The Political Settlements Research Programme is exploring how international and national interventions can more effectively support inclusive political settlements in fragile and conflict-affected states.
The four-year project is being undertaken by a consortium led by the University of Edinburgh and including: Conciliation Resources; the Rift Valley Institute, Kenya; the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University; and the Institute for Security Studies, South Africa. It began in early 2015 and is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID).
Current challenges to statebuilding
Despite sustained international support, liberal peacebuilding and development models have struggled to achieve their intended statebuilding and peacebuilding goals in fragile and conflict-affected states.
State institutions fail to deliver critical services and suffer low credibility with populations, who remain largely excluded by elites from political power, resources and decision-making.
International policymakers have become increasingly aware that they must better understand and shape political settlements in fragile and conflict-affected states, in order to provide effective support for development, security, human rights and economic growth, and promote societies that are more open, stable and inclusive.
What are political settlements?
The term ‘political settlements’ is subject to much debate. From its roots in the academic field, practitioners and policymakers are increasingly using it to describe and inform their development and peacebuilding approaches.
Yet, there is little consensus on what it means. For the purposes of this project the consortium has chosen the following definition, although this will be challenged and tested as the project evolves:
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.
Conciliation Resources will also test its own previous definition of political settlements, set out in ‘Renegotiating the political settlement in war-to-peace transitions’, a paper written by Catherine Barnes for DfID in 2009, against the findings of this project.
Project research questions:
Three key questions will guide the consortium’s research over the four-year project:
- How do different types of political settlement emerge, and what are the actors, institutions, resources and practices that shape them?
- How can political settlements be improved by internally-driven initiatives, including the impact of gender-inclusive processes and rule of law institutions?
- How, and with what interventions, can external actors change political settlements?
Conciliation Resources’ role in the programme
As a peacebuilding organisation that works directly with people affected by conflict, Conciliation Resources will provide a practitioner lens to the research project. Our aims will include:
- Testing conceptual understandings of political settlements against the lived experiences of a range of actors in conflict-affected contexts.
- Exploring the gendered aspects of political settlements and how gender interventions can promote inclusive processes and outcomes.
- Working to better understand the sub-national political settlement in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, and how it relates to the federal, sub-national and regional centres of power. The work will build on Conciliation Resources' efforts to promote momentum for peace in the Ogaden. For more information visit our Horn of Africa page.
Four editions of our Accord publication series will also be produced as part of the project:
- Nepal (expected release 2016): This will explore different elements of Nepal’s political settlement and how these relate to the negotiation and implementation of recent peace and political agreement(s), including constitutional reform processes.
- Afghanistan (expected release 2017): This will look at aspects of Afghanistan’s political settlement and their relationship with inclusive peace negotiations and initiatives, including the transformation of non-state armed groups.
- Borderlands (expected release 2017): This Insight publication will explore how political settlements function in border areas of conflict-affected states and societies.
- Political settlements (expected release 2018): This will bring together research, analysis, findings and case studies from the four-year project to explore the concept and reality of political settlements as a way to promote development in fragile and conflict-affected states and societies.