This paper introduces the Special Issue that grew out of a research project at the African Leadership Centre, which was supported by the Canadian International Centre for Development Research (IDRC). Like the underpinning research, the papers in this volume engage with two aspects of the state-building and peace-building debate and foreground the theory of “conversation” as a useful lens through which to advance the pursuit of sustainable peace in Africa. First, we challenge the dominant approach that constructs liberal state-building as an essential condition for durable peace in societies emerging from armed conflict. Second, we examine the extent to which various forms of political settlements are able to deliver sustainable peace and as a result, more peaceful and viable states. The concept of “conversation” is the thread that connects the two elements of the research. The notion of conversation reverses the conventional view of the relationship between peacebuilding and state-building while re-centring a particular dimension of political settlement. We argue that peacebuilding should be conceived as part of the conversations occurring along the state-building continuum in the affected societies. This shifts the traditional approach of privileging the technical over the political, power over agency, and the international over the national and local. This paper introduces the articles in this volume, which include conceptual and empirical case-studies and it discusses implications for policy and practice.
- political settlement