A new report from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) proposes an international doctrine called the "Right to Assist," which would strengthen external support for nonviolent civil resistance campaigns demanding rights, freedom, and justice against nondemocratic rule. Drawing from social science research and insights from practitioners, Right to Assist argues that support for nonviolent civil resistance can help avert atrocities and civil war, as well as increase the prospect for long-term democratic stability.

On October 16, USIP held a discussion on the Right to Assist doctrine with ICNC President Hardy Merriman, co-author of the report, and other civil resistance experts. The event looked at how Right to Assist could be implemented, as well as how increased external support might be viewed from the perspectives of efficacy, international law, practical concerns, and possible unintended consequences. Continue the conversation on Twitter with #PeoplePower4Peace.


Quscondy Abdulshafi
Research Consultant, Dexis Consulting Group-OTI/USAID

Ariela Blätter
Program Officer, Atrocities Prevention and Response, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund

Alejandra Espinoza
Executive Director, Voices of Nicaragua

Nancy Lindborg
President and CEO, U.S. Institute of Peace 

Hardy Merriman
President, ICNC

Maria Stephan
Director, Program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace  

Related Publications

Nancy Lindborg on the Role of People Power in Global Security

Nancy Lindborg on the Role of People Power in Global Security

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

By: Nancy Lindborg

Returning from the Halifax International Security Forum, USIP President and CEO Nancy Lindborg explains why the growing number of “people power” movements around the world have left her optimistic, saying “the notion of what constitutes national security continues to evolve…security includes governments that are responsive to the needs of their people.”

Type: Podcast

Nonviolent Action; Global Policy

Conflict Prevention in Kenya: Combating Corruption through Nonviolent Action

Conflict Prevention in Kenya: Combating Corruption through Nonviolent Action

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

By: Tabatha Thompson; Hussein Khalid

The relationship between corruption and violent conflict is complex and significant. Corruption affects access to basic services, contributes to resource scarcity, and fuels organized crime. It was included on a European Commission checklist for the root causes of conflict, and it was cited as a potential driver of extremism in the 2019 report of the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Focusing on several social movements in Kenya, this report reviews the efforts of collective civic action to combat corruption and advance transparency, accountability, and good governance.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action; Democracy & Governance

Donor Assistance in the Transparency and Accountability Movement

Donor Assistance in the Transparency and Accountability Movement

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

By: Davin O'Regan

Focusing on transparency and anti-corruption issues, this report discusses the findings from a series of participatory workshops and more than seventy interviews with social movement actors and organizations in Kenya, Nigeria, and Ukraine. It looks at the different ways social movement actors in these countries were influenced by foreign financial support and training, including in terms of the goals they set, the tactics and activities they pursue, and whether receiving foreign support compromises their legitimacy with their domestic constituents.

Type: Peaceworks

Global Policy; Democracy & Governance; Nonviolent Action

To Build Peace, Boost the Women Who Lead the Movements

To Build Peace, Boost the Women Who Lead the Movements

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

By: James Rupert

Images of this year’s grassroots movements for social and political change—such as the ouster of authoritarian rulers in Sudan and Algeria—reiterate that women worldwide are driving campaigns that can strengthen democracy and reduce violent conflicts. Yet 20 years after the United Nations proclaimed the need for women at the center of the world’s peacebuilding and stabilization efforts, they remain marginalized in those official processes. So when USIP and a program at the University of Denver organized a training initiative this summer for 14 women leading civic movements for social change, a message glared from the mountain of nominations received from experts and groups working on the world’s violent crises.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Nonviolent Action

View All Publications