Spotlight: Building new evidence to promote peace


In fragile states, the balance of power (referred to as political settlements) indicates possible trajectories of peace and development. But to inform policies, better evidence is needed, and short-term versus long-term trade-offs of interventions must also be considered.

This was the consensus of a high-level workshop hosted by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), in partnership with the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, from 31 May – 1 June at the University of Denver.

‘This workshop was a first of its kind’, says Christine Bell, Programme Director at the University of Edinburgh’s Global Justice Academy (GJA).

‘Discussions focused on developing measurement tools that move beyond using only the reduction of deaths in conflict as an indicator of the success and failure of a peace settlement’.

The workshop, which is part of the ISS’ ongoing work with the GJA’s political settlements programme, brought together the world’s top scholars and analysts on measuring and forecasting peace and governance. It provided a platform to explore what political settlements entail, how they relate to governance outcomes and how these can be measured in vulnerable societies.

ISS research will help determine what kind of political settlement provides the most stable outcomes

‘Governance outcomes are the most critical functions of a state. These include security, capacity and inclusion,’ explains Dr Julia Bello-Schünemann, a senior researcher at the ISS. ‘The key question is to determine what kind of political settlement would provide the most stable and developmentally friendly outcomes in the medium to long term. We find answers by mapping political settlements to governance trajectories. The results allow for better, evidence-based policies that contribute to making societies more stable and peaceful’.

Donors are often part of a country’s power equation. According to Monty G Marshall – Director of the Center for Systemic Peace and President of Societal-Systems Research Inc. – it is crucial to identify how ‘best to treat social ailments so that the "cure" does not negatively impact the "patient"’. 

The workshop also showed how political settlements link to the broader debate on the Sustainable Development Goals; and how data constraints in fragile states may be dealt with.

A follow-up workshop is planned to take place towards the end of this year. The workshop will focus on pilot case studies such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ISS’ African Futures and Innovation section produces forward-looking, policy-relevant analysis on trajectories for development, conflict, economic growth and socio-political change in Africa.

For more information, contact:

Julia Bello-Schünemann, ISS: +234 908 4422 121,

Picture: ©IOM/Muse Homammed

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