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

Power Sharing and Autonomy Strategies

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Power sharing is a strategy for resolving disputes over who should have the most powerful position in the social hierarchy. Instead of fighting over who should have power over whom, power sharing relies upon the joint exercise of power. If conflicts can be reframed to focus on how such power sharing might take place, they can become much more constructive.

Power sharing can take a variety of forms.  One approach is to grant minority groups autonomy over some--or all--aspects of their own affairs.  This autonomy can be limited to cultural issues:  religion and education for example, or it can be extended to cover the social, economic, and political spheres as well.  At the extreme, it can take the form of granting complete independence and allowing a minority group to form its own sovereign nation state.

Another approach to power sharing is more integrative.  Governance is handled by leaders from each group who work jointly and cooperatively to make decisions and resolve conflicts.  This approach relies on ethnically neutral decision making and public policies.  Typically the electoral system will be structured to encourage multi-ethnic coalitions within the political system.

Implementing either approach is usually difficult, as groups holding power are reluctant to relinquish that power, and groups without it tend to want massive change to occur more quickly than the dominant group is likely to accept.  For this reason, demands for power-sharing and autonomy often ferment conflict more than they resolve it.   However, if minority groups can frame their demands in a way that emphasizes joint benefit, and focus on developing a mutually acceptable way of achieving self-determination for all groups, they are likely to meet with more success than they are if they take a more combative or competitive approach.


Links to more information about autonomy and power sharing arrangements:

Ruth Lapidoth -- Autonomy: Flexible Solutions to Ethnic Conflict
This book analyzes the concept of autonomy, and assesses its usefulness in resolving ethnic conflicts.  It discusses different kinds of autonomy and what factors work for or against the success of such power-sharing arrangements.
Ruth Lapidoth -- "Conclusions" from Autonomy: Flexible Solutions to Ethnic Conflicts
This is a more detailed description of Lapidoth's conclusions which examines when and how autonomy can be successful, and when it is not likely to succeed in resolving ethnic conflict.
Tajik Opposition Proposes New Constitution
This is a short article about the Islamic minority in Tajikistan which is seeking autonomy from the central government.
Timothy Sisk -- Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts
This is a summary of a book that evaluates the utility of various power sharing arrangements for resolving ethnic conflict.  Sisk describes the nature of ethnic conflict, how power-sharing can help in its resolution, and how such power sharing arrangements can be brought about. 
Stephen Ryan--Peacekeeping and Peacemaking
This essay examines several failed attempts at peacekeeping and peacemaking.  One cause of failure is when leaders move toward peace took quickly, before constituents are ready.  This occurred, for example, in 1957 in Sri Lanka when the Sinhalese Prime Minister granted the Tamils limited autonomy, which was quickly overturned as a result of a violent backlash.
Peter M. Sandman--Explaining Environmental Risk
This is a very different context, but a related issue.  Here Sandman explains that people may decide themselves to accept a certain level of risk, but will not accept the same risk if it is imposed on them.  The element of personal control (basically, power sharing), he says, is key to effective risk communication.


Links to More Information on Power Sharing Approaches from Other Sources:

Information from the UN regarding power sharing options in relation to the Palestinian issue
US Institute of Peace -- "Self Determination" in Sudan: Ending the War, Moving Talks Forward

Early Intervention and Power Sharing

U.S. Institute of Peace--Sino-Tibetan co-Existence:   Creating Space for Tibetan Self-Direction

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

United States Institute of Peace Special Report--War in the Caucasus:A Proposal for Settlement of the Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh


Links to Related Approaches

Integrative (Or Win-win) Reframing

Identify Integrative Options

Coexistence and Tolerance


Majority Rule Processes


Links to Related Problems

This approach is appropriate for many intergroup (ethnic, religious, nationalistic) conflicts, and hence for many of the problems listed here.  Perhaps the most relevant problems would be:

"Into-the-Sea" Framing

Differing Definitions of "Justice"

Escalation Problems

Problems Related to the Use of Force

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