Individuals and organizations facing restrictive, oppressive and/or authoritarian forms of governance may be able to employ hundreds of nonviolent methods to amplify their voices, challenge power dynamics and press for reform. Tactics include protests, boycotts, sit-ins, civil disobedience and alternative institutions. Nonviolent resistance has been shown empirically to be twice as effective as armed struggle in achieving major political goals. The U.S. Institute of Peace promotes nonviolent approaches through education and training in strategic nonviolent action and movement-building; applied research on such movements and the efficacy of outside support; and publications that inform the work of policymakers to advance alternatives to violence.
Last year saw a wave of nonviolent action movements, mostly relying on tactics of large public protests and sit-ins as people took to the streets from Hong Kong to Chile to demand greater democracy, economic equality, and social justice. Some of these movements, like the revolution that successfully ousted Sudan’s longtime authoritarian ruler Omar al-Bashir, achieved many of their goals. Others, like the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, were still seeking major demands from the government when news of the rapid spread of a novel coronavirus began coming out of central China.
Civil society and social movements have long been at the center of pushing back against corruption and authoritarian practices. Zimbabwe was no exception in the run-up to the November 2017 coup d’état that ousted Robert Mugabe after four decades of unaccountable rule. This report, based on in-country interviews and focus group discussions, examines the transition that followed the coup to draw broader lessons for how the international community can support, without harming, grassroots nonviolent action initiatives in countries undergoing profound political shifts.
Iran has been rocked by a series of developments in recent months, from the mass protests over raised fuel prices to the killing of powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. Over the weekend, protesters returned to the streets, spurred by the military’s mistaken downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet. As in past protests, like 2009, the government has met demonstrators with a draconian and violent response. USIP’s Garrett Nada and Maria Stephan explain how the protests have evolved over time and how demonstrators could use nonviolent tactics against the repressive regime.
The impetus behind SNAP comes from case study research that highlights how grassroots activists, organizers, and peacebuilders engaged in nonviolent action and peacebuilding can use approaches from both fields together to strategically plan and more effectively prevent violence, address grievances, and advance justice. While scholars such as Adam Curle, John Paul Lederach, Lisa Schirch, Veronique Dudouet, and Anthony Wanis-St. John have explored synergies between the two fields for decades, the SNAP guide is one of the first to offer practical modules and exercises meant to help practitioners operationalize the combined approach at the grassroots