“(Re)thinking the Social Contract for Ukraine”: the in-person seminar of the Aspen Institute Kyiv

On April 8th, Aspen Institute Kyiv held their first live seminar “(Re)thinking the Social Contract for Ukraine.” Members of Parliament, representatives of the judicial branch, scientific and media communities, business leaders, high-ranking civil servants, and cultural figures attended the event. 

Intersectoral dialogue on the country’s future, realistic rules of coexistence, and identifying issues that require leaders’ attention formed the first steps towards a thoughtful reflection on societal changes during wartime and developing a working algorithm for complex topics.

Aspen Institute Kyiv Executive Director, Yulia Tychkivska, welcomed the event participants and emphasized the importance of dialogue in understanding how to build our future.

The discussion was based on a collection of essays by leading Ukrainian thinkers, which the Institute compiled as part of the project. Among the authors – Serhiy Prolieiev, Viktoriya Shamrai, Olesya Ostrovska-Lyuta, Oleg Khoma, Volodymyr Yermolenko, Vakhtang Kebuladze, Yaroslav Hrytsak, Pavlo Sheremeta, Serhii Korsunskyy, Vsevolod Rechytskyy.

During the seminar, the participants discussed the following:

  • The contract with oneself is a prerequisite for the country’s social contract.
  • A historic opportunity to learn about integrating society and investing in the country.
  • Forming a social contract “for,” not “about.”
  • Effective leadership for building the future of Ukraine.
  • Reintegrating citizens of temporarily occupied territories.
  • Balancing justice and the desire for revenge.
  • Exclusive or inclusive nature of the social contract.
  • The issue of the trauma of Ukraine as a post-colonial country.
  • The relationship between a citizen’s trust in the state and responsibility.
  • A society of self-governing individuals and a person’s place in the system of state legal relations.
  • The legal status of the social contract and the feasibility/necessity of reflecting it in the Constitution of Ukraine.
  • Deregulation as a prerequisite for business development.
  • Importance of digitalization and innovation for the country’s future.

However, there are complex questions for which answers haven’t be found yet:

  • Is Ukrainian society ready to accept authoritarian rule for the sake of Ukraine’s victory?
  • What are the limits of necessary censorship during the war?
  • How could the state intervene in religious affairs, and is it necessary?
  • What should the state’s role be in regulating economic and political processes?
  • How to address the demographic crisis, particularly the issue of the return of Ukrainians who were forced to leave the country?

A dynamic discussion took place regarding the appropriateness of legally codifying the provisions of the social contract. On the one hand, the requirements of the social contract can be enshrined in the Constitution of Ukraine. On the other, the social contract’s metaphorical nature implies an understanding of the agreements and rules in society that are relevant at a given moment.

According to the participants, the key areas the state should focus on are security, education, justice, and honesty. Security should remain the highest priority for sustainable development. However, some participants noted that the focus should be on all these areas simultaneously: promoting a culture of education and ensuring justice and honesty by building an effective judicial system.


Denys Poltavets, director of Aspen Institute Kyiv program development, and Oleg Khoma, philosopher and head of the Department of Philosophy and Humanities at Vinnytsia National Technical University, moderated the dialogue. 

The Aspen Institute Kyiv encourages participation in supporting dialogue on Ukraine’s social contract on various platforms for synergy and cooperation to build the country’s future.

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