Accepted paper:

Reconstituting Social Contracts in Conflict-affected MENA Countries: Whither Iraq and Libya


Mark Furness (German Development Institute)
Bernhard Trautner (German Development Institute (DIE))

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks beyond state-centred analyses of fragile and conflict-affected countries. It addresses the question of what are the elements of a social contract that can make a society peaceful again, with reference to Iraq and Libya.

Paper long abstract:

One of the key features of fragile and conflict-affected countries is the breakdown of the social contract between the state and key groups of politically relevant actors. As the literature on political settlements has shown, legitimate agreements governing the basic distribution of power and resources among key social groups are necessary conditions for the transition away from violent conflict. These horizontal arrangements between the groups that make up the society are of as crucial importance to restoring societal equilibrium as the vertical social contract between the 'state' and 'society'. This article looks beyond state-centred analyses to address the question of what are the elements of a social contract that can make a society peaceful again. We start from the assumption that the key determinants of the state-society social contract are the interests and institutionalized relationships of the politically relevant actors that constitute it. Any political settlement must include these actors and must be perceived by them to be legitimate. Our empirical research focuses on Iraq and Libya. Both regimes were toppled by international intervention and replaced by internationally sponsored governments, which were unable to control the countries entirely, let alone forge a new social contract. Our analysis reveals that the conflicts of interest of competing groups and externally sponsored 'spoilers' in both cases are so deeply entrenched that repairing their social contracts so that human security can be provided is highly unlikely, given current framework conditions, which include the configuration of national borders and the influence of external actors.

panel F08
Creating and disrupting political settlements in unequal contexts: examining the roles of non-elites