The Role of International Donors in Supporting Inclusive and Legitimate Political Settlements

This research project commissioned by the International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF) aims to assess  development donors’ commitments to supporting inclusive and legitimate political settlements, as formulated in the 2011 New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States. Research will focus on four New Deal pilot countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Timor Leste, combining a review of academic literature and policy documents with in-depth qualitative interviews. Our findings will be compiled in a practice paper that will be presented to OECD members and the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding.

Our main objective is to investigate how donors (OECD members) understand their own roles in supporting inclusive and legitimate politics in fragile and conflict-affected states, which opportunities and/or constraints they face, and how their support for inclusive political settlements is perceived by other stakeholders (local government counterparts, civil society actors, other international actors).


April 2015 – April 2016

Current knowledge and practice indicates that legitimate and inclusive politics are key determining factors in trajectories out of situations of conflict and fragility. This is why the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS) included a Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goal (PSG 1) in its political agreement New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States  that seeks to stimulate “Legitimate politics” through “inclusive political settlements and conflict resolution”.

The IDPS’ understanding of PSG1 can be summarized as having three dimensions: (1) representative state institutions, (2) participatory political processes, and (3) inclusive dialogue and conflict resolution mechanisms. A country’s political settlement, i.e. its (in)formal elite agreement on how power is distributed and exercised, provides the starting point for analysing these dimensions as it reflects the country’s political reality at present.

Yet there is no conclusive evidence on what approaches and techniques for inclusive statebuilding and peacebuilding work under what circumstances, let alone how international actors can support such endeavours effectively and in full partnership with local governments and civil society.


The key questions guiding our research are:

  • What role could donors take to support PSG1 and how do donors assess the key characteristics of the political settlement where they seek to support PSG1?
  • What are key political, administrative and financial incentives and constraints that influence how donors can support PSG1?
  • What innovative practices for supporting PSG1 can be identified and improved, and what difference is this likely to make?

The research methods combine a review of academic literature and relevant New Deal policy documents, as well as a mix of fieldwork-based and desk-based interviews. Key informants are selected representatives of international development partners, New Deal partner governments, civil society, and international diplomatic (and security) actors.

Aims and outcomes

The International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (made up of OECD donor countries, partner governments and local/international civil society representatives) is currently reviewing its New Deal framework which guides international development support. This research aims to contribute to this process by developing recommendations for donor agencies on how they can improve their support to inclusive political transitions in partner countries in the global south. A draft report will be discussed with INCAF members in January 2016, revised on the basis of their recommendations, and later presented to the IDPS in Spring 2016.

Target groups

The project takes international development actors (in country offices and in headquarters) as its main unit of analysis as well as the primary beneficiaries of its findings. However, to ensure findings are representative, the research also encompasses the views of civil society and national governments in-country, as well as of international diplomatic (and security) actors.


The case studies for the project are Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, South-Sudan, and Somalia, four of the New Deal pilot countries. The Berghof Foundation is responsible for conducting the Somalia and Timor Leste case studies, and for compiling the overall report, while a team at the Clingendael Institute (Netherlands) has prime responsibility for the cases of Afghanistan and South Sudan.

The project is carried out in cooperation with the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael, and is supervised by the German Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation on behalf of the International Network on Conflict and Fragility.

The project is funded by the German Development Cooperation (GIZ).

Presentation of first draft at OECD:

On 20 January 2016, Programme Director Veronique Dudouet was invited to the OECD in Paris to present the first draft of a report co-written with a team at Clingendael Institute on the role of international donors in supporting ‘legitimate and inclusive politics’, and drawing insights on the cases of Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Timor Leste. The report, which was very well received by OECD member state representatives of the International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF), is currently undergoing revisions and an updated version will be presented at the World Bank Annual Forum on Fragility, Conflict and Violence in Washington on March 1-3, 2016. 

Fieldwork on Somalia:

In August 2015 Programme Director Veronique Dudouet carried out interviews in Nairobi, to examine the role of development donors in supporting an inclusive political settlement in Somalia (through a new constitution, democratic elections, and the establishment of a federal government). More than 25 relevant stakeholders such as government officials, civil society leaders and representatives of the international donor community were interviewed in person and via skype/phone.

Presentation of initial desk review at OECD:

On 19 May 2015, Programme Director Veronique Dudouet was invited to a workshop at the OECD in Paris, focusing on the first Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goal of the New Deal for Engagement in  Fragile States, entitled Legitimate politics: Foster inclusive political settlements and conflict resolution. She was asked to present a concept note outlining an upcoming study commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) on behalf of the International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF). 

  • Erwin van Veen & Véronique Dudouet. International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF): Hitting the target but missing the point?. 2017. Assessing donor support for inclusive and legitimate politics in fragile societies. PDF >
  • Véronique Dudouet, Hans J. Giessmann & Katrin Planta: From Combatants to Peacebuilders. A Case for Inclusive, Participatory and Holistic Security Transitions. 2012. Policy Report . Hardcopy >
  • Véronique Dudouet: From War to Politics: Resistance/Liberation Movements in Transition. 2009. Report No. 17. Hardcopy >
  • Alberto Martín Álvarez: From Revolutionary War to Democratic Revolution:The Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) in El Salvador. 2010. Transitions Series No. 9. Hardcopy >
  • Agus Wandi & Wolfram Zunzer: From Politics to Arms to Politics Again: The Transition of the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh Movement - GAM). 2008. Transitions Series No. 5. Hardcopy >
  • Kiyoko Ogury: Seeking State Power - The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). 2008. Transitions Series No. 3. PDF >
  • Mac Maharaj: The ANC and South Africa’s Negotiated Transition to Democracy and Peace. 2008. Transitions Series No. 2. Hardcopy >
  • Mauricio García Durán, Vera Grabe Loewenherz & Otty Patiño Hormaza: M-19's Journey from Armed Struggle to Democratic Politics: Striving to Keep the Revolution Connected to the People. 2008. Transitions Series No. 1. Hardcopy >
  • Véronique Dudouet, Hans J. Giessmann & Katrin Planta (Eds.): Post-War Security Transitions: Participatory Peacebuilding after Asymmetric Conflicts. 2012. London: Routledge. Book >

This project also builds on findings from the recently-concluded Berghof project Avoiding conflict relapse through inclusive political settlements. Related publications can be accessed on the project website: