One of the key questions around the globe today, is what is the role or the possible impact of non-violence and non-violent action in helping to end violent conflict and build peace? In many of complex and challenging conflicts in the world, where civilians are increasingly the targets and victims of violence, does non-violence have a positive role to play?

Within the field of conflict resolution, what is the role of non-violence and is using force to end a conflict ever justified? There are widely diverging perspectives on this within the field, among scholars and practitioners. Some would argue that trying to stop violence by using force is only adding fuel to a fire. While others would stress, that using force to end genocide or extreme violence is morally justified and necessary. It is most important to stop killing and injustice and that with the proper intervention, at times using force may be necessary.

There are many powerful examples of the use of nonviolence in conflict zones, whether it is the strategic nonviolence action to challenge autocratic regimes, such as in Serbia (Otpor), the innovative work of civilian nonviolent accompaniers who help to ensure the safety of frontline human rights and peace activists in conflict zones (see the pioneering work of Peace Brigades International), or the creation of over 100 communities for Peace in Colombia, in some of the most violent parts of the country (see the Zones of Peace Book listed below). Nonviolent tactics do not always work or produce immediate results, however there is strong evidence that in the long-term such approaches have a significant positive impact on societal change (see the article below on Why Civil Resistance Works).

Regardless of your personal or organizational perspective on non-violence, I wanted to provide an overview of some of the key resources that can provide tactics, tools, and research from the current application of nonviolence today. Some organizations are motivated by their particular religious faith, while other see nonviolence as a tactic that can have a significant impact in affecting personal, community and structural changes.

In terms of careers related to the intersection of nonviolence and conflict, there are countless community based organizations working in conflict regions around the world to challenge unjust structures, serve as witnesses, advocates, and more. There are also a number of international nonviolent based organizations, such as Peace Brigades International, Nonviolent Peace Force, and others, that specialize in providing nonviolent accompaniment and witnessing to help prevent atrocities (they do sometimes have openings for individuals to work in the field).

Please feel free to add your own comments on the application of nonviolence, is it effective? How can communities be trained in the techniques? What are the underlying ethical principles?


1) Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict - Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth's in-depth study on why civil resistance works in International Security. The authors examine 323 violent and nonviolent campaigns from 1900 to 2006 found that violent campaigns succeeded in only 26 percent of all cases, compared to 53 percent for nonviolent, civilian-based campaigns. As well, in the face of crackdowns, civilian-based campaigns are six times more likely to succeed than violent campaigns that also faced repression. This shows that violence is not the ultimate form of power. People themselves -- who experience the nexus of violent insurgency, crime and corruption -- can move from being victims and bystanders to becoming a force for transforming their societies.

2) 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 to establish and defend human rights, democracy and justice worldwide. The center also produces teaching tools and video games about nonviolence.

3) Zones of Peace Book (Kumarian Press, 2007, edited by Dr. Christopher Mitchell and Landon Hancock - The notion of having sanctuary from violence or threat has probably existed as long as conflict itself. Whether people seek safety in a designated location, such as a church or hospital or over a regional border, or whether their professions or life situations (doctors, children) allow them, at least in theory, to avoid injury in war, sanctuary has served as a powerful symbol of non-violence.

The authors of this collection examine sanctuary as it relates to historical and modern conflicts from the Philippines to Colombia and Sudan. They chart the formation and evolution of these varied "zones of peace" and attempt to arrive at a "theory of sanctuary" that might allow for new and useful peacebuilding strategies.

4) Albert Einstein Institute - is a nonprofit organization advancing the study and use of strategic nonviolent action in conflicts throughout the world. We are committed to the defense of freedom, democracy, and the reduction of political violence through the use of nonviolent action. Our goals are to understand the dynamics of nonviolent action in conflicts, to explore its policy potential, and to communicate this through print and other media, translations, conferences, consultations, and workshops. Also provides a list of 198 techniques for nonviolence as developed by Dr. Gene Sharp.

5) University of Peace/Africa Program - The program has published several key resources on the use of nonviolent action in Africa (see below). All the documents are available for free as PDF downloads, These include:

  • Teaching Model: Nonviolent Transformation of Conflict, Editors: Mary E. King and Christopher A. Miller, presents a framework for use by instructors in teaching students the basic theoretical and historical background of nonviolent action and successful practice of it. The model assumes a twelve-week term for teaching one topic, or module, per week for final-year undergraduates, but it can also be adapted for graduate work.
  • Strategic Nonviolent Struggle: A Training Manual, Editor: Christopher A. Miller, is a tool for civil society leaders—in youth movements and programmes, churches, athletics, and other areas—who are interested in creating workshops or training programmes on realistic alternatives to armed struggle. It presents an overview of the effectiveness of nonviolent struggle and can complement the more theoretical Teaching Model.
  • ‘Bite Not One Another’: Selected Accounts of Nonviolent Struggle in Africa, Editor: Desmond George-Williams, ‘Bite Not One Another’: Selected Accounts of Nonviolent Struggle in Africa chronicles events and activities from sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting colonial era nonviolent struggles that resulted in independence and contemporary collective action to secure human rights and social justice.
  • Only Young Once: An Introduction to Nonviolent Struggle for Youths, Editor: Christopher A. Miller, is a practical guide geared alike towards university or secondary school students, young soldiers, young professionals, civil society leaders, and youthful parliamentarians. It challenges the blind faith in violence so often found where there is conflict while also explaining the basic ideas and principles of nonviolent action.

6) Nonviolence International - promotes nonviolent action and seeks to reduce the use of violence worldwide. We believe that every cultural and religious tradition can discover and employ culturally appropriate nonviolent methods for positive social change and international peace. Also maintains the Nonviolent Action Network to link practitioners from around the world.

7) Peace Brigades International - is an international grassroots NGO that has promoted nonviolence and protected human rights since 1981. We send international volunteers to areas of conflict, providing protective accompaniment to human rights defenders threatened by political violence. We also facilitate other peace-building initiatives.

8) Nonviolent Peace Force - is a nonpartisan unarmed peacekeeping force composed of trained civilians from around the world. In partnership with local groups, Nonviolent Peaceforce members apply proven nonviolent strategies to protect human rights, deter violence, and help create space for local peacemakers to carry out their work.

9) War Resisters International - War Resisters' International exists to promote nonviolent action against the causes of war, and to support and connect people around the world who refuse to take part in war or the preparation of war. On this basis, WRI works for a world without war. They have many resources available, including the Handbook of Nonviolent Campaigns

10) Founded in 1919, International Fellowship of Reconciliation - IFOR has taken a consistent stance against war and its preparation throughout its history. Perceiving the need for healing and reconciliation in the world, the founders of IFOR formulated a vision of the human community based upon the belief that love in action has the power to transform unjust political, social, and economic structures. Today IFOR has 82 branches, groups, and affiliates in 48 countries on all continents.

11) Relevant Books There is very extensive literature on nonviolence. Some suggestions of texts include:

Nonviolence in Theory and Practice, Second Edition, edited by Robert L. Holmes and Barry L. Gan.

This Second Edition adds twenty-three new readings to an already impressive collection of writings by some of the leading theorists and practitioners of nonviolence. Holmes and Gan provide a diversity of articles on both secular and religious origins of nonviolence; articles by or about Gandhi, King, Tolstoy, and Chavez; feminist approaches to nonviolence by con-temporary writers; new articles addressing the theory and practice of nonviolence with respect to nature and animal rights; and fresh examples of the application of nonviolence to conflicts in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Tibet.

Feel free to add your own suggestions and comments.

Views: 2277

Tags: Conflict, Ethics, Guide, Impact, Nonviolence, Resources


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Comment by Tom Callos on February 27, 2011 at 11:47pm

Wonderful. Steve, this site is a never ending resource for my friends and peers in the international martial arts community. Thank you.


Tom Callos

Comment by Frances Delahanty on February 23, 2011 at 7:19am
Thanks, Craig.  I will share this with my students.  Fran
Comment by ilukol evelyn on February 22, 2011 at 3:08am
The issues of nonviolence starts with  a positive understand of who you are and that give a chance to some ones conscious to respect life, having a heart of doing things in a nonviolence measures, a motivation  which likey leads one to be come a peace activist.
Comment by GOPI KANTA GHOSH on February 21, 2011 at 10:12am
A good guide...non violence or Ahimsha is the only option to happiness today
Comment by Rene Wadlow on February 20, 2011 at 6:56am

A comment on Gene Sharp's approach in the light of current events in the Middle East

Self-Liberation : Is There Any Other Kind ?

Rene Wadlow


The great problem of revolutionary action by the masses lies in this: how to find the methods of struggle which are worthy of men and which at the same time even the most heavily armed of reactionary powers will be unable to withstand.

Barthelemy de Ligt The Conquest of Violence



            The largely non-violent people’s revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt followed by large protest demonstrations throughout the Arab world as well as Iran have drawn attention to the use of non-violent strategies in the process of deep social change.  When people want to end oppression and achieve greater freedoms and more justice, there are ways to do this realistically, effectively, self-reliantly and by means that will last.


            Gene Sharp has been writing and talking about the strategies of non-violent action for a good number of years.  I had participated in two seminars that he had led in Geneva in the late 1970s, and so I have read a good deal of his writings.  Although he spent nine months in jail for objection to military service followed by the limitations of parole for another year during the 1950-1953 Korean War, Sharp has been influenced by the thinking of military planning with the need to have a broad strategy which then leads to appropriate tactics.  Thus some have called Sharp the “von Clausewitz” of non-violent struggle.


            The first step in strategy-building is a detailed analysis of the conflict situation

Comment by Ali Gohar (Alibaba) on February 19, 2011 at 11:42pm

I will add the first non-violent hundred thousand army by the name of servants of God organized by Abdul Ghaffar Khan(Bacha Khan) in the present most violent province of  Khyber Pukhtunkhawa of Pakistan. Since most of the people knowing him as the friend of Gandhi and named him also frontier Gandhi while his work started in 1910 at the age of twenty only as a social reformist, educationist and later started  non-violence struggle against British, influenced by reading the non-violent life of the holy prophet(PBUH) at Mecca Saudi Arabia. He was in prison for thirty years, while seven years in exile in Afghanistan more than any other non-violent leader of the world. Since most of the people know less about the movement and also get more violent news from our area we started a campaign to aware the people about the non-violent stories of the servants of GOD from just peace international platform,www.justpeaceint.org The recent event can be seen by clicking the link.



Books on the movement.

It included D. G. Tendulkar, Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bombay, 1967); Mahadev Desai, Two Servants of God (Delhi, 1935); Eknath Easwaran, A Man to Match His Mountains (California, 1985); Girdhari Lalpuri, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Delhi, 1985); M. S. Korejo, The Frontier Gandhi: His Place in History (Karachi, 1994

Comment by Frances Delahanty on October 18, 2010 at 5:19am
I have been involved with AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project) for over 20 years, and have seen the incredible work it has done transforming lives of inmates (as well as people in the community) from patterns of violence to lives of contribution and peace-building. And, I have trained in Marshall Rosenberg's system (NVC) for 7 years, and have found that deepening my ability to transform anger and negativity into positivity, and compassion. Marshall also discusses what he terms "the protective use of force" in his book, and in a videoclip, which you can view at http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/video/MBRPromoOBID.html?wi2=
He endorses "the protective use of force" to contain those who will not communicate, or when there's not enough time to communicate, but "never violence, and never punishment."

In the powerful documentary series, A Force More Powerful, it becomes very clear to see that, when violence is added to the mix of non-violent resistance, it threatens the whole movement, because any hint of violence is used by the oppressive forces to justify more oppression and violence. It is only when the resistance movements are totally non-violent that the resistance works.

Comment by gordon sieveke on October 16, 2010 at 10:55pm
What about Marshall Rosenberg's 40 years of work on Non-Violent Communication, I recommend Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, I use his work and teach it under my work entitled Compassionate Communication practice Group at meetup.com in fort lauderdale fl
Comment by Ibrahim Elshamy on October 16, 2010 at 10:13pm
I agree, non-violence is the key strategy. However I have been troubled recently with trying to understand if there is any 'acceptable' or 'necessary' uses of violence towards peace. Some say no, that peace cannot be created from non-peace. That appeals to me, but what about cases of immediacy, e.g., rape or mass murder?

Gandhi said, "My non-violence does not admit of running away from danger and leaving dear ones unprotected. Between violence and cowardly flight, I can only prefer violence to cowardice."

Conversely, once someone asked Gandhi what a woman should do if she’s being raped, he said “she should resist non violently” / “The women must know how to die … women [should] face death bravely and without a murmur. Then only would the terrible killing now going on, stop.” A lot of women thinkers were horrified by this advice, as am I.

This tension of the use of violence is what I am struggling with, and I am very frightened of such a situation lest it ever appear in my life! So I hope to appeal to this fantastic group of peaceful thinkers, minds, if anyone could offer some support or ideas. Many thanks and efforts towards peace.
Comment by Augustine Kiptoo Lambert on October 16, 2010 at 9:34pm
IN the race towards building culture of peace in entire human race promotion of non violence is the key strategy towards a just societies. I say thumbs up for this.

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