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Josef Korbel School of International StudiesSié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security & Diplomacy

Protest meeting of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Johannesburg, 1985


Nonviolent Action in Violent Settings: Practices and Implications for Policy

This program will explore nonviolent action in violent settings, with a particular focus on non-state, nonviolent actors as drivers of security outcomes worldwide. Recent events in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere make clear that neither government policymakers nor various non-state actors on the ground have a good understanding of nonviolent action and its consequences for violence. Those on the ground rarely grasp the broader implications of their actions and high levels of government mostly ignore nonviolent actors, preferring to interface with their counterparts or relevant armed actors. Empirically-grounded research by scholars engaging with both governmental and non-governmental policy actors promises to address this lack of understanding and generate new innovations in theory and practice. 

The program is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York as part of its “Rigor and Relevance Initiative” aimed at improving the transfer of research and expertise between higher education and the policy world in the area of global affairs. 

Research Projects

The core research project is an original, comparative investigation into the effects of nonviolent action by non-state actors in conflict settings. The nonviolent action of non-state actors— local civilians, local and transnational businesses, and transnational NGOs, (including advocacy and implementing organizations)—affect stability in conflict zones and the prospects for post-conflict development and governance. The project will analyze the behavior of these actors in contexts of civil war to better inform efforts to shape security environments, reduce asymmetric violence, and create conditions for long-term peace and stability.

Research Community 

The project will cultivate an engaged research community producing and disseminating research focused broadly on the array of actors and strategies in violent settings and their consequences for violence and resilience. This will be accomplished through the Sié  post-doctoral scholar and practitioner-in-residence programs; collaboration with partners on the core research project; and through engagement with policymakers dealing with the same issues.
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Policy Dialogues

The program includes a number of events to facilitate engagement between academic and policy communities at all levels. The series "Denver Dialogues" is designed to create a public dialogue among established authorities on issues related to twenty-first century challenges to global peace and security. The monthly research seminar series fosters discussion on research-in-progress, with the aim of establishing an ongoing exchange between members of the academic community and innovative researchers from other institutions. Many events will be recorded for later viewing.
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The project will move the academy closer to the policy world both substantively and procedurally. The Sié Center makes  rapid response funds available for faculty at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies to travel and engage with policy makers on current events.This engagement model rests on a central premise: pathways from research to policymaking—and from lesson learned back to research—are outcomes of interactive learning and knowledge sharing among these communities. Scholarship is critical to informing policy, and vice versa.