Political parties and the social contract in fragile states

There is increasing awareness that building a strong and inclusive social contract is critical for a sustainable exit from fragility. Political parties have a unique role to play in mediating state-society relations and shaping the social contract. However, in many fragile contexts weak and dysfunctional political parties act to undermine rather than strengthen the social contract.

This expert analysis examines some of the common challenges faced by political parties in fragile states – from fragmentation to capture by private interests – and the ways in which these challenges limit states’ ability to develop a new social contract. It analyses how these challenges play out in four very different contexts: Nigeria, Nepal, Guatemala and Myanmar.

Finally, the expert analysis examines the track record of the international community in working with political parties in fragile contexts. It argues that international actors must move beyond traditional “blueprint” approaches to party support and instead develop more comprehensive and context-relevant responses to the specific challenges that parties face. In particular, international actors should focus their support on those areas that are most critical in enabling political parties to effectively represent citizens, mediate state-society relations and broker a stronger social contract.