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Speaker explores civil resistance

Molly Madden | Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In today’s aggressive world, it is possible to have revolutions without resulting to violence, said Jack DuVall, the founding director of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, Tuesday.

The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict is a nonprofit foundation that promotes the use of nonmilitary strategies to establish and defend human rights and justice. DuVall gave two talks at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies about using civil resistance as an alternative to violence.

DuVall, who has interacted with activists from all over the globe, said that civil resistance, that is using nonviolent means to achieve rights, is an emerging force in today’s war-torn world.

“Civil resistance is an increasingly robust alternative to violent struggles,” DuVall said. “There have been great successes in recent decades using these methods.”

Oppression requires resistance but that resistance needs to come from those who are oppressed, he said.

Referencing non-violent revolutions of the past century, DuVall stated that there are different tactics of resistance that does not involve military means including petitions, boycotts, sit-ins and even methods of civil disobedience.

“But the one way to apply serious strife to the controller is to deny him his profits,” DuVall said. “When enough people refuse to cooperate they increase the cost of the oppressors holding their control in that system. If you jeopardize the tyrant’s power, you are going to drive up his costs.”

DuVall said that besides driving the costs up, people in oppressive situations should also find ways to make the tyrannical system lose authenticity.

“When a system’s legitimacy drops and its costs rise, the enforcers of that system begin to doubt the system’s endurance,” DuVall said.

According to DuVall, all of these actions set into motion a chain of events that start to get the everyday citizens involved.

“At this point, civilians begin to see that something is happening in their society,” Duvall said. “The begin to see the changes that are happening around them and they begin to partake in them.

While some of the nonviolent movements in recent history, such as Mohandas Gandhi in India and the Civil Rights movement in the United States in the 1960s, have been big events that are known by many around the world, DuVall said that most nonviolent movements are not widely publicized.

“There is less of a mob in the streets and more of a simple dissolution of the oppressors ability to exercise power and authority,” DuVall said.

Not only are nonviolent methods more peaceful and have far less bloodshed than military conflicts, they also have a greater success rate.

“Between 1970 and 2005, there were sixty-seven transitions from authoritarian governments to democratic governments. Out of those sixty-seven, fifty of the transitions were achieved using non-violent methods,” DuVall said.