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


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Dehumanization is the process whereby opponents view each other as less than human and thus not deserving of humane treatment or what are generally accepted as fundamental human rights. It is necessary, psychologically, to so categorize the enemy if it is to be possible to engage in warfare or otherwise violate the generally accepted norms of behavior regarding one's fellow man.

Dehumanization is actually an extension of a less intense process of developing an "enemy image" of the opponent. An enemy image is a stereotype-a negative oversimplification--which usually views the opposing group as evil, in contrast to one's own side, which is seen as entirely good. Enemy images are usually black and white.   Shades of gray (meaning one's own faults or one's enemies' values) are usually discounted, denied, or ignored.

This is accentuated, according to psychologists, by the process of "projection"-in which people "project" their own faults onto their opponents. This means that people or groups who tend to be aggressive or selfish are likely to attribute those traits to their opponents, but not to themselves. This improves one's own self-image and group cohesion, but it also escalates the conflict and makes it easier to dehumanize the other side.

While the formation of enemy images is very common, it is a dangerous process that becomes especially so when it reaches the level of dehumanization. Once the enemy is considered to be less than human, it becomes psychologically acceptable to engage in genocide or other atrocities such as those that occurred in Rwanda, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia.


Links to Examples of this Problem:

Dave Brubaker, "Northern Ireland: Projects of Hope in the Midst of Violence"
This is a short summary of one attempt at intervention in Northern Ireland which focused on teaching children to reframe conflicts and to revise their images of each other.
Janet Gross Stein "Image, Identity and Conflict Resolution"
This is an academic article which explains how enemy images are formed, how they help to perpetuate and intensify conflicts, and how they can be changed. She uses Gorbachev's change of attitude toward the United States and Anwar Sadat's change of attitude toward Israel as examples of how significant changes in enemy images can come about.
John Paul Lederach "From War to Peace"
Lederach examines the images that each of the sides had of the other in the prelude to the Persian Gulf War and uses that (and other things) to explain why a negotiated resolution was not seriously pursued by either side.
Dean Peachy "Thoughts on the Failure of Negotiations in the Gulf"
This short article echoes the ideas put forth in the Lederach article but emphasizes the demonization that took place by both leaders in their characterization of the other.
Adam Curle --Treatment for Alienation
This article describes a program designed to overcome the de-humanization created by the Balkans War.


Links to Outside Information on De-humanization:

United States Institute of Peace--Sino-Tibetan co-Existence:   Creating Space for Tibetan Self-Direction

U.S. Institute of Peace--Religion, Nationalism, and Peace in Sudan


Links to Possible Solutions to this Problem:

Fairness-Based Framing

Needs-Based Framing


Prejudice Reduction Programs

Peacebuilding - official efforts of UN and regional organizations

NGO peacebuilding


Links to Related Problems:

"Into-the-sea" Framing

Assuming the Worst Possible Opponent

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