UK: LSE to review Libyan payment after protest

Following a student occupation in protest at the receipt of funds from the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the council of the London School of Economics is to review a £300,000 (US$483,000) payment for its North Africa Programme.

The funding comes from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation.

A statement from the LSE on Thursday said students were satisfied with school's position on the matter in the light of the strong support from the student union for the pledged total commitment of £1.5 million.

A group of students occupied the senior dining room at the LSE on the evening of 22 February to protest at the use of the funds, donated by Gaddafi's son Said al-Islam, a graduate of LSE, after he defended his father's regime on television on Sunday.

Allegations of widespread killing of protestors by government forces had begun to emerge despite a media black-out, and Said is reported to have said that the streets would run with "rivers of blood" if the protests continued.

The students demanded that further payments from the foundation be refused and that the equivalent of the money already received be set aside to create a scholarship fund for underprivileged Libyan students.

Said al-Islam Gaddafi offered the £1.5 million donation after being awarded a PhD in governance and international relations from the LSE in 2009. He also is reported to have an architecture degree from Al-Fateh University in Tripoli and a masters in business from Imaec University in Vienna.

On Monday the LSE moved to distance itself from its links with Libya by issuing a statement saying: "In view of the highly distressing news from Libya over the weekend of 19-20 February, the school has reconsidered those links as a matter of urgency."

LSE Global Governance, a research centre, accepted a grant from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, chaired by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and the money received to date had been used on a North African programme of study mainly involving civil society issues. But in the context of the problems in the region the LSE decided to stop new activities under that programme.

David Held, a co-director of LSE Global Governance, said in a personal statement that Saif al-Islam had "tragically, but fatefully, made a wrong judgement".

He added that as a result the LSE had stopped new work on the North Africa programme, but would continue to pursue research and policy development on behalf of the democratisation process in the Middle East.

Held said: "I have known Saif al-Islam Gaddafi for several years since he did a PhD at the LSE. During this time I came to know a young man who was caught between loyalties to his family and a desire to reform his country.

"My support for [him] was always conditional on him resolving the dilemma that he faced in a progressive and democratic direction. The speech...makes it abundantly clear that his commitment to transforming his country has been overwhelmed by the crisis he finds himself in."

The £300,000 already paid into the North Africa programme was the first of five payments to be spread over five years. The bulk of the foundation's activities focus on peace-building, human rights promotion, developing civil society and its organisations, and a series of charitable concerns. Its funds are raised from private sector companies, none of which are controlled by Libya, according to the LSE.

The grants came without academic restrictions and the funds already received had been used to develop a research programme on North Africa focused on politics, economics and society. To date the projects pursued have included work on human rights, women and development, democracy and civil society, and economic diversification, as well as lectures, seminars, student visits, studentships and exchanges.

Future activities were to include the creation of a virtual democracy centre which would have brought together academic and policy resources on building democracies in North Africa.

An official note on the programme says: "The aim was to help create the conditions - rule of law, civil society, democratic accountability, and sustainable economic development - for freedom and political equality in these lands."

Conflict often requires individuals to make stark choices and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi appears to have turned his back on the principles supported by his own foundation.

Held, a professor of political science, said of the Libyan's television speech: "I was deeply disturbed by its failure to grasp the changing circumstances of the Middle East in general, and of Libya in particular. Rather than seeing the opportunity for reform based on liberal democratic values and human rights, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi stressed the threat of civil war and foreign intervention."


The events in North Africa have left many democrats questioning their ideals. However this should be an exciting time for the London School of Economics as a leader in civil society and democratic research.

The work of the university has been totally undermined by Professor Held's misguided democratic approach. Where else is he wrong? This is the area for review.

Thiery Lefebvre