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The Arab Spring Myths, Realities, and Prospects for Nonviolent Change Dr. Cynthia Boaz Dept of Political Science, Sonoma State University Academic Advisor,

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Presentation on theme: "The Arab Spring Myths, Realities, and Prospects for Nonviolent Change Dr. Cynthia Boaz Dept of Political Science, Sonoma State University Academic Advisor,"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Arab Spring Myths, Realities, and Prospects for Nonviolent Change Dr. Cynthia Boaz Dept of Political Science, Sonoma State University Academic Advisor, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

2 What is strategic nonviolent conflict?  Nonviolent Conflict is a method by which ordinary people mobilize and fight for their rights using disruptive actions without using violence. Disobedience is at the heart of nonviolent resistance.  SNVC can take many forms, including protest, persuasion, non- cooperation, and nonviolent intervention.  SNVC (also called “nonviolent action” or “nonviolent struggle”) is an active phenomenon that empowers people by uniting them in a vision and giving them a shared stake in the outcome of their struggle.

3 Power, democracy, and legitimacy  Power is bottom-up, not top-down  No ruler can stay in power without consent of people  Power is pluralistic, not monolithic  Conflict not consensus the people “rulers”

4 Understanding Nonviolent Conflict: How NVC shifts power: 1. Through NVC, a broad-based civic movement can drive up the cost of repression and reduce the economic and political support that an oppressor needs to keep control (e.g. South Africa, Poland, US Civil Rights Movement). 2.When the people deprive a ruler of their consent, it reduces his power. The act of simply refusing to be complicit in the lie that the oppressor has (a right to) power can be extraordinarily effective (e.g. Chile, Denmark, Serbia). 3. Once the system’s own defenders begin to doubt whether it can survive (the “pillars of support” are undermined), the balance of power shifts to those using civilian-based resistance. The movement’s (and methods’) legitimacy increases, opening up the political space for genuine democracy.

5 Understanding Nonviolent Conflict Power, Obedience, and Legitimacy in NVC: “Power corresponds to the human ability not just to act, but to act in concert. Power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together.” “Where commands are no longer obeyed, the means of violence are of no use.” - Hannah Arendt

6 Correcting common misconceptions: Correcting common misconceptions: -Nonviolent action is not inaction, passivity, the avoidance of conflict, or pacifism. -Those who engage in nonviolent action do not assume that the opponent will not react with violence. -Nonviolent action is not only used as a last resort, when the means of violence are unavailable. -The occurrence of nonviolent action is not determined by culture, economic system, geography, or other structural conditions. -The effectiveness of nonviolent action is not a function of the ideology or repressiveness of the oppressors. -Participation in nonviolent action does not require the holding of any set of ideological, religious, or metaphysical beliefs. -Nonviolent campaigns do not need a charismatic leader to succeed.

7 “Meta-frames” on NVC  Repression is more interesting than resistance  Violence/force are the most “powerful” means of waging a conflict  Power is top-down, rather than bottom up  Power is monolithic rather than pluralistic  Conflict is undesirable

8  Start with an unifying, mobilizing goal  Identify achievable objective(s) for campaign  Come up with strategy for getting objectives met  Choose best tactics and actions  Claim victory with every successful campaign (morale and momentum) Key stages of nonviolent campaign

9 “Pillars of Support” -Groups, people, or institutions that help a policy or system of oppression stay in place -Movement targets individuals within pillars in order to weaken their support (“pull”, don’t “push” them out) -When enough individuals within the pillars have withdrawn their support, the policy or system cannot sustain itself Injustice

10 Why nonviolent discipline is essential: -It removes legitimacy from oppressor -It gives moral authority to the movement -It allows for recruitment and expansion of movement -State capacity for violence is superior (movement can win) -Violence expands suffering and prolongs struggle -What’s won through violence must be sustained through it (means and ends are inseparable) -Why struggle just to replace one violent system with another? -There is no such thing as “mixed strategies” or “diversity of tactics”. Once violence is used by movement, it’s no longer a nonviolent struggle

11 The record Empirical support for the effectiveness of SNVC: Empirical support for the effectiveness of SNVC:  In the 35 years between 1970 and 2005, there were 67 transitions from authoritarian to democratic governments.  In 50 of 67 of these transitions, the critical factor was nonivolent civic resistance.  “The presence of strong and cohesive nonviolent civic coalitions is the most important of the factors in contributing to freedom [in democratic transitions].”  Only one transition was led by external military intervention.  The countries whose transition was led by internal, broad-based civilian movements are more likely to be still free a decade later, and they have a much lower risk of “democratic backsliding.”  Nonviolent movements see successes more than twice as frequently as armed struggles. (Sources: Freedom House Study: “How Freedom is Won”, Chenoweth and Stephan 2011)

12 Evaluating NVC in Arab Spring  Do we see both (Gandhi’s) “obstructive program” and “constructive program”  Where do we see genuine movements?  What standard is the effectiveness of NVC being measured against?  What are the results so far?  How is it misunderstood (and what are the consequences)?

13 Five Most Common Misconceptions about Egypt’s Uprising  It was spontaneous.  It was a military coup.  It was orchestrated by the United States.  It was an Islamist uprising.  It wasn’t nonviolent.

14 Other considerations.  Are the people of the Arab Spring making the world safer?  The role of people power in delegitimizing violence as a force for change.  How NVC intersects with terrorism and terrorist recruitment.

15 Final Questions for Thought  Is it legitimate for external powers (US, EU, UN, other IOs) to undermine repressive/unfriendly regimes via support for nonviolent movements?  What should be role of United States in assisting movements? How does this link to “democracy promotion”?  Why do we tend to know so little about this phenomenon (even though it liberated more people in the 20 th century than war), especially as compared to violent conflicts? What can we do about that?

16 Understanding Nonviolent Conflict  Ongoing nonviolent struggles:  Burma  Gaza  Western Sahara  Bahrain  Iran  Zimbabwe  Tibet  Belarus  DR Congo  Azerbaijan  Russia  Occupy Wall Street ?

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