Rethinking political settlements in the Middle East and North Africa

How trading accountability for stability benefits elites and fails populations
Research paper Published 20 September 2023 ISBN: 978 1 78413 565 2 DOI: 10.55317/9781784135652
A large red-coloured plume of smoke rises into a blue sky above tall buildings and a telecommunications mast after an explosion.

In their attempts to reach political settlements among rival elites in the Middle East and elsewhere, international policymakers have repeatedly prioritized ‘stability’ over accountability. The resulting settlements (or ‘elite bargains’) have instead created and perpetuated political systems that benefit those elites at the expense of citizens. Many citizens in affected countries now protest against, and demand an end to, the very settlements that were meant to solve the problem of violence.

Focusing on the examples of Iraq, Lebanon and Libya, this research paper shows that, while these ‘elite bargains’ have successfully reduced direct violence, they have overlooked structural forms of violence and failed to improve – and, in some cases, worsened – corruption and human development scores. The paper proposes a revised, inclusive approach to political settlements centred on increasing accountability and addressing the harms caused by violence in all its forms.