Prolific civil rights leader and trainer of nonviolent action, Rev. James Lawson, delivers the opening banquet keynote address talking about his experience organizing and training the Nashville lunch counter sit-in campaign. Reverend Lawson’s remarks will be preceded by a showing of the Nashville, Tennessee video segment from “A Force More Powerful.”
The modern practice of civil resistance sprang from ideas about the underlying nature of political power that began to be framed about 170 years ago. As later developed by Gandhi and adopted by scores of movements and campaigns for rights and justice in recent decades, strategies of civil resistance have exhibited a common dynamic, propelled historic changes, and imparted certain political and social properties to their societies. The record of these strategies in liberating oppressed people, when compared to that of violent insurgency or revolt, has been remarkable – and suggests why political violence may substantially be reduced in the future.
Given political oppression in many regions of the world, what explains the emergence of nonviolent movements in some countries but not others? Furthermore, what are the skills that nonviolent movements use in order to build movements and unify populations? This session will examine these and related questions, and address issues such as the development of movement discourse, capacity building, and the creation and expansion of political space.
Bringing Down a Dictator tells the inside story of how Milosevic was brought down — not by smoke and flames– but by a courageous campaign of political defiance and massive civil disobedience. Winner of a Peabody Award, the film was narrated by Martin Sheen and premiered on PBS in March 2002.
Senior Director, Education & Research
International Center on Nonviolent Conflict
Civil resistance movements must be durable and resilient enough to engage in struggle with entrenched adversaries. What sustains such movements in the face of both internal pressure (in the form of disunity) and external pressure (in the form of repression)? To address this question, Ivan Marovic, drawing from his own experience in the Serbian youth movement that brought down Slobodan Milosevic, examined issues of tactical sequencing and innovation, movement risk assessment, and looked at how movements galvanize support and maintain momentum and initiative against their opponents. In addition, Hardy Merriman examined issues of tactical sequencing and innovation, movement risk assessment, and looked at how movements galvanize support and maintain momentum and initiative against their opponents.
Dr. Barrell discusses how the struggle against apartheid in South Africa demonstrated that civil resistance can be a more resilient and effective form of struggle against oppression than military action. The case of South Africa shows how the leadership of the ANC, the preeminent South African liberation movement, saw the role of civil resistance as subsidiary to, and creating fertile political conditions for, armed struggle. But events produced an entirely different outcome. Civil resistance that came to be coordinated by the United Democratic Front ended up displacing armed struggle as the main weapon against the oppressive state. This shift occurred through the 1970s and 1980s, the decisive period in the struggle to end racial oppression of black people in that country.
Dr. Schock examines an under-studied aspect of civil resistance: the impact of a simultaneous violent movement on the outcome of a nonviolent resistance movement. That is, does a violent challenge operating contemporaneously with a nonviolent challenge increase or decrease its likelihood of success? A common assumption is that a violent challenge increases the leverage of a nonviolent one, thereby increasing its likelihood of success (positive radical flank effect). An alternative assumption is that a violent challenge undermines the position of a nonviolent challenge, thereby decreasing its likelihood of success (negative radical flank effect).
The history of Palestine is by no means dominated by violence. In fact, Palestinians used various methods of nonviolent actions such as protest and persuasion, boycotts, strikes and parallel institution building from the 1920s onward — only to face repression indifference from the colonial British authorities prior to 1948, or from Israel was established. Disregard for historic Palestinian civil resistance had the effect of strengthening Palestinian factions that advocated violent resistance. During the 1970s and 1980s, however, inside the territories militarily occupied by Israel, an extended, multi-year process built the civic capacity of the Palestinians through thousands of committees, thereby enabling the coming mass nonviolent movement. Activist intellectuals spread knowledge about nonviolent strategies throughout Palestinian society, shaping a new politics, with changes in popular thinking about how to transform their situation, including withholding cooperation from a belligerent occupation.
Head of NATO Liaison Office in Ukraine
Dr. Smithey explains how nonviolent civil resistance movements that challenge autocratic governments must often deal with repression and intimidation. Regimes depend on the legitimacy they can cultivate. However, when faced with popular resistance, they are forced to weigh the costs and benefits of escalating their use of coercive security measures, and even outright violence, to chill dissent. Though such repression can successfully raise the cost of movement participation and thus undermine challenges, it can also “backfire” and enhance popular mobilization. We consider how the strategic application of nonviolent methods can take advantage of this paradox of repression and raise the likelihood that violence will trigger further mobilization. Much depends on the ability of civil resisters to maintain nonviolent discipline, frame repression, and choreograph actions that help ensure repression will be widely interpreted as reprehensible.
Mr. Greene describes how the effect of backfire can extend beyond civil society to include elements within security institutions that see repression as opposed to their professional ethos and institutional or personal interests. As nonviolent movements seek to shape the environment in ways that maximize the possibility for backfire, it is important that they consider the values, interests, mind-set, and working environment of those who serve within the security sector. These factors vary widely among different institutions (e.g. armed forces, police, and internal security) and elements within these institutions (e.g. conscripts, professional soldiers, and officers at various levels). Various elements also have differing levels of identification with the regime or dissonance in values with it. Nonviolent movements that are willing to take a nuanced view of security institutions, understanding them and relating to them as something other than a monolithic oppressor can use these divisions to reduce the effects of repression and undermine political support for a regime within its own institutions.
Negotiations and use of nonviolent actions are interlinked and play an important role in forcing bottom-up and also top-down, elite-actor transitions will be reviewed as a segue to a discussion about movement-centered attributes and mechanisms, including openness to negotiations, consultations and coalition building –by which broad-based nonviolent movements facilitate democratization and successful democratic transitions. The talk will draw on historical cases as well as current cases of transition to democracy in the Middle East.
Nonviolent conflict is a contest between nonviolent civil resisters and their (often violent) adversaries. In this contest, each side has different strategies and tactics that they can employ to try to win. Civil resistance movements wage their struggle through political, economic, and social pressure, and they have a wide variety of tactics at their disposal to do this. A movement’s adversary often tries to wage its struggle through violent means, which has a completely different dynamic and tactical repertoire than nonviolent methods.
In this asymmetric contest between violent and nonviolent actors, the side that is best organized, most skillful, and most strategic, is more likely to prevail. Therefore, the skillful and strategic choices that civil resistance movements make are of critical importance to their outcome.
Dr. Stephen Zunes
Professor of Politics and International Studies
University of San Francisco
The first part of the session examines the role of international organizations in democracy promotion. It begins by asking whether there is a growing global consensus on the value of democratic governance – perhaps even an emerging “right to democracy.” We then consider how international organizations are both contributing to and acting on that consensus through their normative and operational activities. Among the operational activities, we look at electoral assistance, the good governance agenda of development agencies, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. In addition to these non-coercive approaches, we consider cases of military action to uphold democracy – most recently in Cote d’Ivoire. The central objective of the session is to explore the global normative and political context in which democratic action by non-state actors occurs.
The second talk critically examines some recent cases where there have been charges of foreign interference in popular nonviolent uprisings by foreign governments, NGOs, and other outside actors; explores how outside support can actually harm a movement’s chances of success; and, under what circumstances outside actors can make positive contributions to nonviolent struggles for freedom and justice. In general, autocratic governments, regardless of ideological orientation or geo-political alliances, have traditionally blamed real or perceived hostile powers for indigenous nonviolent challenges to their regime. However, unlike military coups and armed rebellions, the degree of influence a foreign power can actually have on a popular civil insurrection is rather minimal.
Independent Media Maker / Founder
Movements that do their own journalism and make their own media have a much greater chance at success than those that rely on commercial or state media. From Mexico to Egypt, Greg Berger and Al Giordano have reported extensively and also studied how journalists and media makers have helped – or hurt – the movements that they cover. Through the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, they train independent media makers in how to report stories about social movements and nonviolent civil resistance, and how to bring the message to a wider public audience through techniques developed to make videos and news reports “go viral.”
Dr. Cynthia Boaz
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Sonoma State University
In this session, Dr. Boaz introduces several common media frames (or “biases”) that lead to distortions in coverage of civil resistance. She also discusses the role of meta-frames, i.e. deeply held beliefs and assumptions about concepts such as power, conflict and violence, which reinforce misperceptions in media reporting of civil resistance.
Dr. Barrell examines strategies that were developed by two groups of journalists in different parts of the world struggling to reach their audiences despite severe repression. One group was Burmese, the other South African. In Burma, opposition journalists set out in the 1990s to find a way to bypass their government’s tight grip on the media in their country. They ended up creating something entirely new, free of control by the government, that exploited advances in broadcasting technology and the credibility that derives from a ‘public service’ ethos in journalism. In South Africa in the 1970s, there seemed little chance of developing an effective opposition media outside of the state-approved system. A group of journalists asked themselves if they could work within government-imposed constraints yet still get across a militant opposition message.
The New School University
Dr. Erica Chenoweth contests myths about the effectiveness and necessity of violence as a method of resistance. She also presents evidence that shows that nonviolent resistance can be a superior method of resistance, even against regimes who try to use extreme brutality to silence dissent. She distinguishes between insurgencies (and “terrorist” groups) who may be open to the idea of abandoning violence, and those who are likely to maintain violence even when other alternatives are possible. Chenoweth also discusses how to increase awareness among the policy community and the public about the strategic advantages of nonviolent resistance.
Nichole Argo speaks about the role of sacred beliefs and the impact they have on whether or not movements choose to use violence or nonviolent in their struggle.
Gene Sharp, Senior Scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution and one of the foremost authorities on nonviolent struggle in recent decades, gives a keynote address to discuss the relevance of civil resistance to the continuing global fight for human rights, democracy, and freedom.
The Fletcher Summer Institute is the only executive education program in the advanced, interdisciplinary study of nonviolent conflict, taught by leading scholars and practitioners of strategic nonviolent action and authorities from related fields. This institute runs from June 19 – 25, 2011 at the Fletcher School (Tufts University) in Medford, Massachusetts, USA.