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

Civilian Defense

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Civilian defense is a strategy for defending against potential military aggression which uses unarmed civilians, rather than armed forces, to defend against attack. Thus, rather than relying on military force to deter or repel an invasion, civilian defense uses nonviolent approaches--primarily massive noncooperation--to make invasion more trouble than it is worth.  By withholding political, social, and economic cooperation from the invading army and government, the local citizens can make the society come to a stand still.  Political noncooperation, for example, would include civil disobedience, the boycott of governmental activities (such as voting) and the establishment of alternative governmental offices.  Social noncooperation can include refusing to participate in social activities, or even failing/refusing to acknowledge the presence of the invaders.  Economic noncooperation includes strikes and boycotts of goods and services.  Although none of the acts alone will be successful, if many of these protest tactics are implemented by a large body of citizens, they can be very difficult to overcome. This will prevent the invaders from gaining any benefits from their occupation, and may well lead them to abandon their efforts. 

Civilian defense also diminishes the legitimacy of the invading force, which slowly will reduce its power.  As  Gene Sharp, an expert in nonviolent direct action asserts, all governments, no matter how tyrannical, govern only with the consent of the people.  If this consent is withdrawn, the government will fall, as it takes people to implement its policies.  Although it has not been widely utilized, civilian defense has been used successfully in the past.  For example, the Germans used this approach to resist the Kapp Putsch in 1920, the French used it to oppose a coup in 1961, and the Norwegians used it to resist Nazi occupation.  Most recently, it was used by Lithuanians and Russian citizens in 1990 when the Lithuanians were fighting for the independence from the Soviet Union and the Russians prevented the coup against Gorbachev.

Although the use of civilian defense to deter attack is more difficult than to defend one after it has occurred, some scholars think that its use as a deterrence strategy will increase as its use increases and its effectiveness becomes better known.

Links to Examples

Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler -- The Principles of Strategic Nonviolent Conflict
This article discusses the use of nonviolence for civilian defense.

Links to Outside Sources of Information

Civilian-Based Defense Association

Civilian-Based Defense A Short History

Links to Related Sections

Non-Violent Struggle


The Nature of Threats


Deterrence, Counter-Threats (and Arms Races)

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