Summary Project Findings

The following summary findings are derived from case studies (nine of the eleven have been included at the time of publication). Outlined in the Full Report, these findings are expanded on in the publication, which is accessible at this link.

Stay tuned while we update this page with more content as project findings emerge.

Policy Recommendations

The following policy recommendations are based on the findings of our research and informed by our many validation workshops and policy dialogues and through considerable discussion within our working group of advisers and authors. The findings are organised around the main lines of the project framing: the three drivers of the social contract, cross-cutting issues and the implications for preventing conflict and attaining and sustaining peace. Our work demonstrates that the social contract has wide appeal in and across settings, making it a highly useful heuristic and normative policy tool to support national actors as they address conflict, forge a common vision and create the institutions and relationships to uphold this. The recommendations hold particular value for policymakers in the context of the revived international policy attention focused on prevention and sustaining peace.

Based on our study findings and rooted in wide bodies of scholarship, three ‘drivers’ of resilient social contracts - i) inclusive political settlements addressing core conflict issues, ii) institutions delivering effectively and inclusively iii) social cohesion broadening and deepening – should be valued and policy recommendations around them should be supported, with the following considerations for policymakers:

Summary Findings

Political settlements and social contract-making spheres and mechanisms are increasingly inclusive and responsive to core conflict issues.

The early stages of political settlements or peace negotiations (and notably the peace agreement) or political transitions offer possibilities for redefining parameters for inclusion and exclusion, and positioning of different groups and issues, often with long-term effects (positive or negative) (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Cyprus, Nepal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

Social contract-making ‘spheres’ and ‘mechanisms’, which can trace how core conflict issues and grievances are addressed, are often treated in disconnected or parallel ways that undermine the implementation of coherent and effective peace agreements and the development of an increasingly inclusive political settlement (Colombia, Cyprus, Nepal, South Africa, South Sudan, Yemen, Zimbabwe; exception: Tunisia).

There are considerable commonalities of Core Conflict Issues (CCI’s) across the cases, reflecting issues around political and economic exclusion, particularly between identity groups.

Common are conflicts over:
~ Power distribution and power-sharing (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Cyprus, Nepal, South Sudan, Yemen, Zimbabwe); and,
~ Distribution of land and resources (Colombia, Cyprus, Nepal, South Sudan, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

CCIs tend not to be effectively addressed, including through previous peace processes and agreements; this directly undermines the inclusiveness of the political settlement. They have not been addressed:
~ In the design of agreements (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Yemen, Zimbabwe); ~ Through poor implementation of agreements (Colombia, Nepal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tunisia, Zimbabwe); and/or,
~ Due to contradictions that undermine agreements (Colombia, South Africa).

Policy Recommendations


  • Identify and strengthen ‘social-contracting’ mechanisms (dialogue, constitutions, national development plans, subnational arrangements) to foster inclusion and coherence while addressing conflict issues and new forms of responsive governance that transform institutions at all levels.
  • Coherently target conflict issues of wide concern across state and society in order to build consensus around the issues and construct ‘social-contracting’ mechanisms to address them. This will promote momentum and trust in these processes, which will help actors address other conflict issues.
  • Endeavour to understand and engage the ‘everyday’ sphere (including communities and informal actors), incorporating perspectives in the reshaping of agreements to reflect everyday concerns and interests, building ownership in and around the issues. Otherwise, peace processes risk creating gatekeepers to and spoilers of peace.
  • Approach conflict issues from a context-informed and holistic, rather than reductionist, perspective that recognises that issues are not locked in history that allows only one diagnosis and a final prescription. Rather, social-contracting efforts are dynamic and ongoing and should re-engage and respond to issues as they evolve.

Summary Findings

Institutions (formal, customary and informal) are increasingly effective and inclusive and have broadly shared outcomes that meet societal expectations and enhance state legitimacy.

State institutions, which can be seen as the hardware for implementing formal agreements (including peace agreements, political covenants, power sharing agreements, etc.) and fostering more inclusive political settlements, are often not sufficiently or effectively engaged in core conflict issues (CCIs), including at subnational levels (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Cyprus, Nepal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

State institutions (electoral bodies, administrative and social services, and institutions designed through political settlements or peace agreements to address CCIs) regularly fail to deliver on their mandates (due to lack of political will, lack of capacity and resources, and corruption, all of which tend to reflect informal dynamics and power relations among actors at different levels) (all countries).

Societies express deep concern about the effectiveness of state institutions (especially service delivery and related poverty and inequality, as well as wider government accountability) through protest, illustrating a lack of faith in official governance mechanisms (for grievance recourse and meaningful inclusion)
(Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Nepal, South Africa, Tunisia, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

Customary, informal and other non-state structures and systems play important, though at times contested, institutional functions, particularly at subnational levels, yet, for the most part, they are neither officially nor systematically integrated into an inclusive political settlement, resulting in overlapping – and at times competing – social contracts (Colombia, Nepal, South Sudan, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

State legitimacy is influenced by many variables (historical, cultural, social, economic and political), and is supported or undermined by citizen expectations around service provision, corruption, avenues for participation and delivery on promises (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Cyprus, South Africa, Tunisia, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

Policy Recommendations


  • Seek to better understand societal expectations of the state’s role in core functions and delivery of services, on the one hand, and participation, on the other; factor in appropriate participation and grievance mechanisms for this.
  • Identify, appreciate and support locally appropriate (including non-liberal) alternatives, models and approaches to governance and delivery of services; support the harmonization of these with formal processes and each other.
  • Ensure that institutions deliver in ways that deepen the inclusiveness of the political settlement and institutionalise approaches to addressing the conflict issues and ongoing grievances.

Summary Findings

Social cohesion is broadening and deepening, with formal and informal ties and interactions binding society horizontally (across citizens, between groups) and vertically (in the relations between citizens/groups and the state).

The legacies of state formation and poor progress in achieving inclusive political settlements and providing fair service delivery can weaken vertical cohesion (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Cyprus, Nepal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

Horizontal inter-group social cohesion holds promise at the level of daily interactions, i.e. between neighbours (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Nepal, South Sudan, Tunisia, Zimbabwe), but tends to be negatively affected by the polarising political dynamics and non-inclusive governance practices that can weaken vertical social cohesion (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Cyprus, South Africa, South Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

Policy Recommendations


  • Seek means for building social cohesion across drivers in ways that are catalytic and context-specific – attuning to aspects of social cohesion most needed/desired, i.e. promoting a sense of national belonging (e.g. through a national dialogue on implementing the constitution), trust (e.g. fair provision of services) and participation (e.g. in a budgeting process).
  • Promote social cohesion through service delivery, that is, through concrete measures that deliver results and build connections between citizens and
    the state (e.g. designed with a peacebuilding lens, having grievance recourse mechanisms, participating in local decision-making and accountability structures, etc.).
  • Create safe and constructive spaces for revelatory everyday interactions and practices among groups that may not normally come together; promote citizen-driven efforts that improve intergroup relations and foster social cohesion; recognize and support resilience capacities that serve peace.

Wider Summary Findings

Inclusive processes do not automatically or quickly produce more inclusive results, as intervening factors can affect outcomes (political will, misuse of power, capacity and resources, poor design and/or process, poor or lacking implementation frameworks) (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Nepal, South Africa, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

While the international community (including regional actors) vitally supports countries in transition, their positions in support of peace agreements and the social contract-making mechanisms that follow can undermine the ability to address CCIs (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Cyprus, Nepal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

A resilient national social contract is an indispensable component of preventing violent conflict and of attaining and sustaining peace. Resilient national social contracts contribute to more peaceful and resilient states and societies when one or more of the following factors is present:

~ There is virtuous movement of drivers (all countries) and virtuous, mutually reinforcing interaction among the three drivers (virtuous cycles: Tunisia; vicious cycles: Cyprus, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

~ CCIs are attended to in inclusive ways, in and through social contract-making pheres and mechanisms (positive: Tunisia; negative: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Nepal, South Sudan, Yemen, Zimbabwe).

~Resilience capacities in society are mobilised and supported for peace (positive: South Africa, Tunisia, Zimbabwe; negative: Cyprus, Nepal, Yemen).

Policy Recommendations

  • Supporting mechanisms to address conflict issues dividing state and society.
  • Preventing the uptake of conflicting provisions and commitments in political and peace agreements and implementation plans.
  • Cultivating leadership for social contracting among domestic actors at the national and subnational levels, with a focus on drivers and support for locally appropriate and transformative approaches.

Ensuring that inclusive processes translate into sustained, inclusive results calls for:

  • Steadfast commitment that allows for progress and setbacks; inclusive processes take more time.
  • Understanding that the ‘quality of inclusion’, and specifically modes of and preferences for inclusion, are context-dependent; different modes of inclusion are acceptable and effective for different groups, in different sectors, and varyingly at different phases/times in transition.
  • Ensuring that inclusive processes target a variety of social contracting spheres and mechanisms to support effective and coherent implementation of agreements, including policy creation and clear implementation plans.