Under Two Flags: The Development of NGOs in Libya
El Sahli, Mabroka
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I would like to publish the thesis.
Abstract This thesis presents a case study of civil society in Libya, examining the development of civil society associations from 1969 up to the present time. The study argues for, and utilises, a broad definition of the term “civil society” that includes traditional associations. The World Bank definition of civil society provides the basis of the analysis. The latter is presented via a contrasting assessment of Libyan NGOs under two different political regimes. The relationship with the state is shown to have been the primary factor shaping their form and character whether in terms of numbers or activities. State control and the legal framework governing civil society were the primary factors that limited the autonomy of these associations, under the Qadhafi regime. With the sudden absence of the state during and after the 2011 uprising, NGO numbers mushroomed. Associations took the initiative to establish themselves through collective action. The study shows how quickly and effectively NGOs came together to confront the regime and to occupy the public space left by the displaced government in order to provide essential services. The NGOs were able to provide the framework to prevent the collapse of society, which was an indication of the latent strength, effectiveness and importance of civil society in Libya, despite the ongoing challenges faced due to the collapse of the Qadhafi state apparatus. The thesis findings challenge the prevalent assumption that civil society, as commonly defined, has little strength in the Arab world. The broader definition of civil society used in this study (in accordance with the World Bank definition of the term) helps to provide a wide understanding of civil society and is thereby shown to have useful applications in various contexts, outside the presumed European norm. The thesis uses a range of qualitative research methodologies including interviews, documentary data and observation.
PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies