Intra-state armed conflicts reflect deep structural patterns of (real or perceived) exclusion in state-society relations. Collective mobilisations for violent rebellion often result from shared grievances among marginalised social and political actors, demanding greater participation in governance and socio-economic development. Effective and sustainable peace processes thus require new political settlements to (re)establish legitimate and accountable governance, based on a participatory state-society relationship.
International peacebuilding and development agencies have therefore rightly placed inclusion and participation at the heart of their peace settlement and state-building support agendas. This project seeks to ‘unpack’ and analyse these concepts in a critical and systematic manner.
During the inception phase of the project, the definitions and descriptions of key project terms were agreed by all participants and these serve as a foundation for the conduct of fieldwork, as well as the compilation of case studies and comparative research findings.
Political settlements refer to the “expression of a common understanding, usually forged between elites, about how power is organized and exercised” in a given state. This project focuses on three clusters or ‘arenas’ of political (re)settlements after armed conflict, namely:
- their negotiation through bilateral or multilateral dialogue platforms, i.e. peace talks, interim power-sharing platforms, national dialogues/conferences or constituent assemblies, informal decision-making spaces;
- their codification through official texts formulating the outcomes of decision-making processes, e.g. peace agreements, Constitutions or bill of rights,legislative reform, other sectorial agreement;
- their materialisation through the transformation of state institutions (government, legislature, security/justice sector, political parties, informal institutions) and policy implementation.
Inclusivity and Participation
Inclusivity refers to the degree of access to governance by various actors concerned with and/or affected by a given conflict or political settlement beyond the most powerful (pre-war) elites – both by participating in decision-making, or by having their concerns addressed by the state. The main dimensions of inclusivity which we have identified for this project include:
-Input inclusivity: embodies the principle of ‘government by the people’ and refers to the nature of governance structures, i.e. who has access, influence and who can participate in how decisions are made. Indicators include the level of participation of (previously) marginalised actors in a decision-making process (direct, formal participation; indirect or informal participation; symbolic or ‘cosmetic’ participation), as well as the nature of decision-making mechanisms – since participation does not automatically result in policy influence.
-Output inclusivity: materialises the principle of ‘government for the people’ and refers to the levels of representativeness of national/local institutions vis à vis their citizens (i.e. whether their composition reflects the structure of society) and the responsiveness of major texts codifying the political settlement with regards to the distribution of rights and entitlements across groups and classes within society.
Power contenders refer to actors more commonly labelled as ‘non-state armed (opposition) groups’, and labelled in our past projects as ‘resistance/liberation movements’. The use of this term intends to build linkages with the concept of political settlement by focusing on the contest over (gaining, shifting or transforming) state power and responsibility for governing people. Peace processes lead to a shift of means from armed to peaceful power struggle via conventional party politics; the term power contenders primarily refers to the nature of these actors during the conflict, who share a number of common features:
-They contend the power of a ruling regime or government, which they consider illegitimate
-They aspire to fundamental structural change and seek their own share of political power and responsibility, be it in a separate state or through more inclusive power-sharing
-They rely on the support of an ethno-political or social constituency
-They are formally organised and have hierarchical structures
-They are ready to respect the rule of law and the state monopoly over the use of force once the political change they strive for has been attained.
 Asia Foundation 2010. Political Settlements: Implications for International Development Policy and Practice.