USIP mourns the passing of Peter Ackerman, a businessman, philanthropist and one of the world’s foremost experts on nonviolent action.
“Peter Ackerman believed passionately in promoting peace through support for stable, democratic societies,” said USIP President Lise Grande. “Through his scholarship, activism and generosity, Peter has contributed enormously to our collective understanding of nonviolent action and transformation.”
Born and raised in New York City, Ackerman received his doctorate in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. There, he took an interest in studying the nonviolent strategies and tactics used by social movements — a topic that would go on to become a major part of his life’s work.
In addition to his two published books, Ackerman introduced a larger audience to the history of nonviolent movements through his work on the Emmy-nominated documentary “A Force More Powerful” and the Peabody Award-winning PBS documentary “Bringing Down a Dictator,” which chronicled the toppling of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević.
In 2002, Ackerman became the founding chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), which has helped train nonviolent activists from some of the most prominent social movements of the last two decades.
“Peter believed that we could and should learn from history,” said USIP Board Chair George Moose. USIP Board Vice Chair Judy Ansley added, “Peter understood that the more people knew about the power of nonviolent action, the more they could implement its lessons in their own lives and mission."
Ackerman served as a board member for the Council on Foreign Relations, as chair of the board of trustees at Freedom House, and as chair of the Board his alma mater, the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Ackerman also served as the co-chair of USIP’s International Advisory Council, helping to guide and inform the Institute’s mission to prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflicts around the world.
“Few people have been as celebrated by their peers as Peter Ackerman rightfully was,” said Stephen Hadley, a long-time chair of USIP’s Board. “He was a trusted confidant for generations of policy thinkers.” USIP Board member and co-chair of the Institute’s International Advisory Council, Nancy Zirkin, singled out Peter for “bridging the gap between the research and practice of nonviolence. By doing this, he showed all of us the best way to fight for democracy and freedom.”