Good governance and integrity high on the agenda of Libyan municipalities

Date : 29/09/2019

Today, mayors, deputy mayors and trainees of 7 Libyan municipalities participating in Transparency International’s Local Integrity System (LIS) programme, have formed an active community to promote and implement integrity, transparency and accountability in their way of working. On the agenda are items such as: the design and implementation of an accountability system for the finance department, the implementation of sound internal bylaws, drafting of a code of conduct and how to set up a complaints structure for citizens. This result has been achieved after a workshop and training session in Tunis in July, which concluded the first phase of this 2-year project.  We could not have envisioned a more rewarding result so far, taking into account that this looked like a pretty challenging endeavour from the outset.

Transparency International becoming a partner of the Nicosia Initiative for Libyan citizens

Transparency International’s (TI’s) journey with the Libyan municipalities started in the Spring of 2017, when a delegation of 7 Libyan municipalities came to Brussels for a study visit. TI-Belgium was invited by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Flanders to hold a presentation about anti-corruption measures and good governance principles in public services. The delegates from Benghasi, Ghariyan, Sebha, Sirte, Toubruk, Tripoli and Zintan, subsequently suggested TI could support them with the development of skills in their municipalities on the principles of transparency and accountability.
The visit was part of the framework of the Nicosia Initiative, a bottom up process initiated by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). Since 2015, they have developed a close political and increasingly, a very practical relationship with Libyan cities. The aim is to foster territorial cohesion through creating a common working space to improve municipalities’ efficiency and to support Libyan cities to enter the international community.

The CoR matches Libyan municipalities at their request with offers of expertise from EU cities, regions and NGOs. This has resulted in several fruitful partnerships, helping municipalities to provide better services in areas ranging from primary health care, to waste management and the adoption of principles of good governance in their operations.

Libya is one of the EU’s closest and most fragile neighbours. Since the fall of the Ghaddafi-regime in 2011, the country has experienced political turmoil and insecurity. The TI-movement was delighted with the financial support from the Government of Flanders to work on its Local Integrity System methodology with 7 Libyan municipalities for a period of 2 years. Local governments are close to the public, as they are the day-to-day providers of services for citizens. Those services need the highest level of transparency and integrity and active citizens’ participation to hold the government units accountable. The collaboration with the Libyan municipalities aims to enhance capabilities to provide services in compliance with integrity values, transparency principles and accountability systems, which minimizes opportunities for corruption.

Transparency International is on a mission

The mission of TI is to prevent and combat the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. More than 100 Transparency International Chapters worldwide work on this theme for 25 years already. Local circumstances vary vastly, but we share one dream: a world with transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and across all sectors of society.
What have we achieved so far with our Libyan partners? Why are we optimistic about the potential of a positive impact on the 7 municipalities?

Critical success factors

Concrete impact is what we are looking for and TI works hard to ensure its work travels beyond conference and meeting rooms to actually change people’s lives. The Libyan municipalities have proven to be excellent partners to realise positive change.

The Local Integrity System-methodology starts with an in-depth assessment of current operations with the purpose to find weak spots and to develop a training to address those weaknesses. The assessors are local Researchers assigned to this task after a proper recruitment and training process. The quality of the assessments depends on participants feeling comfortable to be open about the day-to-day functioning of their operations.  This brings us to the first critical success factor. A project like this can only flourish in an environment of trust, empathy, cooperation and courage. We must recognize the engagement of the Libyans participants, as well as the important work of Benedetta Oddo, coordinator of the Nicosia Initiative. Ms. Oddo brought this group of Libyan public officials together, offering them a platform for open dialogue and fostering mutual understanding. In addition, she is inspiring the group to take the future into their own hands. Ms. Oddo about her approach towards the project: “Do not tell me the future does not look pink as the future has no colour. We have to understand our fragile world and work on the roots, not on the symptoms. Then we learn and shape the conditions without waiting for ideal circumstances.” This mindset has given TI a solid foundation and has increased its chances for success dramatically. 

A second critical success factor is deep technical expertise in good governance and integrity in local public organisations. Majdi Abu Zaid, Executive Director and Isam Haj Hussein, Operations Director of TI Palestine can draw from years of experience in working with local governments in the Arab region and beyond. They also have an established network of anti-corruption professionals in Libya. It is important to stress that the principles of the Local Integrity System are applicable anywhere in the world. Finetuning it to the cultural, political and legal circumstances is key, as well as speaking the language of the people.
If a region is experiencing conflicts and political turmoil, implementing the project becomes more challenging. At the same time, for the participants there is more at stake. Some of the objectives of the LIS methodology are outside of the scope of influence in this collaboration between the Libyan public officials, the Nicosia Initiative, TI-Belgium, TI-Palestine and TI-Tunisia. The Ministry of Finance in Libya should, for instance, accelerate the development of tax laws and regulations. Currently, taxes are not properly collected and municipalities remain chronically underfunded. In addition, lack of a safe environment weighs on the ability to develop the economy, education, higher quality healthcare, etc. It leads to the conclusion that setting realistic objectives that are fully owned by the participants is an important third critical success factor. The ‘change the world, start with yourself’ principle, is the only way forward.

All the stakeholders in this project deserve the sincerest appreciation for their leadership and determination. They illustrate how positive results can be achieved in our fragile world. It is now a matter of keeping the momentum alive, for which TI already has expressed its long-term commitment. In the second phase of the project, TI-Tunisia will play an important role in including several civil society organisations in the working groups. The NGOs will continue to challenge and monitor compliance with the implemented principles and measures.  TI will be looking for funding to not only continue with, but also to expand the Local Integrity work in Libya after the upcoming deadline to close the project on December 31, 2019.

For more information on the LIS methodology, click here.
For questions, please contact

Author: Hanneke de Visser, Operations Director, Transparency International Belgium
Brussels, 18/9/2019