Author: Clare Castillejo
Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Center
Publication Date: March 2014
Keywords: Political Settlements, Conflict, Governance, Peace Processes, Peacebuilding
Inclusiveness in political settlements is increasingly accepted as a critical requirement for a sustainable exit from conflict. Drawing on lessons from three countries – Rwanda, Guatemala and Nepal – this report discusses the role that international actors can and do play in supporting political settlements and the challenges and dilemmas they face in doing so.
Inclusive political settlements matter, particularly where exclusion was a major conflict driver. The evidence discussed in this report suggests that countries which avoided a relapse of conflict had adopted an inclusive political settlement, while countries where political opponents were excluded from political governance arrangements typically fell back into conflict (pp. 1-2). Inclusive settlements reduce incentives for excluded elites to violently challenge the existing order; they also create dependable rules and build trust.
The report discusses a number of different views on the types of inclusion that work best (pp. 2-3). While international security actors frequently prioritise inclusion of key elites (e.g. in Afghanistan), donors tend to focus on empowering marginalised groups in line with a normative agenda. In both cases, the author argues, the focus on promoting inclusion in bargaining processes is based on a linear assumption that an inclusive process will result in an inclusive outcome (i.e. that included groups will be politically and materially better off as a result).
However, this assumption is not always borne out according to the evidence presented in the report (p. 3). A participatory approach may be less inclusive than where a political settlement has been imposed on conflicting parties. This is because bargaining processes are often disconnected from the actual practice of power: despite the nominal participation of non-elites, elites maintain control over these processes and may not advocate for distributional outcomes that benefit their constituencies.
The report discusses a number of key lessons for international actors seeking to support an inclusive settlement (pp. 6-9):
• Key bargaining moments which constitute entry-points for international actors include peace negotiations, post-conflict elections and constitutional reform – as the case of Guatemala illustrates, inclusive formal constitutions may have little impact without a parallel shift in the rules of the game or incentive structures for elites.
• Other forms of international action - such as the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya - can have profound and often unintended influence on political settlements by altering them in unpredictable and unsustainable ways.
• Similarly, long-term economic and strategic relations or agendas, including regional power rivalries, big power interests, and international energy markets can shape exclusionary political settlements (e.g. in Nigeria).
• Addressing inclusion in outcomes requires understanding the actual practice of power and moving beyond formulaic approaches to institution building to approaches based on a nuanced understanding of how a political settlement relates to elite interests.