Since January 2021, USIP has been collecting data on the frequency and characteristics of civic mobilization in 83 political transitions initiated through civil resistance from 1945 to the present to help understand when challenges to democratic progress have been successfully overcome and provide practical lessons learned for activists, policymakers and academics interested in nonviolent action and democratization.

Nonviolent action, also known as civil resistance, is a powerful force for bringing about peaceful, democratic change. Political transitions brought about through nonviolent action are much more likely to end in democracy than any other form of transition. But once transitions have been initiated through nonviolent action, activists and peacebuilders often struggle to maintain the civic mobilization necessary to hold new powerholders accountable and ensure peaceful democratic progress.

Protesters arrive in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum, April 23, 2019. The Sudanese deposed a dictator, but some fear true stability can never come until the truth is revealed about who killed more than a hundred protesters. (Bryan Denton/The New York Times)
Protesters arrive in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum, April 23, 2019. The Sudanese deposed a dictator, but some fear true stability can never come until the truth is revealed about who killed more than a hundred protesters. (Bryan Denton/The New York Times)

While past research has identified maintaining civic mobilization through transitions as a key challenge to be overcome for a successful transition to democracy, there has previously been no comprehensive source of data on which transitions have high levels of civic mobilization; the actors most commonly engaging in mobilization; and the effects of different kinds of mobilization on long-term political outcomes. This is a major gap preventing activists, policymakers and academics from understanding how the short-term success of nonviolent action can be turned into long-term sustainable change.

The Civic Mobilization in Civil Resistance Transitions (CM-CRT) dataset addresses this gap with the first comprehensive data source on civic mobilization during transitions initiated through nonviolent action from 1945 to the present. The data, collected at the event level, provides a detailed look at how mobilization changes in the aftermath of successful nonviolent action campaigns and how those changes in mobilization interact with crucial secondary factors like government repression, dialogue and negotiation processes, and institutional change. Each event includes information on over 100 variables, capturing dozens of distinct concepts such as inclusivity, size, repression and foreign support.

The data was collected through a rigorous examination of hundreds of thousands of news reports, scholarly articles and books published on each of the transitions in question. Each event was independently verified by two researchers to ensure relevance and inter-rater reliability. The full details of the data collection process are available in the project codebook.

Version 1.0 of the data was collected by a research team at the Foundation for Inclusion in cooperation with USIP’s program on nonviolent action and includes over 1,400 events from 72 transitions from 1945 to 2019. Data collection on version 1.1 of the data is ongoing. This version of the data will include events from an additional 11 transitions, to cover all known transitions initiated through nonviolent action since World War II. Check this page for updates!

Uses for the Data

Researchers from USIP’s program on nonviolent action are currently analyzing the data to shed light on the types of mobilization and actors involved in mobilization in civil resistance transitions that have had the greatest impact on democratization. A USIP special report detailing these findings is planned to be released in 2022.

The data and all its supporting materials are freely available for any non-commercial purpose. Academics can use the data to examine research questions related to nonviolent action and democratization. Potential questions that could be addressed with the CM-CRT data include:

  • Which political actors have the greatest impact on keeping civil resistance transitions on a democratizing path?
  • How does gender diversity of mobilization impact long-term protections for women’s rights?
  • How has long-term post-campaign mobilization changed as social media has become a more central mobilization tool?

Policymakers and international practitioners can use the data to look at how mobilization by key civic actors has impacted democratization in a key set of political transitions.

Access the full data here

Latest Publications

 Une ville du Sahel conçoit un moyen d'améliorer les réformes – et l'aide internationale

Une ville du Sahel conçoit un moyen d'améliorer les réformes – et l'aide internationale

Friday, October 15, 2021

By: Jasmine Dehghan ; Sandrine Nama

La recrudescence cette année des troubles violents dans le Sahel en Afrique – des attaques djihadistes élargies, des coups d'État ou des tentatives militaires dans quatre pays, ainsi que le nombre constamment élevé de victimes civiles – souligne que des années de travail pour renforcer les forces militaires et policières n'ont pas réussi à réduire l'instabilité. Pour réduire l'extrémisme et la violence, les pays doivent améliorer la gouvernance, et des analyses récentes soulignent le besoin particulier de renforcer le sentiment des gens que leurs gouvernements peuvent assurer la justice et trouver des résolutions équitables aux griefs populaires. Un tel changement est une tâche extrêmement complexe et une ville du Burkina Faso a élaboré un plan de réformes locales avec un processus pour gérer cette complexité.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Democracy & Governance

A Sahel Town Builds a Way to Improve Reforms—and Foreign Aid

A Sahel Town Builds a Way to Improve Reforms—and Foreign Aid

Thursday, October 14, 2021

By: Jasmine Dehghan; Sandrine Nama

This year’s escalation of violent turmoil in Africa’s Sahel—widened jihadist attacks, military coups or attempts in four nations, and continued high civilian casualties—underscores that years of work to reinforce military and police forces have failed to reduce instability. To undercut extremism and violence, countries must improve governance, and recent analyses underscore the particular need to build people’s confidence that their governments can provide justice and fair resolutions of popular grievances. Such change is an immensely complex task—and one town in Burkina Faso has shaped a plan for local reforms with a process to manage that complexity.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Democracy & Governance

In Africa, U.S. Should Focus More on Democracy, Less on China

In Africa, U.S. Should Focus More on Democracy, Less on China

Thursday, October 14, 2021

By: Thomas P. Sheehy; Paul Nantulya; Gustavo de Carvalho

Even as the United States draws lessons from its unsuccessful, 20-year effort to build a sustainable peace in Afghanistan, it is shaping policies to engage the political and economic rise of Africa. Both the shortcomings in Afghanistan and the opportunities of Africa underscore the imperative of building policy on a full appreciation of local conditions. Yet on Africa, China’s growing presence has seized Americans’ political attention, and scholars of African politics say this risks distracting near-term U.S. policymaking. A requisite for U.S. success in Africa will be to focus on Africans’ desires—which include an ambition to build their futures by democratic means.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Democracy & Governance

Afghanistan’s Economic and Humanitarian Crises Turn Dire

Afghanistan’s Economic and Humanitarian Crises Turn Dire

Thursday, October 14, 2021

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

Two months after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the country is grappling with twin economic and humanitarian crises the response to which has been complicated by international aid cutoffs, the freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves and sanctions on the militants. USIP’s William Byrd discusses the implications of these crises and the challenges to alleviating them.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Economics & Environment

View All Publications