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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In many protracted and deep-rooted conflicts, apology and forgiveness are essential for reconciliation and conflict resolution. As long as one side continues to blame the other (or both sides blame each other) for their problems, healing cannot occur, and normal relationships based on mutual acceptance and trust cannot be formed. (Montville 1993, pp. 112).
Apology is often a difficult step, as it requires acknowledging guilt. However, the lack of apology suggests to the other side that its opponent thinks that its behavior was appropriate. This creates the fear that the opponents unjust or violent behavior will continue. An apology is a signal, more than anything, that the opponent regrets its actions and wants to rebuild a new relationship on a stronger foundation.
Forgiveness is also critical for reconciliation. Many people refuse to forgive, feeling that forgiveness is essentially "giving up" or "letting the enemy get away with" their actions. Revenge or punishment, they feel, is the only way to achieve "justice." Yet the need for revenge or punishment can delay or even prohibit the resolution of a conflict, as fear of retaliation can keep an opponent from accepting guilt and apologizing. For this reason, it is often superior to forgive an opponents deeds--even if they were atrocities, to stop further atrocities from happening.
Daniel McFarland argues that forgiveness is not giving up, but is rather an acknowledgment of the past and a willingness to move on in a new way for the benefit of both sides. This is superior to revenge, he maintains, because revenge only continues the conflict and the pain. "The more common misperception is that by performing acts of revenge, ones hurt will go away. This notion blocks people from coming out of their pain and moving on." McFarland, 1995, p. 10.
Forgiveness becomes institutionalized when amnesty is granted for war crimes or political crimes against a particular ethnic group (as occurred in South Africa in the apartheid era, for instance). Some people, both within and outside the victim groups, feel strongly that such crimes should be prosecuted and the perpetrators punished. This is the only way to obtain justice, it is argued, which many believe is required before a lasting peace can be obtained.
Others, however, agree with McFarland, saying that prosecution and punishment will just prolong the pain, not end it. A better solution, many argue, is recognition of the past, and amnesty for the perpetrators of violence. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is one example of this approach. There perpetrators of violence on both sides of the conflict (white and black) are encouraged to testify about their deeds, after which they are granted amnesty for their actions. While some South Africans object to the Reconciliation Commission, it seems evident that the successful transition to black majority rule could not have occurred as it did without such an amnesty process.
Coexistence and Tolerance
Pursuing Force to the Bitter End
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