Person holding up peace sign.


Nation & World

Nonviolence in mass uprisings

2 min read

Interactive map shows peaceful campaigns proving more successful than violent ones

The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University has launched a new interactive map that catalogs all mass uprisings around the world between 1945 and 2014. The map draws on data collected by Professor Erica Chenoweth and research fellow Christopher Shay that resoundingly showed that nonviolent campaigns achieve their political goals more effectively than violent campaigns. The findings upended the long-held assumption that only violent insurgencies can bring about large-scale political transformation.

Under the direction of Chenoweth and Shay, The Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes (NAVCO) data project is the first of its kind to collect systematic data on both violent insurgencies and nonviolent civil resistance campaigns. The coverage is global but includes only maximalist campaigns, that is, movements seeking to overthrow an incumbent government, expel a foreign military occupation, or claim territorial independence.

The data project covers hundreds of these campaigns, and the interactive tool allows users to study trends in the onset and outcomes of mass mobilizations over time and across regions; patterns of participation in mass movements; retaliation against mass movements; the success or failure of the campaign; and more.

Chenoweth and co-author Maria J. Stephan published their first analysis of the comparative outcomes of nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns in the 2011 book “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.” In this book, the authors aggregated data from 1900—2006 and concluded that, overall, nonviolent civil resistance was more successful in achieving target outcomes than campaigns that use violence. The more recent dataset featured in the interactive tool confirms this trend and extends it into the last decade.

“Many researchers around the world turn to the NAVCO data project to analyze the ways that both nonviolent and violent resistance affect global politics,” says Chenoweth. “Chris and I are happy to make the newest version of the data available so that this important work can continue. I am also hopeful that the mapping tool will make the data more accessible to broad audiences who want to see where and how resistance campaigns have taken shape.”

NAVCO is an ongoing project that continues to collect data on mass mobilizations worldwide. Chenoweth and Shay expect to release the next iteration of the dataset, covering campaigns through 2019, later this year.