Celebrating Peter Ackerman

Celebrating Peter Ackerman

We are sad to report the news that Peter Ackerman died on April 26 at age 75. 

Ackerman was the founding chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, an organization that works to develop the understanding and encourage the use of civilian-based, non-military strategies that will be the catalyst for a transition from authoritarian to democratic rule.

Peter co-authored Strategic Nonviolent Conflict published in 1994, and A Force More Powerful: a Century of Nonviolent Conflict. The latter volume was a companion book for the Emmy-nominated documentary of the same title which appeared nationally on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in September 2000, for which he was the series editor and principal content advisor. Ackerman was also executive producer of Bringing Down a Dictator which in 2003 won the Peabody Award and International Documentary Association award for best film.

In recognition of his contributions to nonviolence, we would like to post your reflections here on the Nonviolence International website.

In the coming days, we will posting tributes. Please check back on this page for updates. 

Please send your public thoughts to us here.  

NVI hosted the public book launch event for Peter. Please see this impressive video

See a shorter clip of Peter talking about his book. 

Since Michael Beer, NVI's longtime Director, has recently published a book with ICNC updating Gene Sharp's work on Nonviolent Tactics, on the last evening of his life, Peter wrote to Michael asking him for the top 20 tactics that have been effective at a)increasing participation in a campaign, b) encouraging / leading to defections, and c) providing a strong antidote to repression. 

To fully celebrate his legacy, we ask for your help leveraging the wisdom of our impressive community of leaders committed to and knowledgeable of nonviolence. 

What are your thoughts on this important question? Please send your ideas to us here.  We will post selections on this page. 

Michael Beer. General Strikes. In 2019 in Sudan, general strikes forced the military to agree to a civilian transition. General strikes when widely followed, is one of the most powerful tools against a tyrant.

Mubarak Awad, Flying flags. In Palestine in the 1st intifada, we flew flags. This was illegal but something everyone could do.

Michael Beer, Occupation. In Egypt in 2011, the public occupied the national square for weeks and brought about a fall of the dictator.

What additional tactics do you think we should include in the list?

See these moving tributes

International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Atlantic Council

Freedom House

Personal Remembrances

Michael Beer

Peter Ackerman has left us much too soon.  He strongly supported my in project on nonviolent tactics that resulted in an ICNC monograph, entitled Civil Resistance Tactics in the 21st Century.  He then delayed the publication of his own book, The Checklist to End Tyranny, to incorporate insights from my book. NVI had the privilege to host a launch of his book last year.   I was particularly stunned to hear of his death because he sent me an email just hours before requesting 20 top tactics to confront dictators for his upcoming trainings using the checklist planning formula. 

Stephen Zunes

Stunned at the news of the sudden death today of Peter Ackerman, who not only was a leading scholar of strategic nonviolent action (Strategic Nonviolent Action, A Force More Powerful, Preventing Mass Atrocities, A Checklist to End Tyranny), but used a chunk of his personal fortune to support research and promotion of this powerful tool for social justice and political freedom. For quite a few years, he funded Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution and went on to co-found and support the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.  

He and I disagreed strongly on economic issues (he was something of a libertarian), but we could work together in the realization that neither my socialist ideals nor his neoliberal ideals could be manifested in a just and functional way under dictatorship. As a result, we were happy to cooperate in our support for nonviolent pro-democracy struggles against autocrats of both the left and right.

Peter was the target of all sorts of bizarre conspiracy theories (some of which included me, George Soros, the CIA, Gene Sharp, the USIP, the Pentagon, etc.), but he played a major role in the growing acceptability of strategic nonviolent action in academia and increasing understanding that such movements need to think strategically in order to succeed.
It was through projects he supported that introduced a new generation of scholars to the field (Erica Chenoweth, Maria Stephan, Jonathan Pinckney, etc.) and enabled scores of us to research and publish projects that never would have seen the light of day.
Despite some issues I had with some of his politics and associations, I am filled with gratitude about what he made possible and what he accomplished.

Mubarak Awad

Peter will be missed greatly. He supported Gene Sharp financially so much when no one else did. He knew the power of nonviolent action and people power to change the world to support democracy. He used his fortune to spread the knowledge of nonviolent action and the world has benefited a lot from his vision and commitment.

Janet Cherry

Peter Ackerman made a great contribution to society, by his research and practice of nonviolence, and by his support for a whole generation of young activists from all over the world to share their skills and experiences

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