The Peacebuilder’s Field Guide to Protest Movements

By Maria J. Stephan, Senior policy fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council

Published on Foreign Policy

Protest movements around the world scored major victories in 2015. But if we want to see real change, international donors need to stop fretting and lend a hand.

As we settle into 2016, it might appear as though the defining story of the previous year was the rise and stretching reach of extremist violence. A string of deadly terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, San Bernardino, the Malian capital Bamako, and Jakarta left the impression that the large-scale chaos of the Islamic State has pollinated smaller pockets of havoc the world over. And though it’s fair to think that — as these are the stories that dominated headlines for months — that isn’t the whole story. The flurry surrounding this horrific violence has obscured an alternative narrative: that nonviolent citizen movements across the world scored sweeping and transformative victories in 2015. And, as protests are on the rise, these movements could play an increasingly important role in cutting the roots of violent extremism.

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