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

COVID Raises the Stakes for Zimbabwe’s Civil Society Movement

COVID Raises the Stakes for Zimbabwe’s Civil Society Movement

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

By: Miranda Rivers; Precious Ndlovu

Countries worldwide that suffer or risk violent conflicts face a new hazard amid the COVID-19 pandemic: governments’ use of the disease as a pretext to curtail democratic freedoms and punish opposition. As COVID has spread across Africa, Zimbabwe is emerging as one of the countries most vulnerable to the disease—and most illustrative of its threat to peace and democratization efforts on the continent. Two and a half years after a military coup installed President Emmerson Mnangagwa, his government has used the health crisis to arrest members of the opposition and journalists, and divert humanitarian aid to ruling party supporters.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Health; Nonviolent Action

People Power’s Transformative Role in America’s National Reckoning

People Power’s Transformative Role in America’s National Reckoning

Monday, June 22, 2020

By: Miranda Rivers; Nicholas Zaremba; Maria J. Stephan

Since the murder of George Floyd, protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism have shaken the United States, with shockwaves reverberating around the world. Demonstrators have come out in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and over 1,600 towns and cities across the country, representing the broadest protests in U.S. history. Elsewhere, there have been global solidarity protests for Black Lives Matter and demonstrations calling for an end to racism in Tunis, Pretoria, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, and dozens of other cities around the world. The Black-led popular uprising has led to a national reckoning on the issue of systemic racism and police brutality against Black people in the United States.

Type: Blog

Nonviolent Action

Afghan Grassroots Activists Could Help Build a Lasting Peace

Afghan Grassroots Activists Could Help Build a Lasting Peace

Thursday, May 7, 2020

By: Mohammad Ehsan Zia; Tabatha Thompson

Since the U.S.-Taliban deal was inked at the end of February, progress in the Afghan peace process has stalled due to disagreements over prisoner releases and complicated by an ongoing political dispute over last year’s presidential election. And now Afghanistan must confront a COVID-19 outbreak. But, the logjammed top-down peace process is only one piece of the puzzle to ending the country’s long-running conflict: there’s also the grassroots.

Type: Blog

Nonviolent Action; Peace Processes

View All Publications