Social Movements, Peace And Security

By Engr Rotimi Fabiyi

Social movements are large and sometimes informal groupings of individuals or organizations which focus on specific political or social issues (Wikipedia: 2016 A). They are also defined as loosely organized but sustained campaign in support of a social goal, typically either the implementation or the prevention of a change in society’s structures or values (Killian: 2016).

There is no single consensus definition of social movement (Opp: 2009) but the fact remains that all definitions of social movements share 3 criteria which are

a. a social movement is a network of informal interactions between a plurality of individuals, groups and/or organization

b. a social movement is engaged in a political or cultural conflict

c. a social movement exists on the basis of a shared collective identity

(Diani: 1992)
The 3 major elements to a social movement are
a. campaigns which are sustained organized public efforts making collective claims of target authorities

b. repertoire which is the employment of combinations from among the following forms of political actions viz creation of special purpose associations and coalitions, public meetings, solemn processions, vigils, rallies, demonstrations, petition drives, statements to and in public media, pamphleteering, etc

c. WUNC displays which are participants’ concerted public representation of worthiness, unity, numbers and commitments on the part of themselves and/or their constituents.

(Tilly: 2004)
Social movements are not eternal. They are created, they grow, they achieve successes or failures and, eventually, they dissolve and cease to exist and it should be noted that many social movements are created around some charismatic leaders e.g. Save Nigeria Group is created around Nigerian Pastor Tunde Bakare, the defunct Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria was built around the opportunistic billionaire Ifeanyi Uba, etc. (Save Nigeria Group: 2015, Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria: 2015). The key processes of social movements started with

a. urbanization - people of similar goals could find each other, gather and organize in larger settlements and subsequently facilitate social interactions

b. mass education through speedy communication techniques, and

c. spread of democracy and political rights
Social movements are typified on different basis. The bases used to define the type of social movement are

  1. Scope
  1. reform movements which are social movements advocating changing some norms or laws e.g. trade unions, green movements, pro-choice movements, anti-pornography movements, etc (Blunden: 2008)
  2. radical movements which are social movements dedicated to changing value systems in a fundamental way e.g. American Civil Rights Movement, Polish Solidarity movement, etc( Perdue: 1995)
  1. Type Of Change
  1. innovation movements which are social movements which want to introduce or change particular norms, values etc. Example of this is the singularitarianism movement (Kurzwell: 2005)
  2. conservative movements which are social movements which want to preserve existing norms, values, etc. Examples of this are the Luddite movement, anti genetically - modified food movement (Binfield: 2004)
  1. Target
  1. group-focused movements which are social movements focused on affecting groups or the society in general. They mostly advocate for change of political systems and mostly transform into or join a political party but many remain outside political party system. Examples are Club 19 which later became National Party Of Nigeria and G-34 which later became People’s Democratic Party (Omotoso: 1988, Ogunjobi: 2015).
  2. individual-focused movements which are social movements focused on affecting individuals. Examples are most religious movements

  1. Method Of Work
  1. peaceful movements which are social movements which use nonviolent means of protests as part of a campaign of nonviolent resistance e.g. American Civil Rights Movements, Polish Solidarity Movement, Indian Independence Movement.
  2. violent movements which are various movements which resort to violence. They are usually armed and in extreme cases can take a form of paramilitary or terrorist organization e.g. Red Army Faction, Al Qaeda etc.

  1. Old And New
  1. old movements which are social movements for change dating to late 18th and 19th Centuries. They were usually centered around some materialistic goals like improving the standard of living or the political autonomy of the working class.
  2. new movements which are social movements which became dominant from the second half of 20th Century. They are centered around issues that go beyond but not separate from class e.g pro-choice movements, gay rights movements, anti-nuclear movement, alter-globalization movements, free software movement, feminist movement, civil rights movement, peace movements, etc.

  1. Range
  1. global movements which are social movements with global objectives and goals e.g. World Social Forum, People’s Global Action, etc.
  2. local movements which are movements focused on local or regional objectives e.g protecting a specific natural area, lobbying for the lowering of tolls in a certain motorway, preserving a building for gentrification

(Wikipedia: 2015 A)
Peace means a state in which there is no war or fighting, an agreement to end a war, or a period of time when there is no war or fighting (Merriam-Webster: 2011). Peace is also defined as the lack of violence or conflict behaviour and the freedom from fear of violence, the absence of hostility and retribution or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the establishment of equality and a working political order that serves true global interests (Wikipedia: 2015 B).

There are many movements in world history that are or were dedicated to peace and fostering peace. Examples of these movements are United Nations Organization, League of Nations, Olympic Games, Nobel Peace Prize, Rhodes Scholarships, William Fulbright Fellowship, Schwarzman Scholarship, International Peace Belt, Gandhi Peace Prize, Paul Bartlett Re Peace Prize, Student Peace Prize, Culture of Peace News Network, The Sydney Peace Prize, Randolph Bourne Institute, The Mc Gill Middle East Program of Civil Society And Peace Building, International Festival of Peace Poetry, etc.

Security is the degree or resistance to, or protection from, harm and it applies to any vulnerable and valuable asset such as a person, dwelling, community, item, nation, or organization (Wikipedia: 2016 C). Security is also defined as the state of being protected or safe from harm, the freedom from danger, fear or anxiety, and the measures taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime, attack or escape (Merriam Webster: 2015). Security provides a form of protection where a separation (this separation is generally called “control”) is created between the assets and the threat and the control sometimes includes change(s) to the asset or threat (Herzog: 2015).

Security has 2 dialogues which are

  1. negative dialogue which is about danger, risk, threat, etc and it needs military equipment, armies, police, etc
  2. positive dialogue which is about opportunities, interest, profits, etc, and it needs social capital, education, social interaction , etc

(Navidnia: 2009)
There are 4 categories of security which are

  1. information technology category of security e.g. computer security, internet security, application security, data security, information security, and network security.
  2. physical category of security e.g. airport security, aviation security, communications security, corporate security, food security, home security, infrastructure security, physical security, port security, supply chain security, private security, school security, shopping centre security, and transportation security.
  3. political category of security e.g. national security, public security, homeland security, internal security, state security, international security and human security.
  4. monetary category of security e.g. economic security, social security, financial security.
  5. operations security (OPSEC) which is a complement to other traditional security measures because it (OPSEC) evaluates the organization or entity being secured from an adversarial perspective.

(Wikipedia: 2016 C, Open Security Professional Association: 2015)

Specific examples of a social movement’s contribution to peace and security are many and some of them are highlighted and explained below. One example of a social movements contribution to peace and security was the way a social movement known as Charter 77 used a peaceful revolution (called Velvet Revolution) to end the 41-year rule of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia in 1989 (Skilling: 1981, Hitchcock: 2003). Founded in 1977, Charter 77 was well known to openly but peacefully express their distaste for the 1-party state the communists had turn Czechoslovakia to after they seized control of Czechoslovakia in 1948. By 1989, dislike for the communist rulers of Czechoslovakia was reaching crescendo because of the many economic troubles of Czechoslovakia and also because of the several candid information spread about the government by Charter 77.

The country’s government was eventually brought down in the latter part of 1989 when the peaceful demonstration of Czechoslovakia youths in commemoration of International Students Day was promptly utilized by members of Charter 77 to galvanize the whole country into action against the government. What began as a demonstration of a few hundred secondary school and university students on 16th November, 1989 promptly became a huge demonstration of 800,000 citizens in the national capital alone few days later (Wikipedia: 2015 D), Sebetsyen: 2009) and this led to the unavoidable collapse of the 41 year old communist regime in Czechoslovakia and the subsequent conversion of the country to a parliamentary republic.

In other words, removal of the government in power (and changing the communist form of government) in Czechoslovakia was achieved by Charter 77 without firing a gun or exploding a bomb (i.e. it was done without endangering the peace and security of Czechoslovakia), and this was internationally considered a huge achievement for the social movement Charter 77 and its leaders.

Another example of the contribution of a social movement to the maintenance of peace and security was the way a Nigerian social movement known as National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) successfully battled Nigeria’s military junta from 1994 to 1998 and succeeded in giving the military junta no other choice than to lift the ban on politics in 1998 and conduct nationwide elections in Nigeria in 1999. An election was earlier held in Nigeria on June 12, 1993 and one of the contenders Chief MKO Abiola clearly won the presidential contest but in less than a fortnight after that election, the head of the Nigerian military junta General Ibrahim Babangida unilaterally cancelled the election (Ali-Dinar: 1997).

An interim government briefly followed before another military junta seized power in that same 1993 and openly refused to recognize calls for the earlier-cancelled election to be re-validated. When it became clear that the military junta (headed by General Sanni Abacha) would not budge, a social movement named National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) was formed on 15th May, 1994 (Wikipedia: 2013). Within few weeks of being formed, NADECO promptly became the symbol of mass resistance against Abacha’s military rule (Khadiagal and Lyons: 2001), a fact which infuriated the military junta to crescendo and made it arrest and detain indefinitely the June 12 Election winner Chief MKO Abiola, acting secretary general of NADECO Wale Osun and dozens of other members of the peaceful National Democratic Coalition. The continuous insistence by NADECO that General Abacha must step down in favour of the winner of the June 12, 1993 Election Chief MKO Abiola and the mass rallies, mass demonstrations, processions, pamphleteering, etc frequently organized by NADECO against the government made it (NADECO) a thorn in the flesh of the government because it brought international attention to the June 12 Election cancellation (Ali-Dinar: 1995). Abacha’s military junta would later collapse in 1998 and the military junta that replaced it was quick to release all the NADECO members initially detained indefinitely by Abacha, and was even quicker to lift the ban on politics and organize a general election that sent the military back to their barracks and ushered in civilians (including many NADECO members) as political office holders.

In other words, the social movement NADECO was able to use peaceful means to send the Nigeria military back to barracks and install a democratically-elected civilian government in Nigeria without firing a shot at the government (i.e this was done without endangering the peace and security of the country Nigeria) and this was internationally considered a huge success for the social movement NADECO and its leaders.

Occupy Nigeria was another social movement that exemplified the contribution to the maintenance of peace and security in Nigeria by a social movement (Wikipedia: 2016 E). Formed in January 2012, it used peaceful means like civil disobedience, civil resistance, strike actions, mass demonstrations and online activism to force the Federal Government of Nigeria to reverse its earlier decision of hiking the price of gasoline from 65 naira to 141 naira for a litre. After a full week of shutting down Nigeria without resorting to violence, the Nigeria government had no choice but to negotiate with the country’s labour leaders and the gasoline price was eventually reduced by being pegged at 97 naira per litre, though this was after the government’s security agents had killed some of the peaceful protesters by opening fire on them at point-black range (Dunn: 2102), and there exists a source that insists that the government personally told its security agents that the only way to stop the protests was by killing some of the protesters (Omojuwa: 2012).

In other words, the social movement Occupy Nigeria was able to use peaceful means to force the Federal Government of Nigeria to reduce its hike of gasoline from 141 naira per litre to 97 naira per litre (i.e it was done without unleashing violence on the government which would have directly led to the endangering of the peace and security of the country Nigeria) and this was internationally considered a huge success for the social movement Occupy Nigeria even though the security agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria succeeded in killing some of its peacefully-protesting members.

In conclusion, social movements have been of utmost importance on issues of peace and security and many of these social movements have been known to achieve their aims and objectives without endangering the peace and security of the society in which they exist so the relationship between social movements and peace and security is worthy of being studied


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