The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) commends Libyan mayors for coming together this week in Tunisia, in an unprecedented display of patriotism and unity during this time of crisis.

For the first time since the conflict began seven years ago, almost all Libyan municipalities and local authorities gathered for three days to discuss how they can contribute to ending the ongoing violence and the suffering of all citizens.

This historic meeting, which took place from 6-8 December, was facilitated by HD at the request of municipalities and local councils from across the country.

During the event, the mayors, united in their concern for the plight of Libyans, underlined their role in promoting stability and reconciliation, and providing security to citizens.

They also developed proposals on how to improve the public services they provide and tackle common challenges they face during this time of division between national governments.

The non-partisan nature of the meeting, and agreement from all participants not to enter into political disputes, meant that the mayors could focus on what their municipalities could do to stabilize the deteriorating situation and resolve the national crisis.

Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), addressed the mayors on the second day of the meeting, to underline the importance of municipalities and local authorities in solving the crisis in Libya.

“This meeting is a building block for the national conference” Mr Salamé said. “Libya needs strong local governance in order to build a strong national government.”

Municipalities are among the last remaining institutions widely viewed as legitimate in Libya. Most were elected in 2014 and have had to become the main service providers for citizens during the crisis, due to the existence of three competing national governments.

 “At this critical juncture in Libya’s history, municipalities and other local authorities need to be reinforced. They are both the key institutions to help Libya through this transition period, and the foundation of a united and strong Libya.” said David Harland, HD’s Executive Director.

This meeting is an important step in HD’s efforts to stabilise the situation in Libya, and find solutions to the conflict that has been ongoing since 2014. The lack of an effective central government since the civil war started has meant that state institutions have become increasingly weakened and divided. This has led to a humanitarian crisis, the breakdown in public services, a liquidity crisis, and the lack of security services that can combat terrorism, crime and illegal migration.

The attendance of almost all Libyan mayors, with over 90% represented at the event, highlights the commitment of municipalities, not only to strengthen local governance, but also to seek an end to the ongoing chaos, in order to preserve the sovereignty and unity of the Libyan state.