Social Contracts in MENA - Drivers of Change

Event Type



German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

Rescheduled to 2021. The new date has not yet been determined.

Aspirations in the Middle East and North Africa to improve state-society relations, in particular society’s ability to shape the social contract that underlies these relations, predate the Arab uprisings since 2011 (e.g. Algeria 1991-2002, Iran 1998). However, with the notable exception of Tunisia since 2011, and efforts of updating existing social contracts in Morocco and Jordan, largely dysfunctional ones like in Iraq or back-sliding authoritarian regimes like in Egypt (El-Haddad 2020) aborted these aspirations – only for protests to reemerge, as quite recently in Iran, Lebanon, Sudan and Algeria.

Considerable bodies of analytical literature now use the social contract ‘lens’ for framing state-society-relations, and its transformation. Both conceptual/scholarly literature (Heydemann 2007, Regeni/Auktor  2017, McCandless 2018) and development policy-guiding publications (World Bank 2004, OECD 2011, UNDP 2016) are now available. If one refers to social contracts as the “entirety of explicit or implicit agreements between all relevant societal groups and the sovereign (i.e. the government or any other actor in power), defining their rights and obligations towards each other” (Loewe/Trautner/Zintl 2019), challenges arise not only from assessing the transformations from one contract to a new one or from understanding the normative implications of new contracts in the making. The analysis spans societal, political and economic spheres, so seeking to understand “who and what are its drivers?” is highly ambitious.

The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) is planning to host a workshop to discuss methodological avenues –both qualitative and quantitative– and empirical insights to:

identify drivers of contemporary transformations of social contracts, both structural and actor- centered, in the MENA-region

assess/measure/model the driver’s respective contribution to change - both ‘objectively’ and in the perception of the social contract stakeholders.

The empirical research of the expected contributions will focus on comparisons between countries, between MENA and another world region, between policy fields, or on the trajectory of specific social contracts over time. Domestic drivers – or, by extension, ‘spoilers’ - of change and their (dis-)incentives will mostly stand at the center of analysis. However, the significance of enabling/disabling regional and global structures and/or actors will most likely also have to be taken into account in the MENA region.

However, the workshop will not take place in November 2020 as originally planned because of Corona restrictions. Also, a new date has not yet been determined. Once, it is set, we will launch a new call for paper abstracts. That call will invite researchers in any country and from any relevant discipline (sociology, economics, political science, law studies etc.) to submit abstracts (500-600 words) of academic research papers in the making (not yet published!) to . Abstracts should provide information on (i) the research question, (ii) the hypothesis, (iii) the methodology and

(iv) the expected findings.

We hope that you understand that it would not make sense to stick to our initial plan of holding the workshop in November.

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Photo: Markus Loewe

Markus Loewe

Phone +49 (0)228 94927-154
Fax +49 (0)228 94927-130