Citizens' role in political settlements (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1014)



Identify literature on the role of citizens in creating and maintaining political settlements. Where possible identify material that discusses the role citizens are allowed to play; how citizens view their roles; compromises citizens are prepared to make; and differences, if any, between their roles in national and subnational political settlements.

Key findings

Political settlement literature focuses predominantly on elites, with citizens often seen as passive beneficiaries or potential spoilers. However, emerging literature on the role of civil society in peace processes identifies roles that citizens have played and can play, in creating and maintaining what are essentially political settlements. This report outlines the concept of political settlement and introduces literature on potential citizen roles in such settlements. In particular, this report draws on an upcoming, unpublished document which synthesises current thinking and draws insights from an on-going project on civil society participation in peace processes.

It is important to note that contexts vary significantly and research for this report was not able to find literature that provides generalities in how citizens view their roles, the compromises they are prepared to make and differences between national and sub-national political settlements. Instead, the literature suggests these issues are very much dependant on social, cultural and historical factors and constraints, which have determined what citizens could and have done.


Rao, S. Citizens’ role in political settlements (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1014). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 12 pp.

Citizens’ role in political settlements (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1014)

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