Managing the Tunisia-Libya Border Dynamics
For decades, Tunisia and Libya have had a long-established and mutually profitable interdependence. Despite some diplomatic skirmishes over the years, the two countries remained closely intertwined. In particular, the population from the border regions, due to their long marginalisation from central economic flows and power, had to create the conditions for their own economic survival. In that context, the informal cross-border economy has developed significantly, with tolerance from central states and local control by community leaders.
Since the 2011 so-called ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in Tunisia and the 2011 fall of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, the two countries have experienced an unprecedented security deterioration. The spectacular attacks that took place in Tunisia against the Bardo museum, the Presidential Guard, the Sousse tourist resort and, more recently, the border city of Ben Guerdane are only the visible part of the iceberg and hardly hide the daily deterioration of human security in both countries. How might these two countries be able to address the root causes of their post-revolutionary instability and prevent further destabilisation of the buffer border regions in the near future?
In this Clingendael report the need is emphasised to continue focusing on the understanding of local needs and the enhancing of bottom-up initiatives able to address the multifaceted causes of instability.
Libya is still struggling with endemic and grass-roots instability, security chaos and political disorders, and successive post-revolutionary governments in Tunisia have tried to tackle the cross-border security challenges; however, they have met with little success. The lack of means available, together with socio-economic distress, have significantly hampered the efficiency of the measures taken.
The current insecurity is identified as being a result of both economic and security dynamics at regional level. The authors highlight possible entry points for local and international stakeholders to enhance stability. Most importantly, they insist on positive outputs from ‘top-down’ strategies to ‘bottom-up’ approaches in order to directly support municipalities and local communities in their efforts to tackle the cross-border challenges. Considering their positive input on local stability, the work of domestic and foreign civil society organisations should be encouraged, supported and strengthened. Without being separate from a national comprehensive strategy, local efforts could be better tailored to community needs and cross-border issues. A dual-track approach appears to be the most viable strategy to effectively address post-revolutionary border dynamics and pave the way for long-standing stability in the Maghreb.