A Resilient National Social Contract is a dynamic national agreement between state and society, including different groups in society, on how to live together, and notably, around how power is distributed and exercised. It allows for the peaceful mediation of different demands and conflicting interests, and different expectations and understandings of rights and responsibilities (including with nested or overlapping social contracts), over time, and in response to contextual factors (including shocks and stressors), through varied mechanisms, institutions and processes.

Study Questions

  • What drives a resilient national social contract?  
  • How does it evolve / adapt over time, in ways that facilitate and/or undermine achieving and sustaining peace? (top-down, bottom-up; path dependencies; sequencing; driver interactions)
  • How do we know one when we see one?
  • What are the implications for policy and scholarship, including around the ways in which international actors can support nationally-owned processes of sustaining peace?

Study Propositions

  • A resilient national social contract lies at the heart of achieving and sustaining peace.
  • Our three drivers

To investigate our key questions and overarching proposition, our case study research examined and has now validated the importance of three “drivers” of a resilient social contract – around: core conflict and fragility issues being progressively addressed; the role of institutions in fostering inclusive results, and; broadening and deepening social cohesion – alongside cross-cutting themes around inclusion/exclusion, the role of international actors, and resilience capacities for peace. We think these broadly encompass core values and mechanisms of the social contract, spanning time and geographical space, yet with attention to the dynamism and adaptability that countries in transition from conflict and fragility demand.

Phase I of our project research on eleven case studies engaged both exploratory and explanatory research methods, through interviews, focus groups, and other ethnographic methods, led by national authors with oversight from the project’s Research Director. Differential concerns and interests of social groups, notably women and youth, and ethnic and religious, groups were considered. While the emphasis of case study research is qualitative and context-rich, survey data was used to buttress research findings throughout. Findings were validated in numerous ways – notably, through a series of scholar-policy “dialogues” and validation workshops. 

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