Reconstituting social contracts in conflict-affected MENA countries: Whither Iraq and Libya?

Furness, Mark / Bernhard Trautner
External Publications (2020)

in: World Development 135, 1-12, article 105085

DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105085
Volltext/Document

This article discusses the prospects for forging new social contracts in highly fragile and conflict affected countries. Building on analytical insights from the political settlements and state fragility literature, conceptualising peacebuilding processes as efforts to forge social contracts enables us to address the roles of governments, social groups, citizens and external stakeholders. We discuss the potential for peacebuilding processes to realise social contracts by assessing societal perceptions of the core public good that citizens expect the state to provide, namely protection. We address two cases where ‘stateness’ was destroyed by foreign intervention and civil war: Iraq (since 2003) and Libya (since 2011). We discuss the troubled recent trajectories of efforts to build peace in Iraq and Libya along the substantive, spatial and temporal dimensions of the social contract. Drawing on interviews, survey results and estimates of civilian casualties, we take a ‘bottom-up’ perspective of their societies’ experiences and expectations regarding protection. We conclude that in both countries the provision of protection by the state and others runs counter to the expectations of significant parts of the population. At the national level, major social groups have been unable to overcome mutual distrust, while continued threats to physical security reduce the prospects that any social contract able to deliver other public goods can ever emerge. Existing political settlements in both countries have rewarded the politicization of ethno-sectarian identity (especially in Iraq) and have benefited economic war lordism (especially in Libya). We conclude that as social contracts at the national level are unlikely to emerge, the consequences of de-facto break ups of both countries must be acknowledged if social contracts at sub-national levels are to have any chance of delivering peace.

About the authors

Furness, Mark

Political Science

Furness

Trautner, Bernhard

Political Scientist

Trautner

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