The strategic plan should identify the nature of the communications systems and the style of communication that will be used internally, with the opponent and with third parties.

Internal communication is necessary to provide an ongoing account of the conflict; to report reactions to it; to provide analyses of political events; to plan, implement and ongoingly evaluate the nonviolent strategy; to communicate tactical ideas; and to help maintain morale and discipline.

Communication with the opponent may occur at three levels: with the opponent elite directly, with the opponent elite’s functionaries and allies (including the state police), and with the people in the opponent elite’s domestic constituency. This contact should be positive and should involve reflective listening, including the acknowledgement of feelings, as well as educative elements. Given the inherent needs for recognition and self-respect, interactions which affirm the dignity and worth of the individual are most likely to induce them to consider alternative information and, ultimately, to challenge the legitimacy of their role in the conflict.

Communication with third parties should emphasize the nonviolent nature of your struggle and include discussions about how these parties can act in solidarity.

Indigenous Hawaiian activists Ku’uipo Freitas (left) and Pono Kuikahi form a hand gesture symbolic of the struggle on Mauna Kea resisting the construction of a 30 meter telescope. Freitas started Mauna Media, a digital video documentation service that shared with a global audience the story of the months-long blockade. The hand gesture the pair are making became a global sign of solidarity broadcast across social media platforms under the hashtag #WeAreMaunaKea, June 2015. Photo: Te Rawhitiroa Bosch

Communication with the opponent and third parties is a vital element in any nonviolent struggle. Effective communication may alter the opponent elite’s will to perpetuate the problem, it may undermine the commitment of elite functionaries and state police, it may undermine the support of the elite’s domestic constituency and it may undermine the support of their allied elites. Even if it produces no immediate results, good communication will assist when the problem-solving process (designed to meet the needs of all parties in the conflict) is ultimately commenced. Telling the truth throughout this dialogue is vital to the process of building trust, particularly given the inevitability of misperception.

It should also be noted that the reliability of the source of a communication and the accuracy of its content are far more important than the means of a communication although, in some contexts, the security of these means is an important consideration too. Much attention has recently been given to social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, as a means of communication in nonviolent struggle. While these certainly increase the ease of communication in those contexts where elites have not eliminated or control them, the fact is that nonviolent struggles throughout history have made good use of a wide range of earlier means of communication. To reiterate, the authenticity of the source and the accuracy of its content, and possibly the security of it, are the vital aspects of any communication.

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