Political settlements can be defined as ‘the forging of a common understanding usually between political elites that their best interests or beliefs are served through acquiescence to a framework for administering political power’ (di John & Putzel 2009:4).
Political settlements have become an important focus of development actors, who wish to better understand how their development interventions are affected by the local political settlement. How do formal and informal power structures work in ways that can frustrate or even subvert development interventions?
More recently, development and peacebuilding actors have come to understand an ‘inclusive political settlement’ as important to peaceful coexistence.
However, many things about these terms are unclear. What is a political settlement – is it a thing, or a process? How can understanding the ‘political settlement’ support development and peacebuilding interventions that are more ‘politically smart’ or more effective? What is an ‘inclusive political settlement’? What types of inclusion does it offer? How does inclusion help deal with conflict?
In this theme we work to answer these questions in order to provide a framework for our research. We do this in several ways:
- by developing new thinking around the concept, including on gender, on conflict and on peace processes
- by ‘practice labs’ in a number of countries, exploring through joint analysis what the term means to those who live and work in violent societies
- While the term ‘political settlement’ has remained somewhat unclear, the idea of ‘political settlement analysis’ has been useful in prompting consideration of how international development interventions take account of local political power structures and dynamics (see Bell 2015).
- Questions of inclusion are now central to political settlements work (Pospisil and Menocal).
- But the frame of analysis itself has been exclusive: the focus on elite pacts has meant that often women and gender issues are ignored (O’Rourke, Ni Aolain)
- Peace processes attempt to revise the political settlement, but thow up tensions between the attempt to get agreement between political/military protagonists to the conflict, and efforts to acheive a broader social commitment to a more holistic social contract.
- Peace process tend to produce ‘formalised political unsettlement’, characterised by ‘permanent transition’, where issues of inclusion need to be negotiated in an ongoing way (Bell and Pospisil; see also Nepal Accord).
- Bell, C. (2015). What we talk about when we talk about political settlements: Towards Inclusive and Open Political Settlements in an Era of Disillusionment (PSRP Working Paper No. 1). Edinburgh: Global Justice Academy, University of Edinburgh.
- Bell, C., & Pospisil, J. (2017). Negotiating Inclusion in Transitions from Conflict: The Formalised. Journal of International Development, 25(9).
- O’Rourke forthcoming