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Extra resources for From Power Struggles to Sustainable Peace: Understanding Political Settlements (Conflict and Fragility)

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Such economic impacts can change the dynamics of a society far more than development policies could ever hope to achieve. On the other hand, development actors should not underestimate their role even at an early stage. During peace negotiations in particular, the credible promise of development prospects for marginalised areas or other external resources can be important to alter the calculations of the negotiating parties and open space for compromise. The promise of long-term development assistance and, conversely, the threat of aid suspension if the terms of the agreement are not respected by the dominant party, can be powerful mechanisms of third-party enforcement.

A country could implement economic reform advocated by donors, while further restricting human rights and political pluralism. Donor policies and practices implicitly and sometimes explicitly prioritise these various objectives, not without contradictions, and individual donors will have different priorities. This poses a challenge to policy coherence and donor co-ordination. A dilemma can thus emerge: Should donors support settlements that are patently unfair, that are being reneged on or that elites refuse to adapt because donors seek the short-term benefits of stability, despite the risk of future conflict?

As argued previously, the concept of political settlement suffers from a certain definitional ambiguity and there are empirical difficulties in many instances in determining what type of settlement can be said to be in place. Though whether explicit peace agreements have been signed is an objective fact, and a settlement in the broader sense can be understood to be in place in all polities not in the midst of civil war, there is no “test” to determine if a given settlement is legitimate, robust or fair.

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