Nonviolent Resistance and Conflict Transformation in Power Asymmetries

TitleNonviolent Resistance and Conflict Transformation in Power Asymmetries
Publication TypeBook
Subtitle / Series TitleArticle in Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsDudouet, V
Number of Pages26 pp.
PublisherBerghof Conflict Research
Accession Number1130

The paper explores in which contexts and under which conditions nonviolent resistance can contribute to successful and sustainable conflict transformation processes. The article is structured as follows: Section 2 defines the concept of nonviolent resistance, its aims and methods, and compares its main characteristics with those of other approaches to conflict transformation. It also provides a brief overview of a range of terms usually associated with nonviolence, and their implications for theory and practice. In this article, the term "nonviolent resistance" refers both to the process of social change through active nonviolence and to a specific set of methods of action for effecting change. Section 3 addresses the conceptual and empirical developments in the field of nonviolent resistance. It draws a distinction between two types of arguments, the so-called 'principled' and 'pragmatic' trends, which are often handled as polar opposites in the literature, but are treated here as complementary. When combined, they present nonviolent action as both an ethical and efficient strategy to effect socio-political change. The most significant nonviolent campaigns since WW II are also briefly listed, as well as recent developments in NVR training and uses of nonviolent techniques for third-party conflict intervention.
The remaining two sections of the article offer a closer analysis of two processes of constructive conflict transformation through NVR, arguing that nonviolent struggles might support the goals of peacemaking and peacebuilding by transforming unbalanced power relations in preparation for conflict negotiations (Section 4), and by using self-limiting conflict strategies which reduce inter-party polarisation and encourage democratic practices (Section 5). Empirical illustrations of these dynamics are provided through a case study of the first Palestinian intifada against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip (1987-1993).