The MENA region is facing a number of socio-economic challenges, which the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to amplify, including increasingly high rates of youth unemployment, disruption in core health services, drops in household income, and poor business environment. These structural issues have been particularly detrimental to the most vulnerable segments of society, namely the youth, the women, the informal workers, and the refugees. According to recent estimates, the economic slowdown generated by the pandemic will cause an additional 8.3 million people to fall into poverty in the region and the increase of uneven vaccination campaigns risks to further worsen the situation. Besides, the health crisis’ social and economic effects have further exacerbated pressure on MENA countries’ strained social contracts, questioning the current paradigm of citizens-state relations. At the same time, the recovery offers the opportunity to tackle some of the region’s structural issues and to rethink and re-shape the social contract, building up more inclusive societies.
How can regional integration and cooperation foster the region’s capability to deal with the current socio-economic challenges? How can the three pillars of social contract, namely protection, provision, and participation be improved across the region? What are the key sectors of investments that public and private actors should focus on to meet the expectations of the most vulnerable groups? Which are the prospects for healthcare system reforms and regional health governance in forecasting more inclusive policies? As the green and digital transformation is unfolding, what actions should be taken to include this transition in the re-shaping of social contract?