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.
International Online Training Program On Intractable
Conflict Research Consortium, University
of Colorado, USA
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Mediation is one of several approaches to conflict resolution that uses a "third
party" intermediary to help the disputing parties resolve their conflict. Unlike
arbitration, where the third party actually makes the decision about how the conflict
should be resolved, mediators only assist the parties in their efforts to formulate a
solution of their own. Thus, mediators bring the parties together (or sometimes shuttle
between them), help them describe the problem in terms of negotiable interests and needs
rather than non-negotiable positions, and develop a set of ideas for how the interests and
needs of both sides can be met simultaneously. The mediator will then help the parties
assess the relative merits of the different options and draft an agreement that works best
to satisfy everyones interests. It is up to the parties, however, to decide whether
to accept the final agreement or not. While there may be considerable social pressure to
agree to the settlement, if it does not meet the needs of a party as well as an
alternative approach might, that party is still free to reject the settlement and try an
alternative conflict resolution technique, be it litigation, direct action, an election,
Mediation has been used successfully in many different kinds of conflicts. It is widely
utilized (and very successful) in the United States and elsewhere for handling divorce and
child custody cases. It is also commonly used for other kinds of interpersonal disputes
(such as disputes between neighbors, roommates, or co-workers) labor-management disputes,
community disputes, environmental disputes, and international disputes.
Although it is common in international conflicts, mediation has been less successful in
that context than in most of the others. In a study of 78 international conflicts which
occurred between 1945 and 1986, Jacob Bercovitch (1991) found that 56 were mediated, but
that most of those efforts were unsuccessful. He attributed this lack of success to a
number of factors. One, international conflicts tend to be very complex and highly
escalated, and involving high stakes. This makes negotiation (or by extension, mediation)
very difficult. In addition, mediation tends to work best before conflicts become very
heated. At the same time, however, they have to become heated enough for the parties to
feel a need to resolve them. Thus, there is a very small space of time in which the
conflict is ready or "ripe" for negotiation or mediation. If mediation is tried
either before this time, or afterwards, it is unlikely to succeed.
Other factors that determine the success of international mediation are the nature of
the parties, the issues, and the mediator. The mediator must be highly skilled and
respected. It often also helps if the mediator represents a powerful party who can reward
cooperation and punish obstinance. When he mediated the Camp David Accords, Jimmy Carter
was able to promise U.S. assistance as a reward for cooperation, while he could threaten a
reduction of U.S. support if Egypt or Israel remained resistant to settlement.
Mediation styles vary greatly according to the needs of the parties and the mediator.
In North America, the tendency is for the mediator to be neutral and impartial. That means
he or she is not connected to the disputing parties in any way and does not stand to
benefit by any particular outcome. Therefore, typical mediators supposedly have no bias
toward one party or one solution over another. Other cultures, however, use mediators who
are insiders. They are people who are connected to one side or the other, but who are
highly respected by both sides, nevertheless. They also might have an interest in the
final agreement as they tend to be members of the negotiating communities. Thus, it is in
their personal interest that the conflict be decided in a way that is lasting and fair to
all sides. (Oscar Arias Sanchezs negotiation of the Esquipulas agreement ending the
Nicaraguan war is an excellent example of "insider-partial" mediation.)
Another difference in style relates to the role of the mediators and the relative
importance placed on settlement as opposed to the importance placed on the relationship.
In the United States, the most common approach to mediation is what is called
"problem solving" or "settlement oriented" mediation. Here the
mediators primary goal is obtaining a settlement, and he or she may be highly
directive and manipulative in an effort to bring the parties to a resolution. A less
common approach which is growing in popularity is transformative or relationship-centered
mediation. Here the mediators primary goals are empowering both parties to act
effectively on their own behalf, while recognizing the legitimate interests and needs of
the other side. Often, by fostering such empowerment and recognition, the parties are able
to develop a mutually-acceptable solution on their own. However, they are not pushed in
the direction nearly as much as they might be in settlement-oriented mediation.
Links to More Information about and Examples of Mediation
- Christopher Moore - The Mediation Process: Practical
Strategies for Resolving Conflict
- This is a summary of one of the leading mediation texts currently available.
Princen--Quaker Mediation in Sri Lanka
- This is a summary of the Quaker's unobtrusive approach to mediation.
the Oslo Accords on the Middle East
- This article discusses the observations of one of the Norwegian mediators regarding
Norway's role in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.
Bercovitch -- Understanding Mediation's Role in Preventive Diplomacy
- This article examines how mediation can be used to prevent serious conflicts as well (or
even better than) ending them.
Zartman and Saadia Touval -- International Mediation in the Post- Cold War Era
- This article examines the use of international mediation in the post-Cold War era,
examining what factors contribute to and detract from success.
Sahnoun -- Managing Conflicts in the Post-Cold War Era
- This article examines a variety of ways of managing conflicts. The author argues
that mediation and conciliation should be broadened to include spiritual, economic,
traditional, and social elements, and should be undertaken as a longer-term process.
Conversation On Peacemaking With Jimmy Carter
- This article reviews a talk given by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter who reflects on
his many mediation efforts.
Kraybill -- Directors' Circle
- Kraybill identifies four characteristics that make international mediation by a
religious person often preferable to peacemaking undertaken by political representatives.
Brubaker -- Northern Ireland: Projects of Hope in the Midst of Violence
- This article discusses how teaching mediation has been used successfully as a conflict
management technique in Northern Ireland
Baruch Bush -- Expectations for International Mediation
- This short commentary observes that most international mediation takes a directive,
problem-solving approach. Bush argues that a transformative approach, which seeks
empowerment and recognition of the parties would likely be superior in many cases.
- Joseph Folger and Robert Baruch Bush -- Alternate Views of
Conflict and Mediation
- This article supplements the earlier one, further explaining the transformative approach
Mooradian -- Mediation Efforts in the Karabakh Conflict
- This article examines efforts to mediate conflict in Karabakh between the Armenians and
the Azerbaijanis. The author concluded in this case that the third parties were more
interested in pursuing their self-interests than in resolving the conflict.
Sebok - Lessons from Mediation: An Examination of disputant Behaviors During Mediation and
Their Possible Application to Seemingly Intractable Conflicts
- In this paper Sebok reflects on years of mediating interpersonal disputes. He lists a
variety of things disputants do and say that tend to block agreement, and things that they
do or say that contributes to an agreement. While he acknowledges that intractable
conflicts are more challenging that the typical kinds of disputes he deals with in the
ombuds office, he suggests that similar kinds of problems can make intractable conflicts
worse, and similar solutions might make them more constructive.
Nanda - Dealing with the Shift from Interstate to Intrastate Confrontation -
- This paper illustrates how mediation can be used to negotiate deep-rooted, value-based
L. Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy--Guidelines for Making the Program Work
- These authors, longtime mediators, give guidelines for making public policy mediation
Links to Outside Sources of Information
- Victim Offender Mediation Association -
Articles and Publications
- This site has several very useful full text articles on victim-offender mediation and an
alternative--family group conferences--that has been widely used in New Zealand and
- ADR and Mediation Resources- Essays and Mediation
- The ADR & Mediation Resources site contains substantial on-line materials for
alternative dispute resolution and mediation including an extensive set of essays on
conciliation la médiation et l'arbitrage Page des titres
- Cette page a beaucoup d'information sur la conciliation, la médiation et l'arbitrage en
- Multi-Party Public
Policy Mediation A Separate Breed - Lawrence Susskind Fall 1997 - Dispute Resolution
Magazine - Section of Dispute Resolution - American Bar Association
- This article is written by one of the leading public policy mediators in the U.S. It
gives a good overview of the "do's" and "don'ts" of public policy
dispute resolution processes.
- The ABCs of ADR A Dispute
- This has a good comparison of a variety of ADR techniques including mediation,
arbitration, and all varieties of each.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
and Social Justice: the United States' Experience in the New Zealand Institute for
Dispute Resolution Archives
- This article reflects on the quality of justice dispensed by mediation in a variety of
circumstances. While mediation yields quality outcomes in some situations, when
power disparities are high, or the conflict involves violence, the justice of the outcome
is in much greater doubt, according to Merry's research.
U.S. Institute of Peace
-- "Negotiation and International Mediation" in Sudan: Ending the War, Moving
Seeds for Change
Tom Milburn--What Can We
Learn From Comparing Mediation Across Levels
- American Arbitration Association Home
- This page has considerable full-text information about mediation, arbitration, and other
alternative dispute resolution processes in the U.S.
- New England Chapter of the Society of
Professionals in Dispute Resolution
- This page has a huge amount of full-text information about mediation, arbitration, and
other alternative dispute resolution processes in the U.S, as well as some information
about its use in other parts of the world. To access this information click on Web
Links or go directly to:NE-SPIDR Web
- International Institute for
Negotiation and Conflict Management- (IINCM)
- The IINCM has an extensive newsletter which it distributes via e-mail and publishes at
this website, which contains information about conflict resolution activities (including
publications, training opportunities, conferences, etc.) world wide. It emanates
from a consortium of seven Australian and Singapore universities.
Links to Related Approaches
Links to Related Problems
Mediation is potentially useful for most of the problems covered in this program.
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