Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Academic Gene Sharp is a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize

BOSTON: American academic Gene Sharp is a contender for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Sharp's writings on how to use non-violent techniques to bring down autocratic regimes are often cited as a major influence on the activists who led the campaign against Hosni Mubarak, which saw the long-time Egyptian leader ousted in 2011.

"My work is about learning about the nature of non-violent struggle: where it has been used; where it has been effective; where it has failed; how we can learn to use it more skilfully thank it's been used in the past; and how it can be applied in more - more major conflicts in place of war and terrorism," Sharp says.

The 83-year-old American academic had never met or spoken to those behind Egypt's successful uprising. But he has strong views on what happened there and is continuing to happen elsewhere in the Middle East.

First and foremost, he stresses the importance of preparation and discipline; saying that the Egyptian protesters were prepared while the Libyans were not.

He also believes discipline means remaining non-violent, despite brutality and provocation. He says the more authoritarian a regime, the more people should expect it to resort to violence.

If protesters can maintain a disciplined non-violent approach, the regime's brutality will boomerang on itself. Sharp calls this "political jujitsu".

Massacres undermine the support of all but the most hardened members of an autocrat's entourage. Soldiers and policemen find it hard to mow down peaceful civilians. The turning point in the Egyptian revolution was when the army said it would not fire on the crowd in Tahrir Square.

Sharp also says it is vital that protesters don't try to short-cut their road to freedom by relying on outside intervention. Part of the reason is that the international community has its own agenda. But he believes it is also extremely important for the future of the victory if it is won by the people on the ground.

He says they have to cherish that victory, and that if people rely on others to gain freedom, they do not overcome fear, making them vulnerable to the next dictator.

Oslo's Peace Research Institute (PRIO) is tipping Sharp as the favourite to win the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.

"Gene Sharp is perhaps the world's foremost thinker on the use of non-violence. He has been very practically oriented, has established a tool box of more than 200 techniques of non-violence. His writings have been very widely used. They were read on Tiananmen Square in 1989, they were read on Tahrir Square in 2011 and 2012," director Kristian Berg Harpviken has said.

Sharp's books, including From Dictatorship to Democracy and The Politics of Nonviolent Action, have been lauded as a contributing factor to a student movement in Serbia in 2000 which toppled Slobodan Milosevic. In 1989, Sharp visited Tiananmen Square during the uprising and spoke with protesters. Not long after his visit to Tiananmen Square tanks started rolling into the area.

Sharp runs the Albert Einstein Institution in Boston, Massachusetts, a non-profit organisation that advances the study and use of non-violent action in conflicts around the world.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday (October 12). Reuters

Down load From Dictatorship to Democracy

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