Old social contracts have unravelled. A new “social convenant” is needed.  Jim Wallis, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sojourners, USA is a contributor to the Global Agenda Outlook 2013.

This week at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, a series of discussion were held to initiate a year-long dialogue about the need for a new “social covenant,” between citizens, governments and businesses, led by the Global Agenda Council on Values.

This is “a call” for a world-wide discussion about the values we will need to address the many difficult challenges and choices the world is now facing. Inequality, youth unemployment, austerity, retrenchment, constraints, mal-distribution and growing conflicts over resources and a moral agenda to overcome extreme poverty all raise deep questions about our values.

The introduction to the covenant produced by Global Agenda Council on Values reads:

The choices made about each issue are determined by the values we hold—the values applied by government, business, civil society, and individuals. Those choices need to be self-conscious—not based on the inertia of accumulated interests. This is not merely a philosophical enterprise; it is an urgent matter that requires moral courage. The stakes are high.”

While the social covenant call acknowledges the great diversity of global values, it puts forward three which express a consensus across cultures and religions, and which constitute shared human aspirations. They are: the dignity of the human person, the importance of the common good which transcends individual interests, and the need for stewardship of the planet and posterity.


Old social contracts have unravelled. Former assumptions and shared notions about fairness, agreements, reciprocity, mutual benefits, security, and expected futures have all but disappeared. Over the last twenty to thirty years, we have witnessed a massive breakdown in trust between citizens, their economies, and their governments.

Contracts are what have been broken, but a covenant adds a moral dimension to the solution that is now essential. By definition, this will require the engagement and collaboration of governments, businesses, civil society groups, faith groups, and especially young people.

Such a covenant would aim at the promotion of human flourishing, happiness, and well-being as social goals; affirm the movement from a shareholder model to a stakeholder model of business, as elaborated in the document, “Defining the New Business Covenant” produced by the Global Agenda Council on the Role of Business in 2012.

Such a discussion could lead to new practices driving both ethical and practical decisions about the economics of our local and global households.

Read the “New Social Covenant” and join the conversation!

Global Agenda Council on Values 2012-2014:

Also read:
Defining the New Business Covenant.

With the collaboration of Robert Greenhill, Managing Director and Chief Business Officer, World Economic Forum, Switzerland.

Image: Picture of Earth REUTERS/NASA