The Political Settlements Research Group

The Political Settlements Research Group brings together scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, theoretical persuasions, and methodological approaches with a shared interest in studying the origins, nature, and impact of political settlements in fragile and conflict-affected states around the globe. Our engagement with settlement processes are both academic and practical, and we advance scholarly knowledge and understanding and actively contribute to public debates and policy discussions on and in settlement contexts, including with regard to the structure of negotiations and mediation processes, the design of settlements, and the sequencing and resourcing of implementation efforts.

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Contact us

Dr Giuditta Fontana: g.fontana@bham.ac.uk

The Political Settlements Research Group is part of the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS).

Political Settlements

Projects

Learning from failure: tackling war recurrence in protracted peace processes (United States Institute for Peace)

Civil war is the most frequent and destructive form of armed conflict today. Nearly one third of societies that have experienced one civil war also experience a second or a third war, rising to fifty percent in cases of ethnic civil wars. However, there is a lack of research that studies causes and possible mitigation of war recurrence. Hence, this project will ask what the reasons are that lead to the collapse of a peace agreement (PA) and how can they be tackled to achieve sustainable peace. We will examine fifteen cases of peace processes during which war recurred at least once but that ultimately terminated the conflict successfully. We will analyse both PA content and implementation. The aim is to uncover (1) how shortcomings in failed PAs were identified, (2) how relevant parties addressed them in subsequent PAs and their implementation, and (3) how these changes led to peace. For further information, contact Dr Argyro Kartsonaki or Prof Stefan Wolff.

Towards a Culture of Peace? Cultural Policy and Power-Sharing after Civil War (Leverhulme Trust)

Schools, the media, museums and other cultural institutions are crucial to consolidating peace after civil wars. But can cultural policy foster a culture of peace after violent ethnic, religious and national conflicts? This research aims to provide the first understanding of the relationship between cultural institutions and sustainable peace. It analyses all intra-state peace agreements signed since 1989, before focusing on cultural policy in four societies that experienced violent inter-communal conflicts and established resilient power-sharing governments (Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Sierra Leone and North Macedonia). It aims to influence the design of future peace agreements in war-torn countries and contribute to theories of conflict management and reconciliation. For further information, contact Giuditta Fontana.

The Political Economy of Power-Sharing in Post-Conflict Situations
(German Research Foundation)

Power-sharing has become a frequently employed tool for conflict-management and democratization after civil conflict. But how precisely does power-sharing bring about peace and/or democracy? What are the mechanisms through which post-conflict power-sharing works? The research project ‘The Political Economy of Power-Sharing in Post-Conflict Situations’ addresses these questions through an in-depth analysis of the impact of power-sharing on the exercise of political power. Building on the existing political economy literature, it specifically examines the relationship between power-sharing and sub-national resource allocation. The research employs a mixed-method research design, combining advanced statistical research methods with qualitative field research in Liberia and Indonesia. For further information, contact Martin Ottman

The Ingredients of Peace (British Academy)

Ending civil wars and promoting reconciliation in conflict-affected societies are some of the most pressing challenges we face as political scientists and practitioners. But what is the recipe for a successful peace agreement? Which ingredients (or provisions) are key to successful peace processes? The project identifies whether specific provisions consistently contribute to successful peace processes in countries affected by civil war and conflict, moving beyond the current emphasis on military and political clauses to also encompass cultural reforms. For further information, contact Giuditta Fontana.

How entrenched guarantees and coordination mechanisms contribute to the success of complex power-sharing in post-conflict societies

A remarkable characteristic of current conflict resolution practice is that a large number of actual and proposed settlements involve a broad variety of different conflict settlement mechanisms. The need to combine a range of diverse mechanisms has been increasingly understood by practitioners of conflict resolution and is referred to as “complex power-sharing”. The research explores the operation of complex power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Moldova, Macedonia and Iraq. It focuses on how, in an environment of low trust, these arrangements are guaranteed to prevent the arbitrary abrogation of devolved powers and overcome difficulties and disputes between the different layers of government. It also examines how independent committees and commissions can act as additional spheres of power-sharing in these contexts. For further information, contact Dawn Walsh.

The European Union and Contested States: Conflict, Statehood and Sovereignty in World Politics

Dr George Kyris' research focus is conflict and unrecognised states, especially in relation to the European Union. In his latest project, he draws on discussion on discourse and sovereignty to explore a) what is the EU’s approach towards unrecognised states and the conflicts they relate to and b) what does that tell us for the way the international community understands statehood and treats those that try to claim it for themselves and the implications of these for conflict and security. His list of publications includes his book 'The Europeanisation of Contested States: The EU in northern Cyprus' (Ashgate 2015), articles for the Journal of Common Market Studies and Comparative European Politics and he has also been invited to for many mainstream media and has also offered evidence to policy-makers, including the Home Office and the House of Lords. 

Education in Peace Accords 1989-2016

Despite discourses on the centrality of education to contemporary peacebuilding, many questions remain on the frequency, context and framing of education reforms in peace accords worldwide. In this project, I shed light on whether peace negotiators recognise the enormous potential of education, and are willing to deploy it in the service of peacebuilding. I generate the most extensive and fine-grained data on education in peace accords to date through a novel dataset of worldwide peace accords concluded between 1989 and 2016 and analyse it quantitatively and qualitatively. For further information, contact Giuditta Fontana.

International Responses to Coups (1946-2021)

This project explores how states and other actors have responded to coups. The project aims to explain variation in responses, the extent to which actors collaborate and complement their responses, and the impact of international responses to democratization. For further information, contact Mwita Chacha.

Identifying Coup leadership 

This is a collaborative project with Jonathan Powell (University of Central Florida). Our aim is to identify orchestrators of coups and the implications of these orchestrators on the post-coup setting, particularly how international actors respond to coups. For further information, contact Mwita Chacha.

The contentious politics of the census in consociational democracies (Feb 2017 - Jan 2019)

This project, funded by an ESRC Future Research Leaders fellowship, explored the relationship between the design of political institutions and the likelihood of population censuses in deeply divided societies becoming the subject of contentious political debates – a relationship that had previously received little attention from scholars. The project's primary objectives were to generate a body of scholarship on the relationship between the design of political institutions and the politics of the census in deeply divided societies, and to generate knowledge on ways to mitigate the possibility of contentious debates about the census in those societies. The research was primarily qualitative in nature and involved comparative analysis of four societies that have experienced varying degrees of contestation around the census: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kenya, Lebanon and Northern Ireland. For further information, please contact  Laurence Cooley.

From Elite Bargains to (More) Open and (More) Inclusive Politics

This project examines the pathways from post-conflict elite bargains towards (more) open and (more) inclusive politics. It identifies cross-cutting issues and draws out the implications of the analysis for external actors seeking to support more inclusive politics. Downlaod the final report. For further information, please contact Alina Rocha Menocal

Atmospheres of (counter)terrorism in European cities 

The project, led by PI Sara Fregonese together with partners in the UK, France and Germany, provides a new international comparison of how counterterrorism and urban security are changing the everyday experiences of residents across cities in Europe. The project is conducted by international team of researchers, led by the University of Birmingham and in collaboration with the University of Plymouth (UK), Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena (Germany), CY Cergy Paris Université, and Institut Paris Region (France), and has received over £1.1 million from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), France's Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). The project methods of research include an international survey of 15000 participants and a number of interpretive and ethnographic qualitative techniques.  

Stefan Wolff’s TED talk

Stefan Wolff’s TED talk

Christalla Yakinthou’s TEDx talk

Christalla Yakinthou’s TEDx talk