Resisting War: How Communities Protect Themselves

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How Can Civilians Non-Violently Stand Up to Armed Combatants—and How Can Policies Help?

Date: Monday, October 2, 2017 / Time: 3:00pm - 4:30pm

Amid warfare worldwide, unarmed civilians attempt protests or negotiations with combatants to protect their communities from violence. These citizens defy the culture of fear that armed groups enforce, and risk retribution. New research highlights how communities use cohesion and social structures to non-violently influence armed groups—a capacity that governments and institutions often fail to recognize. On October 2, join USIP to discuss such community self-protection, and how policymaking might better support it in conflict zones such as in Syria or Afghanistan.

Research by USIP fellow Oliver Kaplan is documented in a new book, Resisting War. It explores how unarmed civilians pressure government troops, or paramilitary or insurgent fighters to limit violence. Former combatants who faced dissent from local citizens told Kaplan that when deciding whether to use repression they weighed, in part, the solidarity of a community and the moral and reputational risks of committing a massacre.

In this event, panelists will discuss the implications of the new research for preventing violence and protecting communities during conflict—and for countering violent extremism and stemming refugee crises. They will specifically examine the success of some communities in protecting themselves during Colombia’s half-century of civil war. The discussion will consider what the findings mean for U.S. foreign policy as the United States confronts continued war in Afghanistan and the need to promote peace and security in Syria.

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Carla Koppell, Moderator

Vice President, Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace

Oliver Kaplan

Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace

Assistant Professor, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli

Senior Associate for the Andes, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Steve Pomper

Senior Policy Scholar, U.S. Institute of Peace

Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, Multilateral Affairs, and Human Rights, National Security Council

Mauricio García Durán, S.J.

Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Colombia

Former Executive Director, Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP)

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