Building a strong, effective and accountable state: Selected experiences

Event Details

DATE: August 16, 2015

TIME: 9:15 am

Location:Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

August 16-18, 2015



The World Bank organized a capacity building activity for Libyan civil servants in Istanbul, between August 16 and 18, 2015, funded through the State and Peace Building Fund. This event was the third in a series of capacity building activities for civil servants in Libya including VCs (July 8) and the training delivered face-to-face in Istanbul (April 2015).  Its objective was to build on the knowledge shared during the previous workshop (April 2015) and show how other countries have built their state institutions and public administrations after years of severe civil war, while concentrating on specific challenges. Building on the feedback received at the end of the previous workshop, this capacity building activity covered four essential areas that are inherent to an effective transition process in a post-conflict environment: local governance, communication, transitional justice, and institution building. Regional and international experts with experience in conflict states as well as career public servants from countries that have experienced similar democratic transition processes shared a diverse set of experiences.  The list of lecturers is included in the Agenda in Annex 1. The participants had also the opportunity to discuss how experiences from other countries might be relevant and applicable to the Libya context and also contribute to the discussion through a group exercise finalized with presentations on local governance, communication, and transitional justice.

26 senior civil servants and technical staff (the list of participants is included in Annex 2) from the following selected agencies and ministries attended the workshop: the Bureau of Statistics & Census, MO(Planning), MO(Local Governance), MO(Labour), MO(Communication), MO(Oil & Gas), National Audit Bureau, MO(Economy), MO(Finance), MO(Industry), MO(Electricity), MO(Health), MO(Education),  MO(Housing), Passport Authority, State Property Authority, National Policy Decision Centre, Economic Sciences Research Center, National Oil Cooperation, Tripoli University. The complete list of participants is included in Annex 2.

The summaries of the topics covered in each session are included below.


Session 1: Setting the stage for institutional building in a post-conflict environment: selected country experiences and initial lessons learnt

The first presentation exemplified the vulnerabilities (such as politicization of the public service, poorly trained staff, highly centralized and poorly informed decision-making) that are common in post-conflict public administrations and the consequences that derived from these vulnerabilities in countries such as Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Burundi, Sudan, Somalia. It has also addressed the dilemma of how to achieve the balance between immediate existential needs and conflicting longer term development and capacity building needs. The second presentation was based on the findings of the World Development Report 2011 and the helix that post-conflict/autocratic states have to transition through to move from violence and fragility towards resilience to risk. The panelists also addressed the internal and external stresses that countries face throughout this process and underlined the importance of inclusion and coalitions well as on building on quick wins (e.g. electricity reform in Liberia) to restore the confidence needed in institutional transformation. The speaker emphasized two key messages: the need for priority setting in the post-conflict phase and the difficult trade-offs that are inherent in the transformation /reconstruction process. During the Q&A the participants raised the following issues: the need to draft a manual for decision making; the importance of political balance, prioritization, and conflict diagnosis; what is the role of the international community in re-building institutions? What support can the WB provide (the disconnection between the WB mandate focused on economic issues and the current political needs which are now priority in Libya)? The session was particularly appreciated because it included mechanisms for effective institutional building and it stressed the importance of collaboration between institutions and of building trust between government and citizens.


Session 2: Setting the stage for institutional building – The example of Croatia, 1995-2015

This session focused on presenting the transition experience of Croatia from post-conflict country in 1995 to EU and NATO state member.  The presentation discussed the challenges encountered during this process, the solutions implemented, and how policy actions and steps were prioritized. The four main components/steps that characterized the transition process in Croatia were creating the legislative architecture, building institutions, strengthening the institutional capacity (particularly human capacity), and implementation and monitoring of performance. The lecturer underscored the importance of having a vision, leadership, and inclusion as well as building a road map based on the vision and using “champions of change”. Examples such as the procurement compliance and debt enforcement reform in Croatia were provided. The main message of this session was that ownership of the solution has to reside within the country: whatever the solution to the current political and security crisis, it needs to be owned by the Libyans. The workshop participants were interested to find out what the biggest challenge was that Croatia had to face during transition and how the new government dealt with the supporters of the old regime. They considered this discussion helpful because it reflected similarities with the current situation in Libya and included an example of framework to use during transition.


Session 3: Transitional Justice (TJ) – An overview

This session introduced the participants to the transitional justice concept and the four approaches that can be taken, alternatively or complementary to achieve reconciliation: criminal justice, truth-seeking, reparations and institutional reforms with focus on the security sector, judiciary. The discussion addressed the current situation in Libya and the progress made between 2011 and 2013 on deciding how the country should deal with the past. The main take-aways from this discussion were: the importance of balancing the need for accountability (including juridical) and moving the society towards reconciliation, tailoring the transitional justice model by combining and sequencing the four approaches, the importance to have a comprehensive TJ strategy and social dialogue. Examples from the former Yugoslavia, Peru, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina and Morocco were shared during the workshop. The Libyan participants engaged actively during this session and concentrated especially on the usefulness of the 2013 Libyan TJ Law and the best time to apply it.  Participants also wondered which of the four approaches had Libya made progress on. The session was appreciated because it centered on an analysis of the Libyan TJ law and the progress achieved until now in this area.


Session 4: Transitional Justice (TJ) – The case of Serbia  

The good practices from countries of the former Yugoslavia (particularly Serbia), were outlined in this session: challenges and lessons learned from different criminal justice systems - e.g. the achievements of the  International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; the War Crimes Prosecution Office, the War Crimes Departments in Serbia - in the High Court in Belgrade (for trial) and  in the Appellate Court in Belgrade (for appeals); specialized units for criminal justice prosecution in  four biggest courts in Croatia, the hybrid character (national and international) of criminal justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Additionally, the session included recommendations for truth-telling initiatives; types of material reparations awarded by courts or by governments; as well as institutional reform initiatives undertaken by former Yugoslavia countries, and lessons learned from the former Yugoslavia case. The participants were interested to know how long it will take to achieve results in the TJ process. Most of them agreed that the lessons learned from this case could be applied to Libya despite country differences.


Session 5: Local governance and decentralization – general overview. The case of Yemen

The general presentation introduced the main functions of local governments in transitioning countries with focus on public financial management and the following questions: what should the local government structure look like? which level of local administration should spend and on what (expenditure assignment)? what sources of revenue should be assigned to sub-national governments? how might fiscal imbalances be resolved? how is the timing of revenues to be managed and monitored? what Exists in Libya today? The presentation also included international best practice for local government requirements and reform proposals for: expenditure assignments, revenue mobilization, capacity building, or developing a transparent equalization transfer mechanism. It was complemented by a study case of the decentralization reform in Yemen before the 2011 revolution and afterwards, a case study that displayed resemblances with the current situation in Libya. The Libyans were interested to learn more about the technical assistance necessary in this area and raised the need for training on how to implement a budget reform.


Session 6: Local governance and decentralization in Bangladesh

This session presented the constraints and challenges of the decentralization process in Bangladesh, the current local governance structure, and the WB Municipal Governance and Services Project, which aims to improve municipal governance and basic urban services in municipalities and city corporations, as well as other local governance support projects that were implemented in Bangladesh. The Q&A following session 5 and 6 focused on the pitfalls of the current local governance law in Libya, how local governments have the capacity and resources to operate and deliver services, and how the tribal element plays into the decentralization process. The Libyan examples and the tips in approaching the local governance reform in Libya were particularly appreciated.


Session 7 and 8: The role of information and communication within the government and between the government and citizens – country examples

A WB senior communications expert chaired the two sessions on the role of communication in a post-conflict country. The first part was dedicated to policy options, country examples (such as Iraq) and what communication can achieve (i.e. public opinion as the basis of power and legitimacy; communication as a market in which the sellers –governments, interest groups, business – can achieve the buyers’ – citizens – loyalty and the organization of the media system). This part also stressed the role of communication in building a sense of country identity and the importance of knowing well the audience. The media situation in Libya was also discussed. The second session addressed the topics of internal government communication and outreach to external parties, particularly citizens (resources, capacity, etc.), pointing out to the interdependence between policy and communication. Specific recommendations and a short exercise asking participants to identify the main challenges in the communication realm were also included.  The participants expressed interest in learning how to neutralize the influence of old media, how to build communication departments in ministries, and whether a local law to control media is more appropriate vs. a nation-wide one while also expressing frustration regarding the non-transparency of the Libyan media. They considered this topic timely because it is one of the biggest challenges faced currently. The workshop included also a group discussion exercise at the end of the two day in which participants created three groups and were asked to discuss the three main topics of the workshop – local governance, transitional justice, communication–, diagnose the current status of the issue in Libya and identify the main challenges and root causes of problems that they face in each of the three areas. Each group presented its findings to the rest of the participants and speakers offering compelling in-depth analysis of the issues that they currently confront as well as approaches that the government could take in moving forward on each of the three subjects.


Workshop evaluation. The participants were asked to evaluate the relevance and usefulness in understanding the topics discussed in each of the workshop session and to provide additional examples of subjects that they would be interested to learn more about. Regarding the sessions in the first day – institutional building and transitional justice - 77% of the participants rated their usefulness with 6 or above on a progressive scale of 1 to 10, 47% using scores of 8 or above. As for the sessions on local governance and communications in Day 2, 80% of participants considered them helpful rating the sessions with 6 or above, while 50% used scores of 8 or higher. Additionally, the participants appreciated the fact that this workshop was more focused than the one in April, narrowing down on a few topics of interest, and that it included more country examples on each topic. The participants also pointed out as additional topics of interest for future VCs and Workshop events: mechanisms to build up a comprehensive country strategy and design effective policies for different sectors; modalities to create a road map and prioritize, ways to put in place the mechanisms of decision making and perform a diagnosis of the challenges that need to be addressed; fighting corruption; reforming the education system; creating profitable and legal contracts; procurement; financial management; achieving and maintaining security; the psychological element during transition. The organizers and presenters noted the Libyan civil servants’ interest and commitment to analyze all the topics presented through the Libyan perspective and reality, and their interest for the presentations and discussions that were tailored to the current situation in the country and were close to their experiences and jobs. Moreover the participants expressed interest in learning more from successful country examples and focused a lot on the implementation stage of the issues discussed.


Conclusion. The training was a successful event and achieved its stated objectives. The Libyan participants expressed great satisfaction about the topics covered during the workshop and excitement about the group exercise. They showed interest in learning more from international best practices and from the experience of countries which have gone through similar transition processes. Finally some of the participants created a core group that plans to build on the workshop discussions on communication and explore how their analysis on this topic could be translated in practice in their institutions. Beyond reaching its objective, the workshop represented the basis for identifying areas of further engagement with the Libyan civil servants and a rare opportunity to consolidate relations with technical experts in Libyan line ministries and academia. GGODR will plan further capacity building activities for the Libyan civil servants, including through partnerships with other international organization such as European Union.  The objective of these trainings is to provide the Libyan civil servants knowledge and skills that will enable them to translate international transition best practices in the Libyan system.