No One Saw It Coming: Civil Resistance, the Arab Spring and the Conflicts That Will Shape the Future

Lunch Seminar with Dr. Peter Ackerman, The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC)

Please note: This page refers to an event that has already taken place.

Time: Monday, 13 May 2013 12:30-14:00
Place: PRIO, Hausmanns gate 7, Oslo

Dr. Peter Ackerman is the Founding Chair of ICNC, and one of the world’s leading authorities on nonviolent conflict. He holds a Ph.D. from The Fletcher School, Tufts University, where he presently is the Chairman of the Board, and he is co-author of two seminal books on nonviolent resistance, A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, 2001) and Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century (Praeger, 1994).

The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict is an independent, non-profit educational foundation that develops and encourages the study and use of civilian-based, nonmilitary strategies aimed at establishing and defending human rights, democratic self-rule and justice worldwide.

A light lunch will be served.

The seminar is organized in connection with the research course Civil Resistance in an Age of People’s Uprisings, a collaboration between PRIO and the ICNC, within the Research School on Peace and Conflict. The seminar will be chaired by PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken. Discussants: Åshild Kolås and Scott Gates, Research Professors at PRIO.
Abstract of Dr. Ackerman's presentation:
The Arab Spring – like the collapse of the Soviet Union more than 20 years earlier – surprised scholars, policy makers, and regional experts who had assumed that authoritarian structures and adverse conditions would make such an uprising impossible or unlikely to succeed.

However, a close reading of history shows that when ordinary people are unified, organized, disciplined, and engage in diverse methods of civil resistance, they can triumph against authoritarian regimes and other seemingly immovable structural constraints. How they do this is a function of their skills, strategic choices, and capabilities at mobilizing diverse segments of society to exercise power by withdrawing support from an oppressive status quo and inducing defections from the key elements that uphold an unjust system.

In fact, new quantitative data proves that civil resistance campaigns over the last century have been twice as successful in achieving their objectives than violent campaigns.  Furthermore, the outcome of a successful civil resistance campaigns against a government is much more likely to lead to a democratic system.

Today, through the work of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, this information is saving lives. The choice between violent insurrection and a campaign of civil resistance is stark. Choose correctly and nonviolent struggles in Poland, Chile, South Africa and Tunisia pave the way for transition. Choose incorrectly and the tragedy of Syria unfolds.

It is therefore increasingly important that scholars, members of the policy community, and the media understand this phenomenon, which is likely to shape the fate of many nations, governments, and societies in coming years and decades.

How civil resistance works, its historical record, new quantitative research, and likely future trends will all be discussed at this presentation.