Coexistence is a state in which two or more groups are living together while respecting their differences and resolving their conflicts nonviolently. Although the idea of coexistence is not new, the term came into common usage during the Cold War. The policy of ‘peaceful coexistence’ was used in the context of U.S. and U.S.S.R. relations. Initially, it was a cover for aggression, but then it developed as a tool for reframing the relationship between the two powers. In the late ’80s, the policy of peaceful coexistence included principles such as «nonaggression, respect for sovereignty, national independence, and noninterference in internal affairs.»[1]

Coexistence has been defined in numerous ways:

  • To exist together (in time or place) and to exist in mutual tolerance.[2]
  • To learn to recognize and live with difference.[3]
  • To have a relationship between persons or groups in which none of the parties is trying to destroy the other.[4]
  • To interact with a commitment to tolerance, mutual respect, and the agreement to settle conflicts without recourse to violence.[5]

At the core of coexistence is the awareness that individuals and groups differ in numerous ways including class, ethnicity, religion, gender, and political inclination. These group identities may be the causes of conflicts, contribute to the causes of conflicts, or may be solidified as conflicts develop and escalate. A policy of coexistence, however, diminishes the likelihood that identity group differences will escalate into a damaging or intractable conflict.

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