Created by students at Swarthmore College in George Lakey’s Peace and Conflict Studies Course, the Global Nonviolent Action Database aims to document cases of peaceful civil disobedience from around the world. Since the database went online in September of 2011, each member of the research seminar — with additional contributions from students at Georgetown and Tufts — began by writing and cataloging anywhere from 10 to 24 stories.
Examples of peaceful demonstrations are clustered into groups by the issue they are aiming to address. These categories include the struggle for democracy, environmental justice, economic equity, human rights, national and ethnic identity, and peace. All accounts fall under the heading of being nonviolent methods of struggle that go beyond institutionalized conflict procedures, such as courts action and voting, and involve protests, noncooperation, boycotts and intervention. Being an active, living resource, the database is constantly updated to reflect new developments, and new pieces are added as world events unfold.
The GNAD cites three major applications for the use of nonviolent action. The first is change, focusing on the means to reform governments and political institutions. The second is concerned with defense, where either something valued is being protected or a way of life is being shielded from destructive forces. Lastly, third-party nonviolent intervention (TPNI) addresses the need for outside physical intervention that helps to reduce the overall level of violence in an altercation and acts as a form of civilian peacekeeping.
Aside from being a fantastic resource for journalists and students of mediation, the GNAD is an inspiration to community organizers, citizens yearning for change, and strategists looking for examples of peaceful instances of dissent. Those searching for motivation can browse through a number of cultures and nationalities engaged in a wide variety of issues, many of which hold elements in common with the challenges faced in local communities. The simple fact of knowing there are others out there working towards the same lofty goals without resorting to violence is a heartening and uplifting reassurance.
Peace out, yo!