed by the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The UNHCR is ultimately run by the UN High Commissioner, Antonio Gutteres. He was elected by the UN General Assembly in 2005 to become the 10th UN High Commissioner. As the previous Prime Minister of Portugal, Guterres has spent more than 20 years involved in government and public service. The UNHCR’s main goal is to “lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and solve refugee problems worldwide.” In other words, the program focuses on defending the rights and safety of refugees. (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)

Doctors provide medical assistance to a man who was shot as he fled from violence in the Central African Republic

Doctors provide medical assistance to a man who was shot as he fled from violence in the Central African Republic

Photo Source: UNHCR Photo Galleries

The UNHCR puts a lot of resources towards my group’s region, Middle East and North Africa. Since the area is prone to unrest, there are constant situations where people are fleeing their countries and needing assistance. The program knows that they need to approach each situation on a case-by-case basis, as the way to help these refugees is highly circumstantial. However, the UNHCR has stated a few more broad goals for the Middle East and North Africa region for 2015: “to deliver innovative operational responses, including life-saving assistance; to ensure protection for all people of concern with a particular focus on the most vulnerable, especially those in urban areas; to seek durable solutions, including resettlement as a protection tool; and to continue to respond to ongoing emergencies.” In general, they aim to provide aid to refugees in any way possible, including removing them from dangerous situations and relocating them to safer locations. (UNHCR Middle East and North Africa)

In Libya specifically, the UNHCR is working towards protecting refugees in light of the recent violence. The social unrest creates a hostile environment for Libyan citizens, and causes many to become refugees seeking shelter in a different city or country. According to the UNHCR, at least 140,000 Libyans have become refugees since September 2014 due to the fighting. They have been providing aid by distributing medical supplies and monitoring missions in Libya to assess the needs of refugees and provide assistance to IDPs, or Internationally Displaced Persons. In 2014, the UNHCR provided medical assistance to 13,497 people in Libya and delivered humanitarian aid to 30,000 IDP Libyans since August. In response to the conflict in the country, the organization has also created a contingency plan to prepare for future turmoil. Although the political instability in Libya has set most NGOs back, it seems that the UNHCR has taken the challenge with stride and still made an impact on refugees in this hazardous situation.  (UNHCR Libya)

Due to its status gained from being associated with the UN, the UNHCR is able to make an impact on every continent. As such a global power, it has provided relief to over 46 million refugees and stateless people. The UNHCR is involved in 123 of the 196 countries in the world, and has over 9,300 staff members working in these regions. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. The UNHCR has a needs-based budget of $6.8 billion for 2015, which is an increase from last year due to more demand.  The program mainly gets its funding from donations from the public and private sectors, as well as from fund-raising events that it holds. Recognized for its influential work as an NGO, the UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, in 1954 and in 1981. In my opinion, it seems to be a very successful NGO, and one of the only ones working in Libya at the time.

You can get involved with the UNHCR by donating at their website, by raising awareness and holding fund-raising events, or by becoming a UN volunteer.

Post #5 Libyan Sustainability and Human Rights

Kate Burke

It is clear that Libya is struggling with a lot of issues that seem more pressing than environmental problems. Most of the effort in the country is going towards reducing violence and restoring order to society. However, Libya does have one shining achievement in the realm of environmental progress: The Great Manmade River Project.

The Great Manmade River is a series of underground pipes that supply water to the Sahara Desert. As I mentioned in my last blog post, Libya struggles with water scarcity due to desertification diminishing natural water sources. The Great Manmade River Project was an attempt to remedy this growing issue of desertification and reduce some of the water shortage that Libyan citizens experience. The GMR is currently the worlds largest irrigation project, with 1,750 miles of pipes. The underground pipes draw water from aquifers under the Sahara and deliver that water to major cities in Libya. An aquifer is a natural water source found underground that can be extracted using a water well and turned into drinking water.(Encyclopedia Britannica)

The Great Manmade River - Human Rights Investigations

The Great Manmade River – Human Rights Investigations

The GMR consists of more than 1,300 wells and supplies 6,500,000 meters cubed (roughly 1,717,118,333 gallons) to cities including Tripoli, Benghazi, and Sirte. This is most likely one of Libya’s greatest environmental accomplishments, and has been supplying water since 1991. However, even with the GMR, water shortages are still an urgent issue in the country.  It was estimated in 2007 that the GMR could supply water for up to a thousand years. Unfortunately, this is only a small fraction of time in the big picture.  The aquifers were discovered on accident while searching for oil, and since the aquifers are a natural resource, there is already growing concern that the GMR will not be able to supply water long term and that reserves cannot sustain the amount of people it currently does. (Global Research)

In July 2011, NATO launched an airstrike at the Brega pipe factory that damaged pipes and killed six workers. The motive of this was to gain control of the most important infrastructure in Libya. Over 70% of Libyan citizens depend on the GMR for their water source for personal use and for watering the land. This placed an immense amount of power in the hands of NATO. More than half of the country was without running water due to the destruction of the GMR. This not only gave NATO an upper hand, but illustrated a glaring problem in the Libyan water system: citizens relied too much on the GMR and needed another way to access water. (Human Rights Investigations)

Water scarcity is a widespread problem across the globe. The water shortages in Libya affect everyone in the country, from minorities, to the poor, to entire communities and cities. The dependence on the GMR for water reminded me of the metaphor Daniel Quinn made in Moral Ground. He compared the population to a person living in a penthouse and taking bricks every day from the bottom of the building. Eventually, the building collapses because there is nothing left to hold up their penthouse, and the person collapses with it. The GMR was an innovative system to supply fresh water, but what happens if Libyans rely too much on it as their only source of water? The answer is that once the aquifers run dry, the people have no other options and have nowhere left to turn.  Using up all of Earth’s resources ends up only hurting us in the long run.

This of course can be extended to the entire population and how they treat the world. Water scarcity, climate change, and other environmental issues have become global problems because we act as if the earth is at our disposal. Sheila Watt-Cloutier addresses of how climate change affects human rights in her chapter of Moral Ground. She argues that by relating climate change to how it affects our children and community, more people will be interested in making a change. Perhaps if people focus on how environmental concerns infringe on their human rights, they will be motivated to take action. Unfortunately, in some countries like Libya, citizens are struggling with the most basic human right of safety to even make an effort on current sustainability issues in the region. I couldn’t find any organizations that are currently working on sustainability in Libya because it is too dangerous to be there. If Libya and the rest of the world are to make any progress with the environment and human rights, serious changes need to be enforced before it is too late, and we certainly have a long road ahead of us. (United Nations Human Rights)

Book Sources:

Quinn, Daniel. “Danger of Human Exceptionalism.” Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. San Antonio, TX: Trinity UP, 2010. N. pag. Print.

Watt-Cloutier, Sheila. “The Inuit Right to Culture Based on Ice and Snow.”Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. San Antonio, TX: Trinity UP, 2010. N. pag. Print.

Post #4 Environmental Issues in Libya

Kate Burke

In the midst of the complete chaos that is currently taking place in Libya, one might forget that the country has a variety of other issues that could be just as destructive as the civil violence. It is clear that Libya has more pressing concerns to deal with than sustainability problems, but it is only going to worsen their condition if no one is paying attention to them. There is no telling what could happen if Libya continues down the road that they are on. For a country of almost seven million people, the consequences could be catastrophic. (Encyclopedia of Earth)

One environmental issue that is pertinent to Libya is desertification. Libya falls in the Sahara Desert, with over 90% of the country being desert or semi-desert. Desertification is the spread of desert and degradation of desert areas into even more arid and dry land. Desertification typically involves regions losing its bodies of water, vegetation, and wildlife. Although this phenomenon can be caused by factors such as drought and climate change, desertification is overwhelmingly due to human interference. People remove vegetation to farm and to expand cities and residential areas, which ruins the ecosystem and creates a destructive cycle. In Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, Kathleen Moore and Michael Nelson state that people’s mindset is often “How can we change global warming, without significantly changing this lifestyle…that is causing global warming in the first place?” This seems to be what is happening in Libya. People and corporations understand that they are the cause behind desertification, but they continue to industrialize and therefore make matters worse. (United Nations)

Allan Savory speaks extensively about desertification in this Ted Talk. While some view his ideas on how to reduce desertification with livestock mimicking nature as controversial, he does a detailed and thorough job of explaining desertification and its implications, as well as demonstrates the compelling evidence of his research.

Since Libya already has a dry and dusty climate, desertification only causes more complications, ranging from agricultural issues to climate change. People farm the drylands in Libya, but doing so creates a devastating conundrum. Drylands are already not ideal for farming, so they are unable to support rigorous farming and grazing from cattle. This results in mediocre agricultural productive and the spread of desertification, which then leads people to farm in new areas again. This cycle is still continuing, and only further damaging Libya’s environment. Libya’s crisis can be expanded to the rest of the world, as this same practice is causing desertification in two-thirds of the world’s grasslands. On such a global scale, desertification and the impact is has on climate change is severely detrimental to everyone on this planet. (Encyclopedia of Earth)

Desertification is also related to another of Libya’s major sustainability issues, which is water shortage. Libya does have the largest water development system of underground pipes in the world, called the Great Manmade River Project. However, there are questions that arise to how viable it will be long-term due to low resources. As previously discussed, farming and city expansion can cause desertification that leads to water shortages, but there are some other contributing factors as well. Drought, misuse and overuse, pollution, and population overgrowth all add to the scarcity of water. (World Wildlife Foundation)

However, in Troubled Waters, Wheeler views the issue to be “less about supply than it is about recognizing water’s true value, using it efficiently, and planning for a different future”. This is important to Libya’s water crisis because water is commonly used inefficiently, and a correction of this error could have a big impact on the nation. Since some of the factors contributing to water shortage are out of people’s control (drought, flooding, rainfall), it is vital to reduce the damage of the problems that citizen’s do play a role in (pollution, overuse, farming). In a country that is falling apart, water efficiency is the last thing on people’s minds. At the same time, it is one of the issues that only catalyzes the decline of Libya’s society. And as Wheeler demonstrates in the charts in his article, the rest of the world may soon be following Libya’s lead. (Al Arabiya)

Book Sources:

Moore, Kathleen Dean., and Michael P. Nelson. Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. San Antonio, TX: Trinity UP, 2010. Print.

Wheeler. “Troubled Waters.” The Christian Science Monitor (2012): 26-29. Web.