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

External Intervention

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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.

Links to Examples

Andrew Kohut and Robert Toth --  Managing Conflict in the Post-Cold War World: A Public Perspective
This article examines U.S. public opinion about U.S. intervention in foreign affairs and wars.  It illustrates the importance of persuasion and integrative power to encourage such intervention.
Mary Anderson -- Humanitarian NGOs in Conflict Intervention
This article looks at the effects (both positive and negative) of humanitarian NGOs.   Sometimes these organizations actually make conflicts worse, not better, she observes.
Chester Crocker -- Lessons on Intervention
This article reviews when intervention makes sense, what form it should take, and when it should occur.
Alexander George -- The Role of Force in Diplomacy: A Continuing Dilemma for U.S. Foreign Policy
George examines different approaches to the use of force in foreign policy. Military force, or the threat of force, has played a key role in coercive diplomacy and deterrence strategies. Credible threats are often used to protect national interests. Historically, he finds a tension between military views on the effective use of force and what is seen as politically effective use of force.
A Conversation On Peacemaking With Jimmy Carter 
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has personally intervened in many conflicts around the world. Here he reflects on his experiences and what he has learned.
Patrick Coy -- Going Where We Otherwise Would Not Have Gone': Accompaniment and Election Monitoring in Sri Lanka
This article is about Peace Brigade International's efforts at protective accompaniment and election monitoring.
1995 Aspen Institute Conference on Intervention in the Post Cold War World -Report of Conference Key Findings, Ideas, and Recommendations
The 1995 Aspen Institute Conference convened to consider the question, "How can the international community establish greater stability in the world system at large, and within that system, what is the role of international intervention?"[p. 10] International intervention can take many forms, including political, economic, diplomatic, humanitarian, and military interventions.
Mohamed Sahnoun -- Managing Conflicts in the Post-Cold War Era
Sahnoun explores issues surrounding military and humanitarian interventions in internal national conflicts. The author hopes that a better understanding of the sources and catalysts of internal conflicts will make us better able to craft effective preventative strategies.
David Stuart -- United Nation's Involvement in the Peace Process in El Salvador
Stuart points out a number of factors which contributed to the success of the UN efforts in peacebuilding in El Salvador..
Pamela Aall -- Nongovernmental Organizations and Peacemaking
The author argues that NGOs have the potential to play key roles in restoring civil society and building peace.  She examines some of these roles, along with the pitfalls that must be avoided in the process.
McIntosh -- Sanctions
McIntosh examines the use and effectiveness of United Nations sanctions in five cases. Drawing on these cases, he suggests three factors which influence the effectiveness of sanctions

Links to Outside Sources of Information

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

Links to Related Sections

Coalition Building

Elections / Instituting Democracy

Peace Zones

Crisis Management

Cooling-Off Periods

De-Escalatory Language

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