Amid warfare worldwide, unarmed civilians attempt protests or negotiations with combatants to protect their communities from violence. These citizens defy the culture of fear that armed groups enforce, and risk retribution. New research highlights how communities use cohesion and social structures to non-violently influence armed groups—a capacity that governments and institutions often fail to recognize. On October 2, USIP convened a discussion on such community self-protection, and how policymaking might better support it in conflict zones such as in Syria or Afghanistan.
Research by USIP fellow Oliver Kaplan is documented in a new book, Resisting War. It explores how unarmed civilians pressure government troops, or paramilitary or insurgent fighters to limit violence. Former combatants who faced dissent from local citizens told Kaplan that when deciding whether to use repression they weighed, in part, the solidarity of a community and the moral and reputational risks of committing a massacre.
In this event, panelists discussed the implications of the new research for preventing violence and protecting communities during conflict—and for countering violent extremism and stemming refugee crises. They specifically examined the success of some communities in protecting themselves during Colombia’s half-century of civil war. The discussion considered what the findings mean for U.S. foreign policy as the United States confronts continued war in Afghanistan and the need to promote peace and security in Syria.
Continue the conversation on Twitter with #peoplepower4peace.
Carla Koppell, Moderator
Vice President, Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace
Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace
Assistant Professor, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver
Senior Associate for the Andes, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Senior Policy Scholar, U.S. Institute of Peace
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, Multilateral Affairs, and Human Rights, National Security Council
Mauricio García Durán, S.J.
Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Colombia
Former Executive Director, Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP)