Photo caption: Mary King and Philippe Duhamel present on how to sustain a nonviolent movement at the 2016 ICNC Summer Institute.

By: Edknowledge Mandikwaza, ICNC-SI Class of 2016

Mass movements emerge because of inevitable compelling socio-economic and political injustices obtaining within communities. However, plentiful movements emerge with a critical force, depending on their strategic actions and lengthy of existence, but their dynamism either dissipates or simply eludes focus. Both results lead to movement failure. Addressing the ICNC Summer Institute Class of 2016, veteran Nonviolent Conflict and Civil Resistance practitioners and theorists, Mary King and Phillipe Duhamel proffered prized advice to 21st Century activists, scholars and nonviolent movements to safeguard their existence and ensure long-term sustainability.

A movement refers to a form of group action, formal or informal, established to initiate or resist change. Therefore, sustainable movements are established group actions that effectively exist until their strategic objectives are achieved. Building on different strategies, tactics and tasks is essential to guarantee sustainability of any movement. Mary King observes that there are internal and external challenges that affect sustainable movement building and existence. Internal challenges are divisive factors incited from within a movement while external factors such as repression and co-optation are influences imported from outside into the movement. Constant planning, organizing and communication are Mary King’s crucial aspects that guarantee movement sustainability.

To amplify King’s suggestions, Philippe proposes that there is need to carefully consider essential indicators of success when measuring movement sustainability. Such indicators include (i) Unity (ii) Strategic Planning (iii) Nonviolent Discipline and (iv) self-introspection. Philippe’s experience in organizing nonviolent movements taught him that unity allows every movement to act with one voice regardless of diversity. Strategic planning and self-introspection are processes mandatory for every movement in order to continuously identify new ways of effectively executing their actions towards the intended goal. Above all, nonviolent discipline should be an unbreakable virtue. Discipline creates order and keeps away state repression, defections and disintegration of the movement.

A compelling vision, clear short and long term objectives, capacity building of members and resources are salient assets for a sustainable movement. Communication is essential in all the activities and actions of a movement. Any communication breakdown could cause disunity, dissention and disorientation among much negativity.

Both Duhamel and King agree that leadership in nonviolence movement is a necessity to avoid violent flanks and flip-flops. Philippe Duhamel has experience in organizing nonviolent civil resistance actions and training. Mary King, the strong-willed author of Freedom Song, has been actively involved in the US Civil Rights Movement as an organizer in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.