Cablegate: Staffdel Grove Explores Foreign Assistance Opportunities and Constraints
DE RUEHTRO #0074/01 0261408
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 261408Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5734
INFO RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 6287
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000074
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG, H E.O. 12958: DECL: 1/26/2020 TAGS: OREP PREL PGOV PHUM LY
SUBJECT: STAFFDEL GROVE EXPLORES FOREIGN ASSISTANCE OPPORTUNITIES AND CONSTRAINTS
CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, US Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(C) Summary: The Executive Director of the Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF), Yusuf Sawani, told STAFFDEL Grove that the Foundation served as an "umbrella society" for Libya's developing NGO community pushing for humanitarian development, national reconciliation for past human rights violations, and political reforms that enshrined individual rights. The Foundation is registered in Switzerland, and therefore subject to annual, independent review by a Swiss auditor and has an annual operating budget of approximately $3.25 million. While Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi serves as the Foundation's chair, he receives no remuneration and a Board comprised of both Libyan and foreign -- including American -- representatives guide its policy. Sawani told the STAFFDEL that the QDF had served as the facilitator for various international organizations operating in Libya, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and that the Foundation actively promoted the founding of additional Libyan NGOs. In a subsequent lunch with international organizations and major donors, the STAFFDEL was encouraged to "make do with [the organizations] we have in Libya". Noting that would-be civil society leaders were, under the current political reality, able to function only under the QDF banner, the UK Ambassador counseled that the U.S. "should not be frightened by the name Qadhafi" but instead seek opportunities that benefited both Libyan and American interests to build trust and a foundation for political and economic change. End Summary.
QDF: A THINK TANK AND ENGINE FOR DEVELOPMENT
2.(C) In a December 8 meeting with the Ambassador and Paul Grove of the Senate Appropriations - Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Qadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation (QDF) Executive Director Yusuf Sawani described the QDF's mission as "humanitarian diplomacy" and applying pressure on the Libyan government to implement economic and political reforms. Sawani characterized the Foundation as operating as an "umbrella society" that enables the work of five independent organizations (list them here). Saif al-Islam founded the first of these organizations in 1999 to discourage the use of drugs among Libyan youth and formally established the QDF in Geneva in 2003. Still a registered Swiss NGO, the QDF is audited on an annual basis by Swiss independent auditors and is subject to Swiss law. Sawani reported that the Foundation's annual operational budget remains near 4 million Libyan dinar ($3.25 million) and that Saif al-Islam, the QDF's chairman, receives no remuneration from its activities. According to Sawani, Saif al-Islam also pays for his official travel on QDF-related business with his own personal funds. Sawani confided that should Saif al-Islam take on the official government role as General Coordinator of the Social Committees to which he has been named, he will be required to resign his position as QDF's chairman.
3.(C) Describing the QDF's operations as a series of partnerships and pilot initiatives to foster the creation of NGOs and facilitate the work of international NGOs in Libya, Sawani said that some of those partnerships had faced serious resistance from government officials. Most recently, the QDF had facilitated Human Rights Watch's (HRW) research studies in Libya in early 2009 and the December launching of HRW's Libya report from Tripoli. The QDF concurrently released its own human rights report that recounted human rights violations, corruption, lack of transparency, and acts of impunity by security officials. Admitting that the QDF's report was a "pre-emptive strike" intending to take air out of Libyan officials' arguments that the HRW report was designed to undermine the regime, Sawani said that Saif al-Islam considered it to be an important piece of the South African-style national reconciliation he sees as necessary for Libya to move forward on political reforms. Saif's frustration with the pace and scope of political reforms led directly to his August 2008 decision to withdraw from politics, according to Sawani.
4.(C) In addition to working closely with HRW, Sawani noted that the QDF had close partnerships with various international organizations including Amnesty International, the Arab Alliance for Human Rights, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the International Organization for Migration, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and UNESCO, among others. While the independent constituent societies can and do have their own relationships with these organizations, Sawani said that the QDF's status both domestically and internationally often made initial interaction through the Foundation more palatable for Libyan authorities. He cited the Human Rights Society of Libya's five-year project with the UK-based Law Society to prevent torture and promote human rights in Libyan detention centers as an example of a relationship forged with the QDF's assistance that had since devolved entirely to the subsidiary TRIPOLI 00000074 002 OF 002 group -- a model that the QDF seeks to continue in order to build a more effective and engaged civil society.
5.(C) Codifying political reform and increased space for dissent were top recommendations in HRW's December 2009 report, and Sawani reported that both remain top priorities for the QDF. Its premier initiative, according to Sawani, is a five-year project to draft and implement a new constitution. The drafting committee, like the QDF's own board, consists of both Libyans and foreigners -- including several Americans. The QDF is also studying changes to Libya's penal code and, in a consultative capacity, the QDF is promoting legislation currently under review by Libya's General People's Congress that would allow the legal formation of NGOs and other associations. Sawani lamented that the Foundation had a mixed record of helping establish independent NGOs in Libya, noting that the QDF-assisted Center for Democracy and the Libyan Justice Society had its licenses revoked within 96 hours of formation. Nonetheless, Sawani judged that the QDF would continue to play an important role as a "think tank" and civil society incubator for the foreseeable future.
INTERNATIONAL PARTERS: WORK IN LIBYA WITH THE TOOLS AVAILABLE
6.(C) In a lunch with representatives from the UN, IOM, European Commission, and UK Embassy, the consensus opinion was that Libya required extensive engagement to be brought up to international standards on development and good governance but lacked the necessary expertise and decision makers to implement those programs. The British Ambassador told Grove, "We need to work with what we have in Libya, and you shouldn't be frightened by the name Qadhafi. It goes with the territory." The UN Resident Coordinator said that even his organization was limited in its reach due to Libya's boycott of UNESCO. (Note: The boycott is due to Libyan sensitivities with UNESCO's Bulgarian leadership. Libya continues to protest Bulgaria's presidential welcome of five Bulgarian nurses, who had been sentenced to death in Libya, on return to Sofia after over seven years in prison. End Note).
7.(C) UK Poloff assessed that the QDF stood out as an organization comprised of young, energetic Libyans that would go on to become civil society leaders as political space opens. All agreed that it was important for any engagement with the Libyan government to find a high-level champion for the project -- one who could make the case for implementation, especially within a system run by regime hardliners that are resistant to change. Only through steadily building both trust and capacity could Libyan organizations effectively participate in international cooperation without using groups like the QDF as an intermediary. The British Ambassador opined that "it's our job to deliver what [Libya] can absorb, which means starting engagement on their terms." The UN representative agreed, noting that Libya remained at "stage zero" on some elements of development and that basic support for programs designed to teach young, civic-minded Libyans English language and computer skills would pay dividends as Libya continues to open politically. CRETZ