Preventing Mass Atrocities: From a Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) to a Right to Assist (RtoA) Campaigns of Civil Resistance

Preventing Mass Atrocities: From a Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) to a Right to Assist (RtoA) Campaigns of Civil Resistance

Preventing Mass Atrocities: From a Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) to a Right to Assist (RtoA) Campaigns of Civil Resistance

Preventing Mass Atrocities: From a Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) to a Right to Assist (RtoA) Campaigns of Civil Resistance


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Events of the last decade demand new approaches to atrocity prevention that are adaptable, innovative and independent of a state-centered doctrine. With the aim of reducing risk factors such as civil war, Ackerman and Merriman argue for a new normative framework called The Right to Assist (RtoA), which would strengthen international coordination and support for nonviolent civil resistance campaigns demanding rights, freedom and justice against non-democratic rule.

RtoA would:

1. engage a wide range of stakeholders such as NGOs, states, multilateral institutions and others;

2. bolster various factors of resilience against state fragility; and

3. incentivize opposition groups to sustain commitment to nonviolent strategies of change.

The adoption of this doctrine can reduce the probability of violent conflict that significantly heightens atrocity risk, while increasing the prospects for constructive human development.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943271573
Publisher: International Center on Nonviolent Conflict
Publication date: 05/21/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 66
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Peter Ackerman is the Founding Chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) and co-author of the books A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, 2001) and Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century (Praeger, 1994). He was Series Editor and Principal Content Advisor for the two-part Emmy-nominated PBS-TV series, "A Force More Powerful" which charts the history of civilian-based resistance in the 20th century. He was also Executive Producer of several other films on civil resistance, including the PBS-TV documentary, "Bringing Down a Dictator", on the fall of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, which received a 2003 Peabody Award and the 2002 ABC News VideoSource Award of the International Documentary Association. Dr. Ackerman serves as co-chair of the International Advisory Committee of the United States Institute for Peace and is on the Executive Committee of the Board of the Atlantic Council.

Hardy Merriman is President of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). He has worked in the field of civil resistance since 2002, presenting at workshops for activists and organizers around the world; speaking widely about civil resistance movements with academics, journalists, and members of international organizations; and developing educational resources. His writings have been translated into numerous languages. From 2016-2018 he was also an adjunct lecturer at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University). Mr. Merriman has contributed to the books Is Authoritarianism Staging a Comeback? (2015), Civilian Jihad: Nonviolent Struggle, Democratization, and Governance in the Middle East (2010), and Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential (2005) and co-authored two literature reviews on civil resistance. He has also written about the role of nonviolent action in countering terrorism and co-authored A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle, a training curriculum for activists.

Table of Contents

How Support for Civil Resistance Campaigns Can Help Prevent Mass Atrocities
What Forms of Assistance are Helpful?

  1. Public Education about Civil Resistance
  2. Capacity Building for Civil Resistance Campaigns
  3. Mitigating the Impact of Repression and Disruption
  4. Raising the Cost of Repression
  5. Fostering a Stable Political Transition 
    Applying this Framework: Re-examining Resistance and Possibilities in Syria

Addressing Concerns about a Right to Assist

  1. What campaigns should receive assistance?
  2. Is support for civil resistance synonymous with supporting regime change?
  3. What if external support has a harmful impact on a campaign?
  4. What if external support contributes to societal instability?
  5. What forms of external support to civil resistance campaigns are permissible under international law?
  6. How should RtoA be invoked, and who should exercise oversight?


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