CANVAS Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies

Keynote: What can NGO campaigners learn from non-violent pro-democracy movements?

What do lego figures and rice pudding have to do with activism?

The Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) grew out of the Otpor! student movement that helped topple the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic (as catalogued in the film Bringing down a dictator). It has exported its model of creative subversion around the world, training activists from the Maldives to Georgia, from Venezuela to Lebanon.

Siniša will tell the stories of experience that illustrate CANVAS’ organising principles, from working out what can bring people together (from rice pudding to dog poo), using humour and fun to undermine authority (including lego protest marches), to the tough challenges of promoting unity and non-violent discipline within a campaign. He'll look at the lessons for issue-based campaigners, and also at the limitations of an organisation-led approach for truly people-powered campaigning.

Siniša Šikman

Siniša was involved in the student-led OTPOR movement from the beginning, having first taken part in protests against President Slobodan Milosevic and police brutality in 1991, while still at school. He was one of the main organizers of all OTPOR’s campaigns until Milosevic finally stepped down on October 5th 2000. While his background was in student activism and organisation (MP in the student Parliament of Belgrade University, founder of the Serbian Students Movement NGO), from the beginning of OTPOR Siniša made a constant effort to expand it to a broad political movement, which happened in February 2000, when OTPOR became the People's Movement OTPOR.

Since 2003 Siniša has been sharing his experience and knowledge with other activists as a trainer for CANVAS, promoting nonviolent struggle worldwide. He has so far worked with 1113 participants from 40 countries.