This paper was commissioned by DFID to build on its 2012 literature review, which examined whether existing evidence supported DFID’s objective of promoting inclusive political settlements and political processes. This aim was first articulated in its 2010 Building Peaceful States and Societies framework.
The terminology of ‘political settlements’ has only emerged in international policy-making circles relatively recently, and it has not been commonly used in the academic literature. However, there is a rich tradition in academic thinking and research on processes of state formation and political, social and economic transformation – even if international development actors are not fully familiar with it or cite it in their own thinking.
Among donors, thinking on fragility and state-building has evolved considerably over the past 15 years. State-building is no longer seen as a technical exercise, but as a long-term, historically rooted and inherently political process of engagement, bargaining and contestation, which must be driven from within. This has placed the concept of political settlement – and whether and how political settlements and political processes can become more inclusive – at the heart of the agenda of engagement in fragile states.
However, many questions about fostering broadly inclusive political settlements remain unanswered. There are issues around who is included (elites versus broader society); and around what (for instance, processes of decision-making versus outcomes).
It is clear that more inclusive political settlements and political processes are essential ingredients in the long-term building of more peaceful and resilient states and societies. Yet we still know relatively little about how, in fact, the boundaries of a political settlement that may initially have a narrow focus on elite inclusion can be expanded to incorporate a wider set of stakeholders. The path is likely to be complex and far from linear, and all good things may not necessarily align simply because an inclusive settlement has been put in place.