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 Research Consortium, University
of Colorado, USA
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The term "empowerment" is used to refer to a number of processes, but all
involve giving one or more parties to a conflict more power. This may be in relation to
another party, or it may involve increasing the power (and hence efficacy) of all of the
parties at the same time.
The most common use of the term "empowerment" refers to increasing the power
of the low-power group, so that it more nearly equals the power of the high power group.
From the perspective of intermediaries, this is often done because negotiation tends to be
more successful when the parties negotiating have relatively equal levels of power. When
they do not, the lower power party tends to get co-opted, or otherwise treated unfairly in
the negotiation or mediation process. To prevent this from happening, the mediator can
take a number of steps to "empower" the lower power group. The mediator can
provide access to outside resources, give advice, give negotiation or communication skills
training, or structure the process in a way that somewhat favors the low-power group, thus
in a sense balancing out the power differences. (This approach calls into question the
notion of impartiality, as do many of the other methods of empowering one group more than
This problem is avoided by the use of transformative mediation,
which is an approach to mediation which has as its goals the empowerment (and recognition)
of all of the parties to the mediation. Empowerment in this sense does not mean leveling
the playing field as it does in the earlier sense, but rather increasing the ability of
all parties to successfully deal with their situation on their own.
Empowerment can also refer to a larger, group-level, or societal level process, such as
that which occurs with peacebuilding or the re-establishment of a civil society and
traditional conflict management institutions. Many third party intervenors have come to
realize that the disputants themselves have very useful conflict-resolution skills, which
have simply been discarded or forgotten in the height of the conflict. If they can be
resurrected, or new approaches established, people can usually do a great deal to improve
their own conflict situations. This, too, is a form of empowerment.
From the perspective up members of the low-power group, empowerment refers to efforts
to expand their power base. While intermediaries may contribute to some of these
efforts, much more is done by the parties themselves. Of special importance are
unconventional power strategies which allow disempowered members of unjustly treated
groups to defend their interests against more powerful parties. This is likely to
involve increased reliance on the integrative system and coalition building with outside
sympathizers. Also useful are strategies which employ a power
strategy mix or combine force and persuasion such as non-violent
Such efforts to develop sound strategies which disempowered parties can use to advance
their interests can do much to limit destructive conflicts which arise when desperate
people pursue hopeless and destructive strategies.
Links to Examples of Empowerment
- Patrick Coy -- Going Where We Otherwise Would
Not Have Gone: Accompaniment and Election Monitoring in Sri Lanka
- This article illustrates how protective accompaniment and election monitoring can
empower local people involved in escalated intractable conflicts.
- John Lampen -- Prejudice Reduction Workshops
- This article describes, among other things, activities used in workshops in Ireland to
reduce personal feelings of powerlessness, which are linked to prejudice.
- Bringing Croats and Muslims Together
- This short article discusses two reconciliation centers in Bosnia. In order for
these centers to be effective, it is observed, the civic infrastructure must be
- Elise Boulding -- The Challenge of Imaging
Peace in Wartime
- This short essay discusses the importance of cross cultural imaging to empower warring
groups to work more effectively together.
- Bruce Hemmer -- Bottom-up Peace Building in
- This article describes a peace building effort in Bosnia that was intended to open up
lines of communication between returning Muslim refugees and resident Serbs and to empower
both groups to build peace together.
- Mohamed Sahnoun -- Managing Conflicts in the
Post-Cold War Era
- This article explores issues surrounding military and humanitarian interventions in
civil and ethnic conflicts. Effective intervention, Sahnoun observers,
requires significant grassroots empowerment activities (among other factors).
- Divna Persic-Todorovic -- Conflict Resolution:
Working with Refugees
- This is a short story about a third party working in refugee camps in Serbia. A
variety of activities empowered refugees to move beyond a sense of hopelessness and to
develop a more positive view of life and their relationships to others.
- Pamela Aall -- Nongovernmental Organizations
- This article examines nongovernmental organizations' (NGO) peacemaking activities,
examining, among other things, their efforts to develop local resources, thereby
empowering people to help themselves deal more effectively with their own situations.
- Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler -- The
Principles of Strategic Nonviolent Conflict
- The authors give twelve principles that are key factors in determining the success of
strategic nonviolent action. The second principle is that groups must develop
organizational strength at each level of the organization.
- Rebuilding Communities Devastated by War
- This article describes several peace-building projects underway in Bosnia. Like so
many other such efforts, empowerment of the local people is a key goal.
- John Paul Lederach -- Building Peace,
Introduction and Framework
- In this summary, Lederach explains the relationship between empowerment and
recognition of interdependence.
- This is a description of the concept of "empowerment" as it is used in the
context of transformative mediation.
- Cobb, Sara.
"Empowerment and Mediation: A Narrative Perspective"
- Cobb investigates and critiques current concepts of empowerment, and current mediation
practices designed to empower parties. She then suggests a narrative understanding of
empowerment, and describes several mediation practices which follow from the narrative
- Pope, Sally
Ganong. "Inviting Fortuitous Events in Mediation: The Role of Empowerment and
- Pope has come to realize that the sorts of "fortuitous events" that she seeks
in her own mediation practice are just what Folger and Bush have described as
transformative events. This insight has led her to redescribe the "fortuitous
events" from her earlier cases in terms of empowerment and recognition. She has also
revised a number of her mediation practices, so as to better facilitate empowerment.
- Adam Curle --Treatment for Alienation
- This article focuses on approaches to empowerment and
psychological healing used in Croatia in the aftermath of the war.
Canan - When Are Not-in-My-Backyard-Conflicts the Desirable Result of
- This paper looks at the positive aspects of conflicts over the appropriate siting of
undesirable facilities-often called NIMBY conflicts for "not in my backyard!"
Flores - Leadership Training As a Tool For Confronting Racial and Ethnic Conflicts -
- In this article, Flores discusses the importance of leadership training to improve
skills in multicultural discourse and problem solving.
Bossart - Rhodesia to Zimbabwe: Lessons for Mediators
- This article illustrates that equal power is critical for successful negotiation and
mediation. It examines the empowerment process that allowed the successful transition from
white to black rule in Zimbabwe.
Hansen - Confronting Group Differences and Commonalities in a Diverse Society
- This article highlights the importance of empowerment to successful conflict resolution.
Mento - Constructive Confrontation Strategies: thoughts of a Greenpeace Activist
- This article describes how one peace and environmental activist in the U.S. increased
his own power and utilized that to successfully confront the justice system.
Corrine - Collaborative Activism: a Means to Build Power and Overcome Fear -
- This talk, given by a long-time peace and human rights activist in the U.S. explains how
coalition building can help build power.
Links to Outside Sources of Information on Empowerment
- Reflections on
Mennonite Experiences in Building Peace
Links to Related Sections
- Coalition Building
- External intervention
- Power Strategy Mix
- Non-Violent Struggle
- Civilian Defense
- Transformative Mediation
- Peacebuilding - Official Efforts of
UN and Regional Organizations
- NGO Peacebuilding
- NGO Humanitarian Aid
- Power Sharing and Autonomy Strategies
Links to Related Problems
- Power Imbalances
- Inexperienced Parties
- Erosion of Traditional Conflict
- Integrative System Does Not Exist or Is
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