Libya: Sebha Area-Based Assessment (ABA), March 2021

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Key Findings and Introduction

Key findings

  • Provision of electricity, health and water services is noticeably weak across Sebha, with distinct disparities in access and quality between urban and peri-urban areas, and between population groups. • In response to a lack of formal infrastructure, residents have constructed ‘informal’ infrastructures such as compartmentalized private water networks or private connections to the electrical grid. While the development of informal service networks shows the resilience of residents, the networks have complicated maintenance and development of formal infrastructure.

  • Findings indicate that respondents perceive the municipal council to be primarily responsible for determining who has access to services. However, water and electricity public entity service providers reportedly do not involve municipal governance actors in planning or development of their services beyond the level of coordination of activities.

  • Residents reportedly reach out to both formal and informal governance actors for complaints regarding service delivery. These latter actors are not directly involved in service delivery, but they are likely considered to be the most accessible representatives of residents’ interests. • While tribal connections were important for how residents defined their community, geographic proximity regardless of tribal affiliation also played a significant role in the majority of Data Collection Units (DCUs).

  • Some population groups face restrictions of movement in parts of Sebha due to community affiliation and various security concerns.


Since 2011, Libya has faced a protracted and complex interlinkage of economic, political, and security crises. The competition for nationwide authority has fractured the upper middleincome country and led to several waves of conflict and intermittent localised violence. To better understand local needs international actors must focus on urban spaces as systems, rather than analysing needs on a sector-by-sector basis. This is particularly true in Libya, where cities have historically played a prominent governance role in lieu of a strong central capital.

Urban spaces generally both reinforce and reflect socioeconomic disparities. For actors seeking to address needs in urban areas, it is essential to understand how social cohesion, access to infrastructure, and governance structures are interlinked. Communities in protracted crises like Libya’s are often driving their own development or crisis coping processes, through formal and/or informal actors. The term ‘informal’ implies a lack of legal status in relation to actors, networks, and arrangements. Often the boundaries and relationships between the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ are complementary or interconnected. A lack of information on ‘informal’ systems frequently prevents effective engagement in urban areas. Through its ‘city as a system’ lens, area-based approaches present pathways for supporting local initiatives and for international organizations to achieve their goals. The main objective of an Area-based Assessment (ABA) is to better understand local dynamics, vulnerabilities, and community capacities to facilitate long-term recovery.

The location for this ABA was chosen by REACH in coordination with the UN Programme Management Team (PMT) and the Nexus Working Group (NWG). Sebha (also spelled Sabha) was selected as the pilot location for the NWG strategy due to a presence of clear needs, risks and vulnerabilities related to basic services, as well as its strategic position as the capital of the southern Fezzan region, and international organization’s need for social-cohesion information to support conflict-sensitive interventions.

The Sebha ABA is designed around two pillars of investigation: i) service provision and access, and ii) social cohesion mechanisms related to decision-making and protection. It seeks to simultaneously highlight the situation of women, youth, migrants, and marginalized population groups throughout. This approach aims to help international actors understand local social dynamics and challenges, as well as help familiarise international actors with governance structures and relevant stakeholders. The analysis seeks to assist international and national actors to operate efficiently at a micro-level by providing insights on existing systems for service provision, decision making, and protection, in a conflict sensitive manner.