ICNC Special Report Series
Launched in 2017, ICNC’s Special Report Series aims to bridge the gap between academic, policy and other practitioner communities. ICNC Special Reports draw on cutting-edge research to cover topics pertinent to the ongoing policy discussions and practitioners’ debates around issues relevant to civil resistance movements, grassroots campaigns and nonviolent struggles taking place around the world.
Events of the last decade demand new approaches to atrocity prevention that are adaptable, innovative and independent of a state-centered doctrine. With the aim of reducing risk factors such as civil war, we argue for a new normative framework called The Right to Assist (RtoA), which could strengthen international coordination and support for nonviolent civil resistance campaigns demanding rights, freedom and justice against non-democratic rule.
RtoA would: 1) engage a wide range of stakeholders such as NGOs, states, multilateral institutions and others; 2) bolster various factors of resilience against state fragility; and 3) incentivize opposition groups to sustain commitment to nonviolent strategies of change. The adoption of this doctrine can reduce the probability of violent conflict that significantly heightens atrocity risk, while increasing the prospects for constructive human development.
What drives governments to crack down on and kill their own civilians? And how—and to what extent—has nonviolent resistance historically mitigated the likelihood of mass killings? This special report explores the factors associated with mass killings: when governments intentionally kill 1,000 or more civilian noncombatants. We find that these events are surprisingly common, occurring in just under half of all maximalist popular uprisings against states, yet they are strongly associated with certain types of resistance. Nonviolent uprisings that do not receive foreign material aid and that manage to gain military defections tend to be the safest. These findings shed light on how both dissidents and their foreign allies can work together to reduce the likelihood of violent confrontations.
This report explores the complementary ideas and practices that civil resistance and peacebuilding approaches present, each from different points along the conflict transformation spectrum. Both strategies oppose violence in all its forms, and seek to pursue just peace by peaceful means. However, they take different approaches to conflict transformation, both in their analyses of the primary causes of violence and how they respond to conflict. The report then describes how civil resistance and peacebuilding can work in tandem throughout the four stages of transformation of asymmetric conflicts. Concrete examples are provided to illustrate the respective functions of constructive conflict (through civil resistance) and conflict mitigation (through peacebuilding) in transitions from latent to overt conflict, from resistance to dialogue and negotiation, and from conflict settlement to sustainable peace.
Forthcoming Special Reports
By: Jonathan Pinckney
How do nonviolent resistance movements oust dictators? What effects do these different ways of ousting dictators have on countries’ long-term political trajectories? In this special report, I trace the pathways through which civil resistance movements of the last seventy years have removed dictatorships and the impact of these different pathways on levels of democratic progress. I find that pathways that involve campaign initiative, institutional mechanisms, and building cooperative norms – particularly negotiated transitions – tend to lead to the highest levels of democratic progress.
By: Ben Naimark-Rowse
Why and how have some institutional donors in the United States supported nonviolent social movement building in non-democracies?
A number of movement-centric research projects seek to explore the effects of donor support for nonviolent social movements on their success or failure. By contrast, this research is donor-centric. It seeks to understand why and how donors decide to support nonviolent social movement building in the first place. This research will explore a range of factors that might influence donor support for social movement building including donors’ internal structures, donors’ perception of political risk, and the nature of donors’ understanding of and relationships to social movements.
In collaboration with the Human Rights Funders Network, this project will utilize the Advancing Human Rights database to outline trends in donor support from 2011-2015. Interviews with and a comparative case study of donors will allow this project to offer a detailed understanding of how donors work. In doing so, this research seeks to offer insights to donors, academics, and movements, amongst others about the availability of financial and other resources for social movement building in closed and closing political spaces.
By: Qamar Jafri
The Pashtun Protection Movement Pakistan (PTMP) is a youth-led nonviolent resistance campaign for human rights for the Pashtun people in northwestern Pakistan. This movement’s is reminiscent of Pashtun historical icon Bacha Khan’s organizing nonviolent action for justice in Pakistan’s past. How are these young Pashtuns differentiating themselves from violent religious extremists (e.g. Taliban Movement) and resisting government repression and mistreatment through nonviolent resistance activities? How do they develop and use nonviolent strategies and tactics in their protests and actions? How do they engage supporters and opponents of the movement? How do they manage funding and media coverage of their activities? The study seeks to answer these and other questions questions via relevant field research and data collection and is funded by the ICNC as part of its 2018 rapid field data collection grant.
By: Brandon Sims
The research goal is to intervene in a developing conversation in the civil resistance field on why groups may begin and maintain nonviolent tactics (or why groups using violence for a time switch to nonviolent action). Recent political science research tends to focus on structural variables influencing the onset of nonviolent compared to violent campaigns, without investigating tactical change over time. In addition, conventional explanations for variation over time emphasize that severe government repression should lead to increasingly violent tactics. In contrast to existing cross-national structural explanations, which are not amenable to policy interventions, I pursue a contextual, agent-centered explanation that also considers the strategic environment. Specifically, I explore how group learning—from past conflict history, watching other groups, and training in violent or nonviolent methods—interacts with brokerage across social sites to produce violent and nonviolent variation in the context of weak or strong violent government repression.
Forthcoming Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding Case Studies
ICNC’s Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding Case Studies Report features in-depth research and analysis on the interplays of civil resistance (CR) and peacebuilding (PB). These case studies are based on the analytical framework developed by Veronique Dudouet in the ICNC Special Report, Powering to Peace: Integrated Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding Strategies, and provide illustrative and specific examples from single, country-specific conflicts. These studies demonstrate how civil resistance and peacebuilding strategies worked together or separately in four identified phases of violent conflict: (1) latent (2) overt (3) settlement and (4) post-settlement. After receiving 20 applications, ICNC selected a case study on Macedonia and a case study on Nepal.
Title: A Tale of Two Conflicts: Transcending Macedonia’s Ethnic Divide Disarms a Political Cartel and Allows for a Democratic Reset
Author: Kurt Bassuener
Abstract: Macedonia’s wide divide between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians ultimately caused a violent conflict in 2001 with the potential to escalate into further violence and disarray. The Ohrid Framework Agreement ended that conflict by creating a power-sharing system, as is often prescribed by conflict management and resolution tool kits. However, the results of that agreement helped entrench a kleptocratic elite, based on a trans-ethnic political duopoly. Civil resistance was essential to transcending the ethnic divide among majority Macedonians and minority ethnic Albanians to a degree that a political conflict with the Nikola Gruevski regime ultimately resulted in its ouster, despite efforts by the embattled government to spark ethnic conflict. This case study demonstrates the interplay between the imperatives to end and prevent further inter-ethnic violence and the cross-ethnic demands for political accountability.
Title: From the Hills to the Streets to the Table: Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding in the Transformation of Nepal’s Maoist Conflict
Authors: Ches Thurber and Subindra Bogati
Abstract: From 1996 until 2006 Nepal experienced a civil war that resulted in an estimated 17,000 casualties. Remarkably, the conflict ended when the Maoist insurgents forged an agreement with the country’s political parties to jointly launch a civil resistance campaign to oust the King. The civil resistance campaign succeeded in overthrowing the King, the former rebels have been integrated into normal democratic politics—even holding the premiership on multiple occasions—and Nepal has not seen a reversion to large-scale violence. However, many of the social tensions that initiated the conflict still have not been resolved. Protests are a regular occurrence and there has been a proliferation of armed groups in Nepal’s southern plains and Western hills. What caused the Maoists to take arms? How were they convinced to transition to civil resistance? What accounts for the success and failures of the subsequent peace process?
We attempt to analyze these questions by utilizing the framework developed by Veronique Dudouet in her 2017 ICNC Special Report, Powering to Peace: Integrating Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding Strategies. We trace the development of conflict from a period of latent conflict with high levels of horizontal inequalities and structural violence to an outbreak of overt, but initially violent conflict. We then illustrate how a transition from civil war to civil resistance was made possible and led to a successful conflict settlement. However, flaws in the conflict settlement process have produced a turbulent post-settlement process, one that falls short of the goals of reconciliation, transitional justice, and sustainable peace.
Title: Liberia: Resisting Marginalization and Promoting Peace through Civic Advocacy
Authors: Janel B. Galvanek and James Suah Shilue
Abstract: From the establishment of the Liberian state in 1848, the Americo-Liberian settlers – descendants of freed slaves from the USA – imposed a form of indirect rule over the indigenous Liberian population that oppressed, marginalized and exploited the majority of the population. This treatment of the native population became increasingly unsustainable, and in 1980 the settler government was overthrown. A 10-year dictatorship was followed by a violent civil war that lasted until 2003. Using the framework developed by Veronique Dudouet in her 2017 ICNC Special Report, Powering to Peace: Integrating Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding Strategies, this case study examines the methodologies and approaches of the various actors involved in civil resistance and peacebuilding throughout the various phases of conflict in Liberia, from a period of latent conflict to the post-settlement phase after 2003. Many different actors in Liberia pursued strategies of peacebuilding and civil resistance simultaneously, which led to the complementarity of their work and increased the impact they had on both political and civic reform, as well as on the ultimate peace process. The case study takes an in-depth look at the impact that the strategies had on each other in their common pursuit of peace and justice in Liberia.