Social ContractFor over three years now the Africa Platform (formerly Africa CSO Platform on Principled Partnership) has been working on state-society relations in post conflict countries

This initiative has involved three levels of engagement

  1. Strengthening Relations between Civil Society and Governments through informal an formal dialogue spaces, collective and joint policy development and negotiations with governments on policies and development agenda that are not in conformity with greater societal aspirations. The Africa Platform has supported this work in Liberia, Rwanda and South Sudan.
  2. Active support to Civil Society on engagement with international and other external actors, including options for engaging with Development partners and Private Sector. In this regard The Africa Platforms has supported engagement of Civil Society in the World Economic Forum’s Program on Mining and Metals in Mozambique and Uganda.
  3. Creation of and supporting engagement in Global Policy Spaces that have long term impact on the national development strategies. In this regard the Africa Platform is part of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and StateBuilding (IDPS), a global forum for donors and conflict affected countries to build long term peace and strengthen societal relations with governments. The IDPS also serves as a Platform where three core actors-society (through CSOs), Governments and Development Partners, work to address root causes of conflict and develop programs that ensure there is no relapse to conflict. The Africa Platform has also been a leader in engagements under the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post 2015 Agenda, with an active global program of engagement in several networks while also supporting and strengthening an Africa Coalition under the Africa Working Group on Post 2015. The Africa Platform also sits on the
  4. Direct support to Governments to engage and negotiate with External actors while ensuring that International actors adhere to the Principle of Do No Harm in their work-either Economic or Social.

These programs have evolved over the three years to a more contextual program that now falls under the Africa Platform’s Social Contract Initiative.

Over the next five years The Africa Platform will work on three areas under the Social contract, most of them targeted at post conflict countries.

State-Society Relations

If conflict is dealt with in line with the social contract, confidence and trust is built between state and citizens which further encourages peace and stability

The Africa Platform and Social Contract

The essential role of Peacebuilding initiatives focus on facilitation of the social contract that supports an open dialogue (formal and informal) about culture, norms and relations between the state and the society. In post-conflict societies where social cohesion decreased, identities were broken and/or values and norms were misused, dialogue processes need to address these critical issues.

The Africa Platform will target initiatives that seek to deliberately address the challenges of trust  and renew visions for the society. We will target work that strengthens the institutional and societal mechanisms needed to rebuild the Social contract through these two pathways.

 Program areas

There are Four areas of entry points for the Africa Platform

Social Agenda as an entry point

These  are entry points that take the form of a Social Service delivery, but which are structured as spaces for national dialogue on broader development and governance issues between state and society. The service therefore becomes an entry point and not the focus of the engagement.

Key moments in society

These are moments  where all of society is bound by either a common challenge or common pursuit. It can include election periods, constitutional making times, national dialogue period following a conflict, referendums and national challenges that have impacted large portions of society and cannot be easily be blamed on the state or sections of society.

to initiate dialogue between state and society. Negative key moments are especially effective in states experiencing conflict.

Here the government can play several roles.

The state could focus on actions that engender legitimacy, signalling clearly the intent to do things differently by building inclusive platforms for dialogue and avoiding the abuse of state authority .

But there is need to appreciate that even in “revolutionary” contexts, institutions tend to return to previous behavioural patterns. Both, changing peoples’ minds and transforming parties is a slow process, but needs consideration.

Certain attention also needs to be given to the involvement of radical groups.

 Creating Agents of Change from Within

 One major challenge for constructive state-society relations is the centre – periphery/ rural – urban cleavag. This happens when the state is perceived to be absent and concentrated at the Centre. Its more or less absent in rural areas, often where poverty rates are highest and where “the only authority known are weapons, and justice is only provided by illegal groups.” Additionally, elites in urban areas including politicians, representatives of government structures are not aware of the needs of the rural population e.g. some people do not believe, that there are citizens in Colombia who do not have an identity card. This is also true for Nepal where feudal structures have governed the country since ages and devolution to the district and village level has not taken place yet.

Civil society organisations (CSO) , in their broader context, not just elite-type organizations, can play a crucial role and bridge the gap between state and society. On the one hand, CSOs can advocate and claim the implementation of the peace agreements for all citizens. On the other hand, they can work with the society in order to strengthen the demand side of the citizens towards the state, asking for the fulfilment of the state’s roles and responsibilities (respect to rights, protection and delivery of services).

Mutual respect and collaborative action across various actors for the needs of all groups of the country is essential as the foundation for a (re)building of trust. In order to confront the challenge to foster civil society while not creating parallel powers and releasing the state of its accountability, civil society organisations should be backed in programmes that work with the government or are at best be involved e.g. in a national planning commission. In any case CSOs shall never substitute a functioning government. Even in contexts where collaboration with central state institutions is rather difficult, constructive state-society relations are sometimes possible on a regional or a local level.

By training Civil Society on various skills to bring about change and become agents of change. This would require identifying community representatives who would be trained and sent out to divulge the knowledge learnt to the wider society.

Lastly, by mapping out key actors in society and using them as entry points. This however, poses some challenges as its difficult to categorize society and also tedious (see The Third Side below)..

 Strategic Approach

Strengthening relations between state and society.  It is informed by the following contextual issues

Collective focus on service deliver

Effective and accountable governance-Defining Government