Political settlements are now at the centre of international development efforts to promote more peaceful and inclusive states and societies. This special issue brings together a collection of theoretical and empirical contributions that engage critically with the political settlement concept and the question of how to navigate inclusion, with a focus on underlying politics, power and institutional dynamics, and how these influence trajectories of change. Three insights, in particular, emerge from the analysis in this issue. Firstly, the relationship between inclusion, stability, violence and resilience is complex and non-linear. Secondly, peace processes on their own are not sufficient to alter political settlements and tend to yield formalised political unsettlement instead. Lastly, processes of institutional transformation often involve trade-offs and dilemmas. Therefore, efforts to engage with political settlements need to adopt a long-term framework that overcomes idealist models of change. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.