default Toward Effective Violence Mitigation: Transforming Political Settlements

Author: Markus Schultze-Kraft and Scott Hinkle
Institution: Institute of Development studies
Publication Date: December 2014
Keywords: Political Settlements, Conflict, Governance, Peace Processes, Peacebuilding


This report examines how the ‘new’ forms of violence in the developing world – as opposed to more ‘traditional’ civil or intra-state wars – should be understood and addressed. It draws on evidence from four violence-affected countries in Africa: Nigeria (Niger Delta), Sierra Leone, Egypt and Kenya (Marsabit County). The report places emphasis on the transformation of political settlements to prevent or mitigate violence, contrasting this approach with more traditional peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction interventions that operate on the basis of established blue-prints for institutional recovery and governance reform.

Key Issues:

As the report notes, the question of what constitutes the so-called ‘new’ forms of violence and how they differ from what came in the past continues to be actively debated (pp. 7-13). The case studies suggests that the triggers, manifestations and effects of this violence cannot be understood by using traditional analytical tools developed to explain armed conflict within states. Instead the violence appears more heterogeneous. To understand it, and respond in an appropriate manner, it is necessary to examine the behaviours of - and incentives for - political elites and citizens to transform or undermine the institutions (i.e. “the rules of the game”) that govern society and the distribution of power and resources.

The political settlements approach to mitigating violence directs attention to the political factors that underpin violence in developing countries with weak institutions. It asks how broad-based and inclusive political coalitions can be built, through which political settlements that are more peaceful and development-enhancing can emerge. The cases studies, which include micro and macro perspectives, reveal that both political elites and ordinary people have a role to play in these processes. The report underscores that it is the nature of state-society interaction, in particular, which is key to understanding how and why political settlements are transformed.

Focusing attention on the “power behind the violence”, the report provides policy guidance on how violence can be mitigated (pp. 26-27):

• Violence-mitigation should be understood as a long-term process, involving formal and informal institutions, affected communities and citizens and operating across different fields of public policy (i.e. education, employment, human rights, etc.).

• Given the complex and intricate relationship between violence and political order, the room for outside actors to contribute to violence mitigation is limited. External interventions should focus on mitigating the risk factors associated with external involvement and interests (such as transnational oil) by working through local actors to build peace and development-enhancing political settlements.

• It is not sufficient just to influence elite behaviour as it is citizens who confer and withdraw legitimacy to/from rulers. Political settlement transformations operate at both macro and micro levels and political processes need to address both levels simultaneously to advance towards the goal of effective violence mitigation.


Page Feedback