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

Political Settlements



Learning from failure: tackling war recurrence in protracted peace processes (April 2019 – December 2020)

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.

Understanding and managing intra-state territorial contestation: Iraq's disputed territories in comparative perspective (Jun 2015 - May 2018)

Iraq remains a country of fundamental importance to the international community, and especially to the UK. Following regime change in 2003, Iraq lurched from crisis to crisis, with the political process maintained by the presence of overwhelming US military force until the withdrawal of US combat forces in December 2011. With the US and her allies having withdrawn military forces from Iraq, recent years have witnessed a return of significant instability in the relationships between elites, and have seen a rise in the rhetoric of sectarianism and ethnic nationalism. Iraq remains extremely exposed and vulnerable to the manipulations of other Middle East regional powers (namely Turkey, Iran, and the Arab Gulf states), while being intrinsically tied into the deteriorating situation in Syria. As such, the maintenance of stability in Iraq and the prevention of conflict between key actors are deemed of critical importance not only in Iraq itself, but also among international stakeholders, including the UK, US, the EU, and the UN.

Towards a Culture of Peace? Cultural Policy and Power-Sharing after Civil War

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 post-conflict state-building. 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 (such as Northern Ireland, Lebanon and the FYR of 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

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. 

Past events

Methodological Advances in the Study of Civil War and Political Violence

In November 2018, Dr Giuditta Fontana and Prof Stefan Wolff organised an IAS Workshop bringing together 20 international participants from Germany, Canada, Hungary and the UK.

Tunisian women voice untold stories of repression through innovative art exhibition

In September 2018, The Voices of Memory exhibition opened in Tunis, launched by the University of Birmingham (academic lead: Dr Christalla Yakinthou_ and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).

Towards a common vision in the Transdniestrian settlement

In November 2017, Professor Stefan Wolff presented his research at Moldovan European Integration Debate Forum in Chisinau.

The Politics of Education in Societies in Transition: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

In July 2017, Dr Giuditta Fontana organised an IAS Workshop bringing together internal and external participants to explore the issue of education policy in post-war societies.

ICCS hosts a meeting between members of the Yemeni diaspora and UK government officials

In March 2013, the ICCS hosted a meeting between members of the Yemeni diaspora in the UK and a team from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, including the British Ambassador to Yemen, Nicholas Hopton.

Stefan Wolff’s TED talk

Stefan Wolff’s TED talk

Christalla Yakinthou’s TEDx talk

Christalla Yakinthou’s TEDx talk

Latest research news

Posted 05 August 2019

ICCS Annual Report 2018/19

Read the latest annual report from the ICCS, which highlights the significant research developments and achievements over the last 12 months.

Posted 20 May 2019

Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation 2019

The Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS) held its sixth annual training programme on Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation at the University of Birmingham in April 2019.