Gendering Political Settlements: Challenges and Opportunities

Catherine O'Rourke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


Whereas the political settlements research framework is garnering growing policy attention in development programming, including in fragile and conflict-affected states, there are concerns that political settlements constitute yet another global policy development with which feminist and gender analysis must ‘catch up’. The article outlines four broad challenges to advancing gender analysis through the political settlements framework. The first is conceptual, that the focus on elites, and the reliance on public sphere dynamics to explain development outcomes, structurally excludes women. The second is epistemological, that the role of the scholar in designating certain groups to be ‘elites’ and others to be ‘non-elites’ merits further interrogation. The third is methodological, that due to other exclusions, gender is infrequently identified as a pertinent variable or category of analysis in seeking to explain development outcomes through the political settlements framework. The final is political, that the avowedly non-normative position of political settlements analysis risks overlooking norms implicit to the work, in particular implicit gender norms. Nevertheless, the article argues, in the prevailing context of technocratic approaches to global gender policy-making, the political settlements framework may offer promise through its avowed focus on ‘doing politics’. Moreover, the political settlements framework may usefully counter the tendency of global gender policy to essentialise the state as a single domain of activity, and to instead utilize more fully the different constituencies within the state, and the relationships between them, in order to effect positive change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-612
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of International Development
Early online date6 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished online - 6 Jul 2017


  • Political Settlements
  • Gender
  • Elites
  • Social Movements
  • International Law


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