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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In many ways the ability to employ violence on one's behalf represents the ultimate source of power. Parties who can defeat their opponents in violent confrontations are able to physically force their enemies to do what they want them to do. If they don't, they can, if necessary, simply kill them.

In recognition of this fact parties have, throughout history organized large military forces designed to employ violence on their behalf and to resist the violent assaults of others. In history and in mythology violent confrontations are seen as central to efforts to defeat the "evil" enemy. Not surprisingly violence is still widely used in confrontations ranging from the interpersonal to the international.

There are, however, numerous problems associated with the use of violent dispute resolution strategies. Most obviously, violence tends to escalate into all-out confrontations in which the parties employ all of their resources in an attempt to defeat, and often utterly destroy, their opponents. As violence escalates, taboos against inhumane treatment are broken, with each atrocity providing justification for future atrocities.History abounds with horrific stories of the terrible costs of violent confrontations.

In addition to the death and destruction which accompanies violence, there are also enormous costs associated with preparing for violent confrontation and making violent threats. All of the money and effort that is put into a deterrence force is money and effort that is diverted from more positive uses.  Violence also tends to overwhelm honest efforts to address the core substantive issues, and it destroys the ability of the parties to engage in mutually beneficial collaborative efforts.

Also disturbing is the fact that violent winners are determined by physical power and their willingness to use it ruthlessly,  not by the moral legitimacy of their goals. In other words, violent power is commonly used to perpetuate injustice and subjugate less powerful groups. When parties develop the ability to completely overwhelm their opponents, then the result can be tyranny.

Nevertheless, when the power balance is firmly in favor of one side, that side is often tempted to use violence, or at least the threat of violence to accomplish its goals. It is a well-known technique (unlike less common nonviolent approaches) and it appears to work fast and effectively, if the long term costs are ignored.

Violence also is the most common response when people are victims of violence from the other side. It takes enormous courage and training to learn how to effectively counter violence with nonviolent action. Although this approach can be much more effective than violence, it is not a route most commonly chosen.

Keys to dealing with the violence problem include:

Programs which help the parties recognize the costs associated with violent strategies,

Efforts to bring moral condemnation to bear upon those who use violence in illegitimate ways,

Establishment of broadly supported political and legal institutions which collectively raise police and military forces to jointly oppose the illegitimate use of violence.


David Stuart -- United National Involvement in the Peace Process in El Salvador
This article describes the violence in El Salvador and the peace process undertaken by the U.N.
Ruth Heimburg -- Pandemonium in Waco: All the King's Horses and All the King's Men
This standoff between an extremist group and police ended violently as neither side was willing to negotiate.
Joseph Nye Jr. -- International Conflicts After the Cold War
This article discusses the nature and causes of global, regional, and communal conflicts and evaluates various approaches to violence prevention.
Chester Crocker -- Lessons on Intervention
This article describes the problems posed by --and the possible international responses to --violent ethnic conflicts.
Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler -- Strategic Nonviolent Conflict
This article on nonviolent action points out that when nonviolent actors resort to violence, they lose credibility and hence effectiveness.


Links to Outside Examples of Violence and Responses to It

Peacekeepers?   Peacemakers?  Women in Northern Ireland 1969-1995  - INCORE Publications and Papers Occasional Papers

Rwanda: Accountability for War Crimes and Genocide--United States Institute of Peace - Special Report
This article briefly reviews the extreme violence in Rwanda before discussing efforts to deal with it through prosecution of the perpetrators.
IGC ConflictNet
ConflictNet is a network of people concerned about conflict and its resolution.   The site has news articles and commentary about many of the current serious conflict situations around the world.
USIP Peaceworks #11 - Zaire Predicament and Prospects
Chapter 7 of this report, "Violence in Zaire" gives an overview of the situation as of January 1977.  While the situation has changed since them, many aspects of this description remain true, both for Zaire and elsewhere, in terms of the general nature of the problem that led to the violence.
Violence and Communities
This is a summary of a study conducted by the University of Ulster on the Northern Ireland Conflict.  It examines the effect of the conflict on communities and individuals.

Links to Treatments of Violence

In essence, this entire website provides treatments for violence.  However, sections that are especially relevant include:

Creation of Violence Limiting Mechanisms

Non-Violent Struggle
Collective Security
Peace Zones
Civilian Defense
Deterrence, Counter-Threats, and Arms Races
Links to Related Problems
Assuming Force is the Only Source of Power
Absence of Violence Limiting Mechanisms
Failure to Anticipate Opponent Reactions and the Backlash Effect
Misunderstanding the Relationship Between Threat and Force
Illegitimate or Excessive Use of Force

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