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.

usiplogo.gif (1499 bytes)

International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA


Opening Page | Glossary | Menu Shortcut Page

Dealing with serious conflict is a bit like emergency medicine. The first step is to protect the injured person from further harm. Only then can one start the treatment and then healing processes (surgery and recovery, for example). In violent conflict the first step is to get people to stop hurting each other. This is often done by putting a neutral intermediary between the fighting factions to physically keep them apart.  This is termed "peacekeeping."  Once the shooting has stopped, then political leaders will sit down to try to negotiate a political resolution to the problem--which is generally referred to as "peacemaking."  Lastly, efforts will be made to diminish the hostility and the fear among the ordinary people--this is referred to as peacebuilding.  Sometimes the order of these activities is switched around--peacekeeping may come after peacemaking, instituted as part of the settlement agreement (for example, U.S. peacemakers entered the Sinai after the negotiation of the Camp David Accords).  At other times peacebuilding can take place before peacemaking succeeds.  This happens more and more as efforts are made to reconcile the differences between citizens even when the governments cannot negotiate a settlement of their differences.

Since peacekeeping principles are most generally applied to violent or at least potentially violent confrontations, this topic will be discussed first. We will then show how these basic principles can be extended to include non-violent types of force.

Most often peacekeeping is done by military personnel.  In international conflicts it is done with a neutral, usually multi-national force.  Often these forces are organized and sponsored by the United Nations and/or regional organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) or the Organization of African Unity (OAU).   Typically, the forces are lightly or entirely unarmed--they work through persuasion and moral force, not physical force.  Their job is to monitor cease-fires, patrol demilitarized zones, and to create buffer zones between fighting forces, so that the fighting will stop.  Sometimes they are assisted by other, non-military personnel such as police offers, humanitarian aid workers, and/or citizen diplomats and peace workers.

Since they are only lightly armed, peacekeepers cannot succeed unless the warring parties want to stop fighting.  If they do not, there is little peacekeepers can do. If they stay in between the groups, they are likely to get killed.  In this case, the sponsoring organization needs to withdraw the peacekeepers, and consider undertaking what is called "an enforcement action" instead, where well-armed troops move in to stop a war.  (This occurred in Gulf war, in Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania, for example.)

In addition to the cooperation of the parties, several other factors are important to the success of peacekeeping operations.  One is the provision of adequate resources.   The UN has often had a difficult time getting the help it needs--either in terms of manpower, or in terms of equipment for the peacekeepers--from the member states.   This has meant that UN peacekeeping forces are often much smaller than what is needed and more poorly equipped.  Needless to say, such shortages compromise effectiveness.  A second problem is the peacekeeper's mandate--what they are told they are supposed to do.  When their mandate is relatively narrow and clear--when they are just supposed to keep the warring factions apart--they have generally been successful.  When their directives are broader and less clear--when they are asked to provide humanitarian assistance, police protection, election monitoring, and a host of other services for which they are not equipped or trained--their effectiveness has not been as great.  Problems also arise when peacekeepers find themselves being drawn into the conflict on one side.


Links to More Information about Peacekeeping

Current and Future Arrangements for Intervention - Brian Urquhart
Urquhart describes the intervention dilemma currently facing the international community and the U.N.
Aspen Institute-Report of Conference Key Findings, Ideas, and Recommendations
This conference was on the Role of Intervention in the Post Cold-War World.   Peacekeeping was one form of intervention discussed.
Pamela Aall -- Nongovernmental Organizations and Peacemaking
This article talks about NGO humanitarian assistance, governmental peacemaking activities, and how they need to be better coordinated with military peacekeeping operations.
David Morris -- Keeping but not Making Peace: The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus
This article explains how peacekeeping has deterred peacemaking in Cyprus.
Elise Boulding -- United Nations Conflict Resolution Attempts in Afghanistan
This and the following two stories give brief descriptions of UN peacekeeping operations.
Elise Boulding -- United Nations Peacebuiding in Namibia
See Boulding, above.
Elise Boulding -- United Nations Conflict Resolution Attempts in Central America with the OAS
See Boulding, above.
Felicity Volk  -- Kashmir: The Problem of United Nations Peacekeeping Contributing to Political Stasis
This article suggests that UN peacekeeping has promoted a stalemate in Kashmir.
Robin Crews - Nonviolent Peacekeeping: The Only Alternative
In this presentation, Crews argues that violence cannot solve intergroup conflicts, that nonviolent approaches are the only options that stand to succeed.


Links to Outside Information about Peacekeeping

United Nations Peacekeeping Operations - General Home Page

Peacekeeping, Peacemaking, and Human Rights, by Cedric Thornberry, former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and Deputy Chief of UNPROFOR in ex-Yugoslavia.

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

USIP-Managing Communications in Peacekeeping Operations:  Lessons from Interventions in Africa

International Peacekeeping News - University of Bradford, School of Peace Studies.
Non-Violent Interposition in Armed Conflicts - Alberto L'Abate

Links to Related Sections

External Intervention


Peacebuilding - Official Efforts of UN and Regional Organizations

NGO Peacebuilding

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