By Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali - 02/15/13 02:00 PM EST
While we celebrate the second anniversary of the start of the Libyan Revolution and the promise of a free and democratic Libya, there is still much work that needs to be done. Just as the United States and the international community provided support to help us win the war, we now need their assistance to win the peace.
Two years ago, the spark for the revolution came to life among our young people, facilitated by technology and driven by a long, frustrated desire for dignity and a better life. It began on Feb. 17 in Benghazi with small demonstrations against the unfair imprisonment of activists.
Our citizen army of teachers and mechanics, lawyers and students, sons and daughters, as well as the civilian population, paid a heavy price to experience freedom. There is no turning back now.
While the fighting ended more than a year ago, our revolution continues. We are making significant progress in rebuilding the societal and physical foundations that suffered under the old regime.
Last July, just months after the end of fighting, the new Libya held its first free and transparent elections that were widely lauded as successful. Civil society organizations are now sprouting up to defend the rights of our people and provide new services. And our economy is recovering, oil production has returned to pre-revolution levels, and economic opportunities are opening up outside of the energy sector.
To continue this tremendous progress, we need to continue to forge strong cross-border partnerships that bolster democratic institutions, diversify our economy and improve security.
Foreign government, NGO and private-sector support are all critical to our efforts build a free and democratic Libya. We have the tools and the will, but we need partnerships that will enable the sharing of technical expertise.
Top-notch American organizations, such as the United States Institute of Peace, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, are already working with local partners to advance the democratic transition and development of a robust civil society to safeguard our political future. The democratic transition is just one of many areas where cross-border partnerships can have an outsized impact on Libya’s future.
With the largest oil reserves in Africa and a population of only six million people, Libya should have some of the most advanced infrastructure in the region, if not the world. However, after four decades of neglect, the new government faces the critical task of rebuilding much of our infrastructure and reviving our economy.
As our economy rebounds, we are working to develop business-friendly policies that attract foreign investment and an entrepreneurial atmosphere for Libyans.
We need private-sector partnerships with American companies to develop our human capital and promote trade.
Only 5 percent of Libyans have regular access to the Internet. In recent history, virtually all of our exports have been oil. For our revolution to be successful, we must create a diversity of private-sector jobs for our youth and provide them tools to engage in the global economy.
Partnerships in the healthcare sector are especially critical to Libya’s future. We need the West’s help in creating a healthcare system that provides world-class care for all Libyans.
Earlier this week, I attended the launch of the Health Education Across Libya (HEAL) for Children Initiative, an inspiring partnership between Seattle Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Benghazi Medical Center supported by the J. Christopher Stevens Memorial Fund and the Libyan government.
The HEAL Children Initiative will provide Libyan doctors the resources and expertise to develop effective emergency care programs for children and families. The first part of this initiative is the establishment of a national Poison Control Center at Benghazi Medical Center.
Another critical area for developing partnerships is the security sector.
While much remains to be done, Libya has already made tremendous strides in restoring stability. Building cohesive and effective security forces remains a top priority. Thousands of revolutionaries have participated in police training programs in Turkey and Jordan, and Prime Minister David Cameron pledged British security expertise on his recent trip to Libya.
As we move forward with our democratic transition, these partnerships will prove vital to winning the peace and healing our nation.
Libyans will never forget America’s vital assistance in our most critical hour. Last year, a Gallup study in Libya recorded one of the highest approval ratings ever for America in the Middle East and North Africa. Following the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, tens of thousands of Libyans poured into the street to show their solidarity with the U.S. by carrying signs of support and waving both Libyan and American flags.
Now is the time for the U.S. to remain engaged and support a strategic ally and future economic partner in a critical region of the world.
If fortified through key partnerships, Libya has near limitless potential. We owe it to our youth to fulfill the promise of a free Libya that emerged two years ago.
Our revolution will not be complete until every mother who has a sick child can worry a little less, knowing that she can call upon well-trained doctors to treat her child.
Our revolution will not be complete until that child, who is now well, can play with her friends and without fear of violence or instability.
Our revolution will not be complete until that child receives the education she needs to find gainful employment in the career of her choice.
With careful planning, hard work and greater collaboration with the international community, I am confident the children of the revolution will have a brighter future and that their accomplishments will be the world’s gain.
Ali Aujali is Libya's ambassador to the United States