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Parks T., Cole W. (2010) Political Settlements: Implications for International Development Policy and Practice, The Asia Foundation, Occasional paper 2

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This paper aims to clarify the key concepts related to “political settlements” thinking and provide ideas on how to operationalise this line of thought at the policy and programme level.

The political settlements framework is a new approach for international development organizations to better understand political power dynamics in developing countries, in particular in countries affected by protracted conflict or fragile conditions. The key elements of a political settlement are actors, interests, and institutions and their alignment in informal, ever-evolving power arrangements.

In many contexts, donor assistance has a significant influence on political settlements, at times entrenching settlements that are exclusionary, destabilizing, or not conducive to development. Thus, it is legitimate for international actors to use the political settlements framework to make sure this does not happen.

This paper creates a framework for donors to:

  • Conduct political settlement mapping.
  • Realign country strategy based on an analysis of key tradeoffs and plausible best-case scenarios.
  • Better understand local politics writ large.
  • Engage in entrepreneurial programming, flexibility in project design, implementation and the selection of partners.