Political settlements

An evidence review for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) notes that political settlements grounded in inclusive nation-building projects that transcend narrowly defined identities tend to be more stable and resilient (Rocha Menocal, 2015). Further discussion of political settlements and their relation to urban governance in fragile and post-conflict states would be useful. Research has highlighted the varying ways in which political bargaining environments affect urban development outcomes, often combining with other historically rooted norms and institutions to shape the urban political arena (Resnick, 2014; Goodfellow, 2014).

In his analysis of empirical research on the political economy of Kigali’s development, Goodfellow (2014) finds that using the concept of political settlements illuminates aspects of urban development other political economy approaches fail to identify. He uses this approach alongside a spatial perspective focused on the transformation of Kigali to explore the governance of land reform, urban planning, expropriation and property taxation. Goodfellow (2014) pursues two main aims: first, to provide new empirical material on the political economy of Kigali’s development; and second, to illustrate how urban development can enhance an understanding of the political settlement in place. The work is innovative given that most research on political settlements focuses on the national level, with little attention to the relationship between urbanisation and fragility, and the repercussions for the national settlement (Feuerschütz, 2012).

Gupte (2016) presents another fresh approach to researching urban issues and political settlements. He notes that violence in cities significantly compromises development and can have detrimental consequences for peacebuilding and political settlements in both conflict and non-conflict settings. Urban environments interact with the mechanics of security provision in significant and complex ways. As a result, implementing effective violence mitigation strategies requires stakeholders to acknowledge the varying characteristics of urban violence and to understand how these interact with the mechanics of security provision. This brings a spatially relevant, city-specific perspective to wider understandings of how political power is organised and exercised (Gupte, 2016: 5). He suggests that approaches to peacebuilding and political settlements can use the following city-specific dimensions as starting points to engage with urban issues:

  • Grid. Paying attention to how the layout and planning of city spaces are shaped by economic, political, technological, social and gendered factors.
  • Governance. Focusing on the processes and structures that form the institutions through which people are excluded and included in cities.
  • Ephemerality. Recognising the shifting dynamics and identities of violence, which are often related to the grid and governance of the city, but not reducible to them.