Dr. Maria J. Stephan directs the Program on Nonviolent Action at the U.S. Institute of Peace, which focuses on applied research, training and education and informing policies and practice related to civil resistance, nonviolent action and their roles in transforming violent conflict and advancing just peace. She was formerly a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, where she co-led the Future of Authoritarianism project. Previously, Stephan was lead foreign affairs officer in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), where she worked on both policy and operations for Afghanistan and Syria engagements. Earlier, Stephan directed policy and research at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), a private foundation dedicated to developing and disseminating knowledge about nonviolent struggle. She simultaneously taught courses on human rights and civil resistance at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and American University’s School of International Service.  

Stephan is the editor of Civilian Jihad: Nonviolent Struggle, Democratization and Governance in the Middle East (Palgrave, 2009), a co-editor of Is Authoritarianism Staging a Comeback? (Atlantic Council, 2015) and the co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press, 2011). The latter book was awarded the 2012 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Prize by the American Political Science Association for the best book published in political science and the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Defense One, and NPR. Stephan has worked with the European/NATO policy office of the U.S. Department of Defense, and at NATO HQs in Brussels. She is the recipient of Harry S. Truman and J. William Fulbright national scholarships. She holds an MA and PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. Stephan, who is from Vermont, is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Publications By Maria

Tribute to Gene Sharp

Tribute to Gene Sharp

Monday, February 5, 2018

By: Maria J. Stephan

Gene Sharp was a giant the field of civil resistance whose voluminous writings have inspired and informed the work of academics, practitioners, and activists the world over. His role in advancing human rights, fundamental freedoms, and social justice around the world cannot be over-estimated. Few scholars have had such a profound impact on the course of human events as Gene Sharp. He will be greatly missed. 

Nonviolent Action

How the Catholic Church Can Bolster Alternatives to Violence

How the Catholic Church Can Bolster Alternatives to Violence

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

By: Maria J. Stephan

The Catholic Church, with its 2.1 billion adherents worldwide, has been pivotal in some of the most significant nonviolent struggles in modern history. Many will recall the iconic image of Filipino religious sisters confronting military forces and a kleptocratic dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in prayerful resistance during the 1986 “people power” revolution. Today, Filipino religious leaders, facing another violent dictator, Rodrigo Duterte, once again are the leading face of nonviolent resistance. The Vatican is discussing these and other examples of powerful nonviolent movements as it rethinks its long-held doctrine of “just war.”

Religion; Nonviolent Action

View All