Foundations for a New Afghan Social Contract

This project searches for answers to the question of what holds the Afghan people together, after more than four decades of conflict.

The Taliban’s rise to power in August 2021 wiped away Afghanistan’s fragile social contract. Conflicts around ethnicity, tradition, religion, women’s rights, and many other issues create deep rifts in the society, and between the people and the ruling de facto government.

The project team will ask Afghan intellectuals to write essays, analyse the rifts and describe their vision of Afghanistan’s future social contract. A special competition is planned for the younger generation. Besides, the team will carry out a survey to include perspectives from all sectors of the Afghan society. The results will be analysed in form of a report.

The resulting essays and the survey report will be published online in Dari and/or Pashto. Later, selected essays and the report will be published in English as a book for international readers. ILSAF and its project partner, Kardan University (Kabul), will also organise an online discussion on the results.

The project is funded by the KPSRL Knowledge Management Fund

The Hamida Barmaki Ph.D. Scholarship Program

Afghanistan’s demand for higher legal education strongly increased after the fall of the first Taliban regime in 2001. In 2012 the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law  -launched a Ph.D. Scholarship Program for early- and mid-career law lecturers.

Under the supervision of Dr. Tilmann Röder, the team of the Max Planck Institute (later the Foundation) selected thirteen outstanding Afghan jurists who began writing their theses at universities abroad. All candidates had already obtained a master’s degrees in the USA, Australia, France, Italy or China. The scholarship program provided not only financial support but also a broad variety of academic courses and guidance by experienced Max Planck fellows. The topics they chose ranged from international economic law to constitutional law, administrative law, human rights, legal pluralism, family law and intellectual property law.

Most of the Ph.D. candidates were law lecturers from Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-e Sharif, and Takhar. Many of them continued teaching at their home faculties while doing their research. Others accepted important government positions and became presidential advisers, ambassadors, or human rights commissioners. For this reason, none of the theses could be completed after the funding of the German Foreign Office had expired at the end of 2017. Therefore, Dr. Röder and a group of committed university professors decided to continue their support on a private basis. Five years on, the program is considered not only an enormous success but also an important experience in regard of the possibilities and limitations of strengthening higher legal education in conflict-affected environments.

The Institute for Law and Society on Afghanistan is supporting the remaining candidates with feedback and advice. Besides, the ILSAF team is available for requests from Afghans who aspire to write a doctorate or Ph.D. in the area of law or Islamic theology, and who fulfil the necessary conditions. These are primarily an internationally recognized master’s degree and sufficient language skills. While ILSAF cannot offer any financial support, its team can advise on how to find supervisors and scholarships. Interested scholars may send their CV and research exposé to