Jean-Louis Romanet Perroux

Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center and a doctoral candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy



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Libya’s Untold Story: Civil Society Amid Chaos

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Jean-Louis Romanet Perroux
Middle East Brief 93, May 2015


By most accounts, the Libyan democratic transition, which began with the 2011 revolution and ended Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year reign, appears to have been derailed. Libya is suffering a civil war and a Libyan state capable of steering the country towards democracy is unlikely to emerge any time soon. Yet in the midst of the country’s chaos, a positive change is occurring slowly and quietly. Largely overlooked, a vibrant civil society is forming, driven by shifts in individual and small-group attitudes and behaviors. In this Brief, Jean-Louis Romanet Perroux provides an assessment of Libyan civil society and its potential role in state-building based on a survey of 1,022 civil society organizations in six major cities. He first identifies three critical elements preventing a democratic transition: the failure of politics, the lack of state institutions, and communalism. Romanet Perroux then argues that the nascent civil society is helping to address these deficiencies by fostering empowerment and civic engagement, national identity, and trust and social cohesion. The Brief concludes that while civil society alone cannot end the cycle of violence or build state institutions, it is forging a sense of Libyan citizenship that is crucial for nation-building.

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