SEATTLE — Across the developing world, citizens turn to authorities for solutions to their problems ranging anywhere from an economic crisis to civil rights injustices. When traditional democratic processes are not enough, civil protest is often an effective alternative to shed light on areas of concern.
Civil protests are especially effective because these movements attack the very nature of authority figures. For successful civil protest in developing countries, activists must directly challenge the cooperation, obedience and loyalty of constituents to undermine the authority’s role as decision-maker in important matters. Rather than merely fighting the cause with force, civil protests change the ways in which people view their leaders and as a result, the way that citizens support their decisions.
Effective political movements are often fueled by the idea of “strength in numbers” to extend their reach and grab the attention of influential leaders. Non-violent campaigns tend to attract large and diverse crowds because of the low barrier to entry involved with supporting the compared to their forceful counterparts. Further, there is rarely a stigma associated with civil protests which allows for a much larger supporter base.
The neutral and peaceful demeanor of civil protests tends to be far more effective in attacking the root of social and political issues instead of simply forcing a change without necessarily convincing authorities. A study revealed that nonviolent campaigns were successful against government repression 46 percent of the time, more than twice the success rate of their violent counterparts.
In Guatemala, protests have shifted significantly from being extremely violent in nature to taking a more persuasive route. One young women in particular has made a profound impact on the democratic ways that Guatemalans provoke reform. After a number of failed attempts at forcing Vice President Roxana Baldetti and Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina out of office, she decided to try a new approach in the form of a civil protest.
The protest’s main platform was Facebook where the protest leader recruited supporters and raised awareness using the hashtag #RenunciaYa (Resign Now). One supporter remarks of the campaign, “Our strategy was to be honest, to maintain order and to keep everything within the law.” The protest proved to be far more effective than any previous violent attempts and resulted in Baldetti resigning several days later. Their strategies focus on open discussion and political neutrality and have sparked a number of similar protests nearby.
Another example of successful civil protest in developing countries is in Serbia where a nonviolent movement removed Slobodan Milosevic from power. Their strategy epitomizes the nature of civil protests in that they remained neutral and focused on recruiting supporters rather than taking violent action. The protest ended up being so effective that by the end, police refrained from controlling crowds and simply stood in silence in a display of solidarity.
Civil protest is a crucial component of a functioning democracy and is becoming increasingly prevalent as a means of social and political reform in developing countries. In addition to the effectiveness of these movements, civil protest in developing countries is far less destructive and often has a unifying effect for marginalized groups with the general public.
– Sarah Coiro