Researching the politics of development



Post-conflict inclusion and elite pacts in Solomon Islands

8 October 2014.
ESID‘s latest working paper explores how exclusive pacts become wider political settlements, using the recent post-conflict history of the Solomon Islands as an illustration. In “Post-conflict pacts and inclusive political settlements: Institutional perspectives from Solomon Islands”, David Craig from University of Otago and Doug Porter from Australian National University argue that external interventions are unlikely to solve broader and wider institutional challenges involved in the transition from short-term pacts to long-term settlements. Here are some excerpts:

For all the efforts of g7+ and New Deal actors to make pacts a core part of post-conflict arrangements, it remains unclear in many instances that interveners have the mandate, let alone the experience or modalities, to really engage in the formation of elite pacts or the institutional arrangements that shape and emerge from them. …
Getting to a political settlement involves, in most versions of the political settlement/post-conflict literature, a two-step movement:1) a centralisation of power, in particular “grasping”and amassing the capabilities needed for political elites to extract rents and revenues from economic actors;and 2) a set of “reaching” capabilities to distribute rents and the various services, securitiesand opportunities these can buy, so as to project power geographically out across the national territory.
We have chosen Solomon Islands’ case because we think that its scale and  experience lay bare features of contemporary intervention, pact formation, political settlement and institutional development which resonate elsewhere.
The net governmental and political outcome of this process – what we might call the current Solomon islands political settlement – we have described as a “layering of power”, involving different elites (variously in concert with international actors and ethnic commercial elites) institutionalising power through different layers, to secure the outcomes they want, be this security, coproduction, concession or projecting their reach down to constituencies.
Overall, following the institutional logics described above to their current outcomes, the situation in mid-2014 is uneven; there is both consolidation and fragmentation, there are pockets of capability, just as there exist islands of government bereft of political capital or enabling revenue. Overall outcomes have disappointed many, and left weakness, corrosion, layered fragmentation and dispute. But the arrangements emerging are not necessarily fatally unstable; countervailing factors are also present,which may well mean that the worst elements of institutional flimsiness (and long-term collapse) can be avoided. Profoundly layered political and administrative systems can be highly durable, despite – as the experience of Cambodia shows – having ineffective government agencies and unaccountable politicians, or – as the experience of resource-rich countries like Nigeria demonstrate – being chronically prone to episodic, geographically focused civil conflict. Layering, where it reflects actual underlying interests and commitments, can produce an inclusive enough political settlement.

  • You can download the paper here.