Political Settlements: the first of DLP's concept briefs
Policymakers and practitioners are increasingly interested in 'political settlements' as part of the political processes that shape development. But what exactly are political settlements? Definitions of the term vary considerably. In this Concept Brief, which begins a new series, Edward Laws and Adrian Leftwich set out key elements of this increasingly prominent idea. They suggest why it is important, and what policy implications follow from it.
Drawing on a survey of the literature, Laws and Leftwich argue that political settlements can best be understood as 'the informal and formal processes, agreements, and practices in a society that help consolidate politics, rather than violence, as a means for dealing with disagreements about interests, ideas and the distribution and use of power'. Important aspects of the concept include the following.
- Political settlements evolve; they can include, but are not limited to, specific agreements like peace deals.
- They include negotiations between leaders and followers, not just among elites.
- They can be sub-national or sectoral as well as national.
Not all political settlements lay the foundations for development. But they make it possible for national and sub-national leaders, elites and their followers to peacefully shape local and domestic institutions and policies that may promote political stability and positive development outcomes.
Analysing political settlements supports a more detailed understanding of how the interests, ideas and relations of power among leaders, elites and coalitions can assist or obstruct the process of positive change. For example, it can help outside actors to identify ways of reducing the risk of violent conflict by focusing attention on the inclusion of important actors in peacebuilding negotiations. The authors suggest that political settlement analysis (the political settlements approach) is a vital complement to the prevailing technical, managerial and administrative approaches to development assistance.
Future Concept Briefs in this new series will offer concise introductions to more key ideas related to leadership and the politics of development. We hope that these Briefs will support sharper analysis and therefore deeper understanding of how transformative change happens in different contexts.
See the Political Settlements Concept Brief (3pp; PDF, 260 KB).