OTPIC Officially Retired
As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.
The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.
International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict
Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA
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Dictatorial decision making processes are the extreme case of vested interests, in which one person or a small group of people have the power to govern an entire country or region, making decisions which favor themselves and their cohorts over the interests and needs of the society as a whole. While this has been the normal form of decision making in much of the world for thousands of years, more and more societies worldwide are rejecting this approach and trying to transform their governments into more democratic systems. The transition is difficult, however, and dictatorial processes tend to persist in much of the world. They are especially powerful because of many dictator's willingness to use violent force to keep their people in line.
A detailed discussion of how to transform dictatorships into democracies is beyond what we are able to do in this program. However, a few observations suggest ways to approach this problem.
First, Gene Sharp, a political scientist and expert in nonviolent action, argues that every leader's power is dependent on the consent of the people who are governed. If they withdraw this consent, the government will fall. This is obvious for democratic governments, which will lose the next election, but it is also true for dictatorships. The fall of the Communist governments in the U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe is an excellent example. Once the populations of these countries lost faith in their governments, the governments crumpled-mostly without violence. External pressure (from outside countries) can also hasten this process (as it did in South Africa, for example), though other countries (such as Iraq) seem to be able to withstand a tremendous amount of outside pressure without losing internal control.
Fear, of course, often prevents widespread opposition to dictatorial regimes. Heavy-handed police tactics can prevent the communication and organization necessary for organizing a successful resistance. Yet Gene Sharp and other scholars of nonviolent action argue that any regime can be overthrown without violence, no matter what level of oppression, if the people decide they want to do it and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to succeed.
The problem of dictatorial governance can also occur at the local level. Sometime local politicians will abuse the power granted them, using very strong tactics to maintain control over their small domain. Usually this kind of abuse of authority is much easier to deal with, as the politicians can usually be voted out of office if they are perceived to be abusing their power.
Nonviolent Direct Action
Meaningless Public Involvement
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