In the context of rising authoritarianism, civil society plays a crucial role in shifting the power balance to ensure societies are more peaceful and just. Nongovernmental organizations, civic associations and activists are far from passive victims of authoritarian rule. They can deploy a wide range of tactics and strategies — from lobbying to protesting and other forms of nonviolent action — to effectively challenge unjust power structures and bring about peaceful change. This is true even as they face authoritarians who have increasing access to digital technologies and artificial intelligence, allowing for more sophisticated surveillance and censorship.  

On November 15, USIP hosted a conversation with civic leaders, scholars and donors on the role of civil society actors in authoritarian contexts and what the international community can do to support them. The discussion drew on their experiences and knowledge to share lessons about how advocacy and other forms of nonviolent action can be effective in closed civic spaces. 


Rosie Levine, opening remarks
Senior Program Analyst, China, U.S. Institute of Peace 

Florence Nakazibwe, moderator 
Senior Legal Advisor, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law 

Jessica Teets
Professor, Middlebury College; Associate Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Chinese Political Science

Ivan Marovic
Executive Director, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Sokphea Young
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Anthropology Department, University College London

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