Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Special Event #145
Presidential Scholar Address: Nonviolent Resistance in the Global Struggle to Defend Democracy and Human Rights
Saturday, May 25, 2019
6:00 PM–6:50 PM
Hyatt Regency East, Ballroom Level, Grand Ballroom A-F
Instruction Level: Basic
Chair: Mark A. Mattaini (Jane Addams College of Social Work-University of Illinois at Chicago)
CE Instructor: Mark A. Mattaini, Ph.D.

Presidential Scholar Address: Nonviolent Resistance in the Global Struggle to Defend Democracy and Human Rights


There is growing concern among citizens around the world at the rise in the election of populist governments, increase in authoritarianism, and degradation of democratic rights, institutions, and norms. Meanwhile, the use of nonviolent resistance to defend the rights of minorities and oppressed communities, advance environmental and human rights campaigns, and to preserve democratic freedoms and institutions is being applied with increased frequency. However, as a field, nonviolent resistance continues to be neglected, and as a technique and type of social and political action, the phenomenon is not well understood, including by policymakers, journalists, academics, or citizens or institutions in our societies. This dearth in understanding is dangerous. New research suggests that although the frequency of nonviolent struggle is increasing, its effectiveness is decreasing. This is being attributed to opponent learning and innovation, as well as the fact that as in the past, such struggles often rely on intuition, chance events, improvisation, and people acting without clearly identifying their objectives or understanding what is required to achieve them. As behavior scientists have begun shifting significant attention to social issues, and given their recent growing emphasis on cultural level change, they could become valued partners in shaping more effective strategic action. One important potential area for collaborative work is in researching constructional (Goldiamond), constructive (Gandhi) options for shaping socially and environmentally sustainable communities with the strength and knowledge to resist threats to democracy, and support human rights. In light of the growing exploration of nonviolent resistance to address the various political challenges faced by citizens around the world, a top priority now is to expand the capacity of practitioners of nonviolent action to plan and implement wise strategies that can guide their actions and maximize their effectiveness. By drawing from selected contemporary and historical movements, this presentation will explore the lessons that can be gained from global movements to face current challenges in the fight to advance human rights and defend democratic rights, institutions, and norms.

JAMILA RAQIB (Albert Einstein Institution; Center for International Studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Jamila Raqib, an Afghan native, was a nominee for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, and is Executive Director of the Albert Einstein Institution in Boston, which promotes the study and strategic use of nonviolent action worldwide. From 2002 until his recent passing, Ms. Raqib worked directly with political scientist Gene Sharp, the world’s foremost scholar on strategic nonviolent action. In 2009, she and Sharp jointly developed a curriculum called Self-Liberation: A Guide to Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression drawing extensively on that literature, to provide in-depth guidance for groups planning or engaged in nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights. She is also a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, exploring how innovations in technology and education can make the collection, sharing, and application of knowledge of nonviolent action more effective, timely, and secure. In addition, she is currently doing research on nonviolent social change grounded in Gandhi’s “constructive programme,” which is similar on multiple dimensions to constructional work as outlined in Israel Goldiamond’s work. Ms. Raqib’s TED talk on nonviolent resistance has been translated into 29 languages and has more than 1 million views; many of her presentations are also widely shared on YouTube, making her work accessible especially to young people. She is among a handful of people in the world who has studied the extensive literature on nonviolence social change in real depth and has been working directly with the groups who have been applying that knowledge in conflicts around the world. Raqib regularly gives presentations and conducts educational workshops for activists and organizers, human rights organizations, academics, and government bodies concerned with diverse objectives including challenging dictatorship, combatting corruption, and attaining political rights, economic justice, environmental protection, and women’s empowerment. She also serves as commentator on nonviolent action for multiple media outlets and oversees the dissemination of extensive resources on the topic through the Einstein Institution. She therefore has much to contribute to behavior scientists and practitioners interested in expanding their involvement and participation in social change, human rights, and sustainability efforts, particularly from a constructional perspective.
Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe two lessons that can be gained from global movements facing current challenges in the struggle to advance human rights, and strengthen and defend democratic institutions; (2) explain the value of nonviolent resistance as a form of social and political action; (3) explain how and why, while the frequency of nonviolent struggle is increasing, its effectiveness is declining in some arenas; (4) describe the value of constructive/constructional strategies for shaping environmentally sustainable and socially just communities.



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