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.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Establishment of Civil Society

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The term "civil society" generally is used to refer to social relations and organizations outside the state or governmental control.  Sometimes it is also taken to mean outside the economic or business sphere as well.  Usually "civil society" refers to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and associations that people belong to for social and political reasons: churches and church groups, community groups, youth groups, service organizations, interest groups, and academic institutions and organizations, for example.  It also refers to the activities of these organizations.  

Though independent of the governmental structure, these organizations frequently become involved in political activities. They try to influence governmental decision making and participate in a variety of public participation processes.  As such, the establishment and maintenance of a healthy civil society is extremely important for the successful development and operation of democratic political systems.

During times of crisis created by war, the structures of civil society often disintegrate or are forcefully closed.  The same thing happens when authoritarian or autocratic governments see civil institutions as a threat and close them down.  This greatly weakens the integrative system, and leads to social relations based largely on fear and force.  Key to overcoming such a society is the re-establishment of a multitude of social and political NGOs, which give people a voice in the affairs of their life, give them a sense of belonging and integration with other countrymen and women, and connect them with their democratic system in a meaningful way.

Once civil society has been eliminated, its recovery is very slow.  It can be aided significantly by outside assistance--by international NGOs coming in and helping the local people start parallel organizations of their own.  Training fledgling organizations in organizational and advocacy skills can be helpful, as can training in goal setting, option analysis, and conflict resolution.  Yet it is important that organizations be able to form in their own way to meet their own needs--they should not simply be little models of outside organizations that work in different places and different cultures.

Although civil society exists independently of the state, it is dependent on the state's acceptance to be able to grow and flourish.  People must have the freedom to associate, to speak freely, to publish, and to participate in social and political processes without fearing repercussions.  Without such freedom, civil society will be stunted at best.

 

Links to More Information about Establishing Civil Society

Civil Society and the Aid Industry, A Working Paper from the North South Institute
The North South Institute has a wealth of information about civil society.  Use this paper as a start, and go from there to other papers of interest.
 
Rebuilding Civic Society, An Online Publication of the Democratic Leadership Council
This is another good online source of information on rebuilding civil society.   Although it is written from a U.S. perspective, many of the ideas are likely to be valuable elsewhere.  Note:  the full text of this report is available online--just click on the chapters you want to read.
 

Links to Outside Sources of Information

 
Building Collaborative Communities by Scott London
This is an example of collaborative problem solving at the community level.
Communications as Engagement - A Report to the Rockefeller Foundation
This report summarizes a number of projects in U.S. cities, designed to improve communication between community members through dialogue, collaborative problem solving, and conflict resolution in an effort to resolve issues that had divided and polarized those communities.
 
USIP - Special Report on Zaire
This report illustrates how traditional conflict management institutions, such as the judicial and criminal justice systems, have broken down in Zaire, but they have been replaced, to some extent by a strong civil society
 

Links to Related Approaches

Empowerment

Re-establish / Empower Traditional or New Conflict- Management Institutions

Training

 

Links to Related Problems

Erosion of Traditional Conflict Management Institutions

Integrative System Does Not Exist or Is Very Weak


Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu