In recent years, nonviolent movements have filled streets and dramatized crises to force political and social change from Tunisia and Egypt to Nepal or Liberia. Such civil resistance campaigns inevitably will need skills—of dialogue and negotiation—that are honed and taught by practitioners of peacebuilding. After decades in which the fields of nonviolent action and conflict resolution have evolved separately, new reports underscore that they need to collaborate to prevent social conflicts from turning violent and to build more inclusive societies. On July 26, USIP and its partners reviewed this research and discussed how these distinct paths for seeking sustainable peace can be better combined.

The disciplines of peacebuilding and civil resistance use distinct approaches. Practitioners of conflict resolution seek to ease crises and tension through dialogue. Yet as Dr. Martin Luther King wrote from a Birmingham jail in 1963, if those who wield power refuse to negotiate, powerless groups might first have to use nonviolent action to build crises and force such dialogue. 

The July 26 discussion considered two reports that highlight the need for collaboration between the fields of nonviolent action and peacebuilding. In “Negotiating Civil Resistance,” scholars Anthony Wanis- St. John and Noah Rosen explore elements shared by theories of nonviolence and of negotiation. In “Powering to Peace: Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding Strategies,” scholar-activist Véronique Dudouet of the Berlin-based Berghof Foundation explores complementary approaches of civil resistance and peacebuilding for conflict transformation and the pursuit of just peace.

This event was co-sponsored by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, a Washington-based foundation that develops knowledge and promotes the practice of civil resistance, and by the Alliance for Peacebuilding, a network of more than 100 organizations working to resolve conflict and create sustainable peace.

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #PeoplePowerPeace.

Speakers

Carla Koppell, Opening Remarks
Vice President, Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace

Anthony Wanis-St. John 
Associate Professor, School of International Service, American University

Véronique Dudouet
Program Director, Conflict Transformation Research, Berghof Foundation; Member of ICNC Academic Council

Abdallah Hendawy
Egyptian activist and political commentator; consultant, Program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace

Jitman Basnet
Nepali Journalist/Lawyer and Former Prisoner of Conscience

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

Related Publications

How Nelson Mandela’s Legacy Still Resonates for Youth Movements

How Nelson Mandela’s Legacy Still Resonates for Youth Movements

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

As December marks 10 years since the passing of Nelson Mandela, an icon of 20th-century struggles for justice and peace, a new generation of activists is building from his legacy to counter our 21st-entury crises of rising global violence. Among the signs of Mandela’s vital relevance for us now is a global, online conference to bolster nonviolent social action in pursuit of justice and peace that opens December 7, hosted by the Stanford University-based World House Project with partner groups from South Africa, India, Mexico and elsewhere.

Type: Analysis

Nonviolent Action

USIP’s Mandela Series

USIP’s Mandela Series

Friday, November 3, 2023

After spending 27 years in prison, many expected Nelson Mandela to emerge as a man full of bitterness and anger toward those who had imprisoned him. Instead, he emerged as a towering figure of peace and justice whose own self-sacrifice and leadership were instrumental in ending the brutal apartheid system in South Africa. USIP’s Ambassador Johnnie Carson discusses the Institute’s new Mandela Series — a collection of lectures and seminars from notable peacebuilders that celebrates Mandela’s life and explores how his legacy can guide those seeking a better, more peaceful future.

Type: Blog

Nonviolent ActionPeace Processes

Overcoming the Challenges of Transitional Mobilization

Overcoming the Challenges of Transitional Mobilization

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Nonviolent action can be a powerful way to bring about peaceful transitions from autocratic rule to democracy. But even when initially successful, movement leaders often face significant challenges, from frustrations that grievances are not addressed quickly enough to counterrevolutions aimed at restoring the authoritarian status quo. This report examines two recent transitions—the 2011 Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and Armenia’s 2018 Velvet Revolution—and presents recommendations for improving the likelihood that change initiated through nonviolent action leads to robust and lasting democracy.

Type: Peaceworks

Nonviolent Action

View All Publications