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

Coexistence and Tolerance

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The principles of coexistence and tolerance are important as bases for building mutually acceptable relationships between highly diverse communities within a larger society. If the integrative system is to work--that is, if it is to be able to hold a diverse community together as a single entity (for example, a nation state)--there must be a certain level of tolerance between the different religious, ethnic, and/or racial groups living in that state. In the absence of tolerance and willing co-existence, societies will be in perpetual conflict, with each side trying to somehow get rid of the other, either by forcing them to leave (as refugees), through genocide, or by one group completely dominating and de-humanizing the opposing group(s).

How co-existence is structured can vary widely. Generally, there are two approaches–one seeking to minimize or ignore differences between groups, and the other recognizing differences, but honoring each group as valuable and unique. The first is embodied in the concept of the "melting pot," an idea developed in the United States which referred to the fact that many different nationalities and ethnic groups supposedly "melted together" to become Americans. Until the 1970s or so, the goal of most minority groups was to become integrated into the dominant white society. People wanted to be judged, as civil rights leader Martin Luther King put it, "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Thus, the goal for America was to become "color blind"-- everyone was to be treated the same, regardless of their race or national origin.

Slowly this goal gave way to another view–that of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism seeks not to melt all of the races together, but rather to honor and appreciate each race as distinct and valuable. This has the advantage of not imposing one culture on another, yet it can result in continued conflict.

Many variations on these two extremes are possible. Nelson Mandela, for example, sought a "nonracial democracy" in South Africa, which he says "respects diversity but values unity." This is something of a middle ground between multiculturalism and the melting pot approach.

Other accommodations for racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious differences can be made by granting minority groups limited autonomy (over cultural affairs such as religious worship, education, and language, for example), but maintaining central authority over political and economic decisions. Click here for a further discussion of different autonomy arrangements.


Links to Further Reading about Co-Existence and Tolerance

South Africa's Bumpy Road to Democracy
This article, published in June 1995, was dedicated to the one year anniversary of South Africa's first democratic elections, which brought Nelson Mandela to power. It discusses his notion of a non-racial democracy and the progress towards conflict transformation then made in South Africa.
Quebec Nationalism: The Quest for Identity
This article shows that multi-culturalism has its disadvantages, as well as its advantages.
David Brubaker -- Reconciliation in Rwanda: The Art of the Possible
This article shows how hard it can be to develop tolerance and willing co-existence, once conflicts have been going on as long, and have become as destructive as the one in Rwanda.


Links to Outside Examples and Readings about This Approach

Religious Nationalism and Human Rights - USIP   
This article discusses the impact of religious nationalism on human rights, stressing the importance of tolerance of differences, rather than the intolerance which is common with religious nationalism.

United States Institute of Peace--Sino-Tibetan co-Existence:   Creating Space for Tibetan Self-Direction

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

Cooperation Agreements in Bosnia


Links to Related Approaches

Finding Commonality






Links to Related Problems


Problems with the Use of Force

Identity conflicts

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