Aspen Institute Kyiv held the third seminar, “(Re)thinking the Social Contract for Ukraine”: the national concept and institutionalization of the social contract

On June 17th, Aspen Institute Kyiv held the third seminar, “(Re)thinking the Social Contract for Ukraine,” imperson. Members of the Ukrainian parliament attended the seminar as representatives of the Cabinet of Ministers, the judiciary, legal experts, senior-level civil servants, and cultural figures.

In his opening remarks, Denis Poltavets, Director of Program Development at Aspen Institute Kyiv, noted that the project “(Re)thinking the Social Contract for Ukraine” is central to Aspen Institute Kyiv, as there is currently a significant demand in society for developing a vision of the future. Therefore, the Institute encourages reflections on the topic of the social contract.

The participants of the seminar discussed that:

  • It is necessary to actively involve the Ukrainian community living abroad in shaping the social contract. The various opinions, experiences, and resources of those who temporarily left the country can be valuable for developing Ukrainian society.
  • Reviewing social guarantees can be included in the social contract. Considering the expected return of approximately 3 million veterans from the war, the state should actively consider how to provide them and their families with socio-economic support.
  • There should be competition between economic strategies. Successful implementation of an economic strategy is essential for the country’s sustainable development.
  • The power distribution and competencies between communities and the central government must be addressed. Their relationship requires analysis and adopting optimal solutions for effective country management.
  • National identity and self-awareness are essential for Ukraine. To foster unity and cohesion within society, attention needs to be given to a standard civic narrative.
  • Changes to the Constitution are seen as inevitable for the state’s sustainable development. They may relate to social and economic guarantees, “state-citizen” relations, and more.
  • The question of the status of national minorities requires discussion and the search for realistic response options.
  • Addressing the issues of corruption and populism is relevant for society. Active resistance to them and a focus on building a transparent governance system with clear accountability are necessary.
  • The issue of the ecological crisis requires immediate attention. Strategies and actions need to be developed to reduce the negative impact on the environment and preserve natural resources, including preventing and responding quickly to situations like those at the Kakhovska HES (hydroelectric station).
  • The cultural sector in Ukraine is often underestimated and needs more attention and support. This negatively affects its development and role in society.

In addition to these, other topics were also discussed:

The Concept of the Social Contract: Metaphorical, Legal, and Practical Aspects

  • The social contract is a definitive agreement on a way of life.
  • The social contract is based on values, grounded in the past, and projected into the future.
  • The social contract cannot be changed along with the political regime. However, it should take into account the urgent needs of society.
  • The concept of the social contract may involve standardizing common interests.
  • The Constitution is the phenomenon closest in meaning to the social contract.
  • The social contract cannot be fixed just on paper; it is imaginary and sacred. It cannot be guaranteed solely by the Constitution but also reflects the system of societal values.
  • The social contract is not just about the rules of the game but also about the rules of coexistence.
  • The social contract should be inclusive.
  • In Ukraine, active reconstruction and rethinking of the social contract began in 2014.
  • If the social contract is not officially enshrined and formalized, its implementation can be complicated or even ignored.
  • Security is a necessary precondition for building a just society.
  • Recognition and respect for the right of every individual to self-expression and individuality are essential components of agreement and understanding.
  • Education needs to transform to meet modern requirements and societal needs.
  • Freedom is a value that should be protected and recognized within the social contract framework.
  • In the modern world, a dichotomy arises where, despite the presence of freedom, there is a tendency to restrict it.

The economic aspect of the social contract:

  • Business investment is an indicator of economic success, but businesses invest only when they believe in the existence of a social contract. Business is a long-term game, lasting for at least 7-15 years, so it does not invest actively in current conditions.
  • Stability is an essential attribute of economic growth.
  • The social contract can be realized if a system of business guarantees exists.
  • The economy is an integral part of the social contract.
  • Competition between economic development strategies of the country is necessary.
  • A liberal economy reflects the demands of entrepreneurs.

The Impact of the Social Contract on the State Structure

  • The social contract can be present in both democratic and non-democratic states, as its foundation lies in the consent of the citizens.
  • The social contract is a broader concept than the Constitution, encompassing society’s general principles and values.
  • There may be disagreements in society over minor issues, but global issues should be resolved based on consensus.
  • The social contract can express the Ukrainian national idea, uniting the people and defining common values.
  • Decommunization is necessary to ensure a change in the national mindset and values.
  • The goal of the social contract should be clear so that everyone can contribute to its achievement within their competence.
  • The social contract should ensure justice, complete security, and responsibility to all members of society.
  • There should be a balanced distribution of power and responsibility between the private sector and the state. This will contribute to the creation of an effective governance system and the protection of citizens’ rights.
  • Trust between citizens and the state is the foundation of a stable society. It is essential to develop not only transparency in the actions and decisions of the government but also mutual trust and understanding among all participants of the social contract.
  • Implementing advanced experiences and foreign practices can contribute to developing and improving state institutions and governance systems. It is essential to be open to the outside world and actively utilize its achievements.
  • The social contract should be flexible and adaptive to changes in society. It should consider the current reality and the needs of the people, not be confined to old canons, and be ready to evolve.

Characteristics of the National Social Contract

  • The national social contract will define our national position and identity and provide means to protect our interests.
  • We have a unique opportunity for strategic planning for our future without subordinating ourselves to models or templates of other countries, such as Singapore or Israel.
  • There should be clarity regarding powers and responsibilities, as well as the development of a reputable institution that will ensure the efficiency of the governance system.
  • Victory over the enemy, combating corruption, and uniting society are necessary measures to contribute to Ukraine’s development.

It is also necessary to pay attention to topics that need more public attention but are of significant importance. These issues remain relevant regardless of the level of intensity of the public discussion.

The discussion was based on the Collection of Essays by leading Ukrainian thinkers compiled by the Institute as part of the project. Among the authors of the texts are Serhiy Proleyev, Viktoriya Shamray, Olesya Ostrovska-Liuta, Oleh Khoma, Volodymyr Yermolenko, Vakhtang Kebuladze, Yaroslav Hrytsak, Pavlo Sheremeta, Serhiy Korsunskiy, and Vsevolod Rechytskyi.

Denis Poltavets, Director of Program Development at Aspen Institute Kyiv, and Roman Kobets, Research Fellow at the H. S. Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, moderated the seminar.

Aspen Institute Kyiv invites everyone to join the dialogue on the future of Ukraine and the social contract in various platforms to consolidate efforts for developing and rebuilding the country.

The “Social Contract for Ukraine” project is implemented with the support of NED (National Endowment for Democracy).