The Libya’s urban population is growing rapidly, urbanization rates in Libya have risen steadily, from 49 percent in 1970 to 79 percent in 2016. Today about 85% of the total population live in urban areas in major cities including Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata and Bayda.

The country extends over 1,759,540 km2 where more than 90% of the total land area is desert or semi-desert. Combined with the projected increase in population, this will result in a number of major challenges in the country including the provision of adequate housing, food, clean drinking water, job opportunities, health care, education, and transportation.

Overview of Libya’s land-related situation

Land tenure – Access, use and control of land and land-based resources are deeply linked to power, identity and livelihoods and as such are at the center of the Libya’s conflict. Some of the most visible consequences of a weakness land management system in Libya are: dysfunctional land markets, increase of land prices in urban areas, unaffordable housing, lack of investments in reconstruction and repair of infrastructure and buildings, forced evictions and unregulated sprawl of informal settlements.

Land value – The freeze in land registration introduced in 2011 deeply aggravated the situation, by pushing all land transaction to informality, blocking the access to the legal land market of new properties and resulting in a huge increase of informality and unregulated and underserviced urban sprawl. Regarding land-based taxation, land taxes are not complete developed and not sufficiently collected. The functioning of the Libyan land sector has been very heavily impacted by the suspension of property registration since 2011. The measure, put in place to prevent illegal registration, is now affecting recovery and reconstruction and the capacity of raising revenues from local property taxes, a key stream of income that local authorities can re-invest in local services and infrastructure.

Land development – The land registration system had significant gaps already before the conflict. The cadastral coverage was very limited, the procedures lengthy and bureaucratic. The regulations on land expropriation, nationalization of land and abrogation of tribal properties, change of property attributes, and transfer of property between regional registries to circumvent planning regulations created challenges. The fragmentation between different institutions involved in the registration of land (such as the registries and the notaries) already existed before the conflict.

Land dispute resolution, Land use – There are different categories of disputes linked to the ownership of land and the use of land-based resources; the resolution of some disputes directly involve displaced people or residents of settlements most affected by war. Forced eviction is a very widespread phenomenon, but there is not yet sufficient consolidated knowledge of the types of land disputes and land rights violations experienced during the conflict.

Key intervention

Since 1979, UN-Habitat has been supporting the Urban Planning Agency Planning in Libya, on the issues of spatial planning. This included providing institutional support and capacity development since 2002 for the development of a national policy for spatial planning (2006 to 2030) and a large number of regional and sub-regional plans, as well as the basic designs of cities, towns and villages. UN Habitats capacity building support included strengthening the capacity of staff in areas of urban planning and geographic information systems as needed for urban recovery planning.

Building on its long history of collaboration with Libyan institutions in the area of urban development and planning, in early 2021, UN-Habitat started to engage in the land sector with an assessment of the land and conflict nexus, with a focus on housing, land and property (HLP) rights and land management and land administration. In February 2021, at the Second Arab Land Conference, the Libya delegation requested the support of UN-Habitat to address some of the most pressing land related challenges, including the blockage of the registration of land and properties, land markets and the out of control increase of land prices in urban areas, and the establishment of an improved land-based taxation system.

On such basis, the Roundtable on “Addressing Land Administration and Land Rights Challenges to Pave the Ground for Peace and Stability in Libya” (June 2021) brought together land and HLP experts and practitioners from different institutions and disciplines to exchange their experiences and discuss the priorities for action in the Libyan land / HLP sector. One of the next main steps will be the finalization of the ongoing assessment of land administration and land rights, which will provide a solid base for a second and more targeted consultation with key stakeholders, identify specific focus areas for targeted assessment and define further the specific interventions to be implemented.

UN-Habitat will continue working with the key Libyan land sector stakeholders and key UN partners to mobilize the needed support from the Government of National Unity (e.g. EU, Italy, etc.) and to develop a specific programme in support of land administration, resuming of land registration, and protection of land rights in Libya.

Key documents and links