A significant question. Does an individual make a difference ? How and what can be done outside of the role of governments and World Organizations?
“How might outsiders help fight dictators? As protesters fight dictators across the Middle East, people outside are asking what they can do to help.
Traditionally, we tend to look to our own governments to act. As Gaddafi’s repression of pro-democracy rebels mounted in Libya, campaigners demanded sanctions and, as the attacks intensified, military intervention. But both forms of government pressure have serious drawbacks and, too often, come very late in reaction to gross repression. In Darfur, for example, sanctions on Khartoum were not imposed until many thousands had died.
Thanks to the threat of a Russian and Chinese veto, the UN security council has yet to respond to the murder of the Syrian people by their government, although both the US and EU have imposed their own, limited, sanctions. And no amount of signatures on online petitions is likely to budge it.
Revolutionaries in Egypt and Tunisia shared advice (translated by the Atlantic) on nonviolent techniques to confront the authorities. This manual drew on Gene Sharp’s brilliantly concise yet comprehensive list of nonviolent actions to defeat tyranny (available as a downloadable pdf). And for an excellent scholarly review of civil resistance, Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash have assembled a collection of fascinating essays analysing nonviolent action in many different countries, including Gandhi’s campaign against imperial rule in India and the overthrow of Milosevic in Serbia. But these examples are about resistance inside the country concerned, not about what outsiders can do.
Are there other tools to assist those fighting for democracy? When the Libya crisis broke, I suggested ten nonviolent ways to stop Gaddafi. Former diplomat that I am, these suggestions, too, tended to ask for government action. That episode, however, and the feeling of horrible impotence watching Bashar al-Assad slaughter his own people in Syria, has set me wondering what else can be done beyond merely asking our governments to act.”