As conceptualized in the study, 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 postulated “drivers” of a resilient social contract –related to the inclusiveness of political settlements, the fairness and effectiveness of institutions, and the strength of social cohesion.

A methods team (subset of the Advisory Board) supported the development of the research questions, conceptual framework and research guide for authors.

In addition to the Research Director, this team included Marie-Zoelle Zahar, Alina Rocha Menocal, Mary-Hope Schwoebel and Alexandros Lordos. 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. Considerable time was spent selecting indexes and indicators to support the assessment of the three drivers. Findings were validated in numerous ways – notably, through a series of scholar-policy “dialogues” and validation workshops.