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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

Adopting a Movement Mindset to Address the Challenge of Fragility

Adopting a Movement Mindset to Address the Challenge of Fragility

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

By: Maria J. Stephan

The Fragility Study Group is an independent, non-partisan, effort of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for a New American Security and the United States Institute of Peace. The chair report of the study group, U.S. Leadership and the Challenge of State Fragility, was released on September 12. This brief is part of a series authored by scholars from the three institutions that build on the chair report to discuss the implications of fragility on existing U.S. tools, st...

Fragility and Resilience; Non-Violent Movements

Defeating ISIS Through Civil Resistance?

Defeating ISIS Through Civil Resistance?

Monday, July 11, 2016

By: Maria J. Stephan

The extremist group ISIS exhibits attributes of both an insurgency and a totalitarian regime. Even top U.S. generals acknowledge that military force alone is insufficient to degrade, much less defeat an organization that rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. ISIS will only be weakened through a multifaceted strategy combining diplomatic, economic, political and other means. Organized civilian action that aims to disrupt and deny the group’s key sources of power could be a critical par...

Violent Extremism; Non-Violent Movements

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