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 highly escalated conflicts the parties may, for all practical purposes, be unable to control themselves or limit their destructive actions. This is especially true for violent, all-out confrontations in which the conflict is fueled by the intense emotions which arise when people experience the tragedy of war. This loss of control can also occur in escalated and bitter, but still nonviolent confrontations, such as those which typically occur within political systems which still place effective limits on violence.
In these cases one option may be some kind of forceful outside intervention which imposes a moratorium on hostilities while providing the parties with the time that they need to re-examine their approach to the situation and consider available alternatives. At the international level, peacekeeping forces can enforce a truce, which gives time to the diplomats to try to negotiate a peace treaty which will formally end hostilities. At the national level, police can keep fighting factions apart; even at the interpersonal level, friends or relatives can intervene in a dispute between two people, first to physically keep them apart, and then, perhaps to help them work through the underlying difficulty in a nonviolent way.
External intervention can be either neutral (as it is in all of the above examples), or partisan. Partisan intervention occurs when an outside party puts pressure on one of the disputants to act in a particular way. The international sanctions against South Africa during the Apartheid era, for example, placed pressure on the South African government to end that system of racial discrimination. Likewise the sanctions against Iraq were intended to prevent Iraq from developing or storing weapons of mass destruction. Both of these examples illustrate how external intervention can empower one group, at the expense of another.
The alternative is neutral intervention, in which an outside party moves in to try to prevent further violence, and/or to help the parties negotiate a formal end to their conflict. Peacebuilding--in which the ordinary citizens (as opposed to leaders or diplomats) try to reconcile their differences and rebuild normal relationships--is another way in which external intervention can be helpful.
Key to the success of all of these approaches is not simply the suppression of conflict, but rather the channeling of conflict in more constructive, but still effective, ways. This requires that all external intervenors adhere to basic principles of fairness and make a commitment to provide all the parties with a forum through which their complaints can be meaningfully addressed.
INCORE Publications and Papers: The UN in the Congo
Future U.S. Engagement in Africa: Opportunities and Obstacles for Conflict Management - US Institute of Peace Special Report
Elections / Instituting Democracy
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