Nonviolent Resistance and Democratic Consolidation

The topic of nonviolent resistance has received a lot of public and academic interest in recent years. Several studies have confirmed that nonviolent strategies are effective in bringing about political change. However, the long-term impact of nonviolent resistance on the consolidation of democracy has not been studies thus far. This research project, led by the University of Duisburg-Essen in collaboration with Berghof Foundation, aims to address this lacuna by using a mixed-method research design. On the quantitative side, the Duisburg University team is analysing whether the nature of resistance (i.e. either armed or nonviolent) influences the quality of post-struggle democracy. On the qualitative side, both Duisburg-Essen and Berghof teams are conducting six case studies of African and Latin American democracies. These studies aim to identify the causal mechanisms through which nonviolent resistance transmits its effects even after more than a decade of democratic consolidation – in comparison with contexts of violent conflict or elite-led transitions.

The project seeks to contribute towards a theory of resistance and political change, but also has acute policy relevance, given the renewed interest in nonviolent social change ever since the “Arab Spring”.


June 2016 — March 2019

Conflict Setting

Transition towards democracy is a transformational experience for societies. However, the nature of such transitions, whether they are driven by violent or nonviolent resistance, or led by elites, might influence the pace and quality of democratic consolidation. In turn, the type of democratic transition also affects the risk of relapse into more exclusionary forms of governance, and eventually a (re)turn to armed conflict. Thus, from a peacebuilding perspective, the project aims to analyse whether, and how, nonviolent resistance movements contribute to more democratic and peaceful societies.

Approach / Topics

The project brings together interdisciplinary insights from the literature on democratic transition/consolidation, social movements, nonviolent resistance and armed conflict. It also combines quantitative and qualitative methods in order to scrutinise in depth the complex relationship between nonviolent resistance and democratic consolidation.

Aims and outcomes

The research addresses three complementary aims: first, we seek to assess whether democratic transitions which emerge out of a nonviolent ‘revolution’ have a longer durability than transitions caused by violent conflict or elite-led reforms. Secondly, we aim to examine which dimensions of democracy are qualitatively influenced by nonviolent resistance as motor of political transition.

Thirdly, we intend to explore the social mechanisms which influence the quality of post-transition democracy.  The results of both quantitative and qualitative components of the research will be published as an edited book and several academic articles; they will also be translated into policy-relevant recommendations, and integrated into pertinent practical and training activities with nonviolent activists, non-state armed groups and (inter-)governmental agencies.


The Berghof Foundation team will contribute three desk-based case studies on democratic transitions in El-Salvador, Chile and Paraguay, with support from local researchers. The project leaders at Duisburg-Essen University will conduct extensive field research in Namibia, Benin and Cap Verde.

Implementing Partner

Universität Duisburg-Essen, Chair International Relations and Development Policy, Institute of Political Science

Contact: Dr. Daniel Lambach


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Bayer, Markus; Felix S. Bethke & Daniel Lambach (2016) The Democratic Dividend of Nonviolent Resistance. Journal of Peace Research, 53, 758–771, download >

Bayer, Markus; Bethke, Felix S.; Lambach, Daniel (2015). Von der Revolution zur stabilen Demokratie: Ein Plädoyer für zivile Demokratieförderung. In: Kursawe, Janet et al. (ed.). Friedensgutachten 2015. Münster. P. 112-123.

Dudouet, Véronique (2011). Nonviolent Resistance in Power Asymmetries. In: B. Austin/M. Fischer/H. J.  Giessmann (eds..): Advancing Conflict Transformation. The Berghof Handbook II. Opladen/Framington Hills: 237–264. Available at:

Dudouet, Véronique (2013). Conflict Transformation through Nonviolent Resistance”, in: Tom Hastings, Emiko Noma, Rhea DuMont (eds.), Conflict Transformation: Essays on Methods of Nonviolence. McFarland & Company Publishers, Jefferson (NC), 2013, 9-33.

Dudouet, Véronique (ed.) (2014). Civil Resistance and Conflict Transformation: Transitions from Armed to Nonviolent Struggle. Abindon: Routledge.