default Promoting inclusion in political settlements: a priority for international actors?

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.

Key Issues:

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.

Page Feedback