The Fourth Seminar “On the Social Contract for Ukraine”: the social contract and current challenges

Aspen Institute Kyiv continues to engage Ukrainian leaders in a dialogue about the future of Ukrainian society. The fourth seminar “On the Social Contract for Ukraine” occurred on December 14th. Graduates and members of the Institute’s Community – including government, business, and law leaders – participated in the dialogue.

Through the exchange of unique experiences and ideas, seminar participants discussed, among other topics, the characteristics of Ukrainians that will influence the transformation of the social contract, the challenges facing our society, and the global context of the changes brought about by the Russian-Ukrainian war.

The propensity of Ukrainians towards self-organization and their “disobedience” as a strength of our society.

The seminar participants believe that one factor in the successful defense of Kyiv in the first weeks of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war was the Ukrainians’s ability to self-organize and form horizontal connections. Every doctor, every teacher, every military, and all other citizens were willing to take responsibility. This helped to act effectively and stopped the enemy.

According to the seminar participants, this tendency of Ukrainians – to form strong horizontal connections – indicates the prospect of developing strong local self-government. At the same time, if the dialogue with local communities is not built, Ukrainian society cannot take practical steps forward without revolutions.

Additionally, the experience of Ukrainians living abroad shows that they find it challenging to follow European “relatedness.” The rules of coexistence in our society after the war should be simple and easy to follow.

The social contract must respond to the current context and challenges.

In forming and transforming the social contract for post-war Ukraine, it is essential to consider the current context and challenges that Ukrainian society faces and will face in future. The seminar’s participants identified several of them.

According to the system for monitoring the population in April till September, approximately 3 million Ukrainians moved abroad. These people need to return home and apply the experience gained in other countries to benefit Ukraine.

The full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukrainian territory has caused the most significant psychological trauma in the past 80 years. Ukrainian society must be prepared to deal with the consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war. 

After the liberation of territories that are currently temporarily occupied, their inhabitants should not feel abandoned. It is necessary to determine mutual obligations between the state and these territories because they now share a joint unspoken pain. The fate of collaborators remains a separate issue.

How the Russian-Ukrainian war affects other societies.

Undoubtedly, the consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war are felt throughout the world. We are used to discussing economic, security, and humanitarian aspects. At the same time, changes are taking place in other societies and at the international organizations level. For example, voters in different countries make demands on their governments based on the situation in Ukraine now.

In addition, the brutal and bloody invasion of Russia into the territory of another sovereign state has raised the issue of combating external aggression.

Denis Poltavets, Director of Program Development at Aspen Institute Kyiv, and Andriy Kulakov, Program Coordinator of Institute’s Community Program moderated the seminar.

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