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This strand of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Programme’s research aims to understand the nature and the evolution of state–society relations in the region. It uses the social contract as an analytical tool to shed light on people’s perceptions of the state, their expectations from their governments, as well as how they negotiate citizenship. Looking at state–society relations in MENA countries through the lens of the social contract puts emphasis on rights, obligations, and the consequences of unmet expectations. The research of SIPRI’s MENA Programme in this area focuses on how entrenched grievances and the failure of the state to perform its core functions undermine the social contract. It looks at how foundering or ruptured social contracts fuel protests and become drivers of instability and conflict.
The MENA Programme’s research in this area consists of a country-by-country examination of the state of the social contract and the impact of protest movements (or lack thereof) on the relationship between state and society since the 2011 uprisings. Drawing on insights from this analysis, the programme also takes a closer look at governance and state–society relations in Iraq and Lebanon, with a specific focus on the impact of the (ethno)sectarian political system on long-term stability and the state’s performance in various sectors, including public service delivery, the economy and security. The programme’s country-level research aims to identify opportunities for change and provide policymakers and external actors with recommendations on how to achieve reforms.
The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has provided funding for research projects on the social contract in MENA and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has provided funding for research projects on the social contract in Iraq.