Starting from Scratch: Libyans Struggle to Build a Civil Society

By Thorne, John | The Christian Science Monitor, July 17, 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Starting from Scratch: Libyans Struggle to Build a Civil Society

Thorne, John, The Christian Science Monitor

Libyans believe that civil society organizations are vital to their fledgling democracy, but civic groups are having a hard time getting funding and developing know-how.

It was a hot, still afternoon last week in Tripoli when three young men entered a four-star hotel on the waterfront armed with a letter. It began with a Quranic verse about God's favor toward the righteous: "Whatever good you prepare for yourselves, you will find it with God, better and greater in reward."

The men belonged to the Child and Promise Association, a new child welfare group that is part of post-Qaddafi Libya's fledgling civil society. They hoped to use the hotel garden for a fundraising dinner.

Interim leaders say civil society is vital to repairing a country ravaged by dictatorship. But while civic groups are at last able to operate freely, they now face a struggle for know-how and cash.

"They are needed almost everywhere," says Atia Lawgali, deputy minister of culture and civil society. "In rebuilding our institutions, to encourage people's participation, to fight corruption, to name only a few areas."

Libya inherited those challenges and others from Muammar Qaddafi, who dismantled state institutions after seizing power in 1969 and crushed civic ones. Political parties and trade unions were banned, while civil society groups needed 50 members and a thorough vetting by security services for permission to operate. In recent years Qaddafi's family members created pro-regime NGOs that swallowed up public funds while public services sank into ruin, says Mr. Lawgali.

When war began peeling back Qaddafi's regime, new charities - often groups of friends and neighbors - arose to help organize, feed, and educate Libyans. Interim authorities want those groups to keep working, says Lamia Abusedra, a board member of a state support center for NGOs that will open soon in Benghazi, with branches around Libya.

But many groups who registered with authorities have shut down for lack of direction or means, she says. The new center will offer services, including training in management, project planning, and fundraising.

"They played a great role in the revolution, but it's difficult to say now who is still up and running," she says. "We're very worried that the energy we've seen in civil society could fade out." A "delay" in public funding - because "some groups don't want public funding without a transparent mechanism that is fair for all" - also poses an obstacle, Abusedra says.

Authorities are currently ironing out policy on giving state support to civil society groups without threatening their independence or allowing abuse of funds, says Lawgali. For now, many are seeking private donors.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Starting from Scratch: Libyans Struggle to Build a Civil Society


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?