Nonviolent Movements for Democracy and Human Rights: The Call from the Front Lines – What’s Our Response?

This is the first event of a three-event series co-sponsored by ASIL and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) examining the intersections of civil resistance movements and international law, and was developed originally as a project of the American Society of International Law’s Signature Topic Initiative.

The last two years have seen nonviolent civil resistance movements fighting for democracy in places such as Belarus, Hong Kong, Thailand, Sudan, Algeria, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Iraq, and Iran. This is consistent with a rising trend of such movements worldwide—over the last decade, an estimated 90 new national movements arose demanding democracy and political transitions. Concurrently, a growing body of research reveals that these movements are comparatively the strongest drivers of democratic change in the world. They vastly outperform violent insurgency, coups, or top-down negotiated approaches (with no grassroots participation) in transitioning dictatorships to democracy. While civil resistance movements by themselves have not been sufficient to reverse the trend of rising authoritarianism worldwide, it is also evident that this trend cannot be reversed without them.

This event will draw on cutting-edge scholarship and practice on civil resistance, focusing on what activists on the ground need, as well as what new research tells us about this phenomenon, so that those in the international legal community can grapple with implications for international law.


  • Quscondy Abdulshafi, Advisor to Freedom House, Sudan
  • Hardy Merriman (moderator), International Center on Nonviolent Conflict
  • Jonathan Pinckney, Nonviolent Action Program, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Alba Purroy, Peacebuilder and social activist, Venezuela
  • Franak Viacorka, Advisor to Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya