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
Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA
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As we have said in other discussions, negotiations will usually not succeed if one or more of the parties think that they have a better alternative available than the one they can get through negotiation. (Fisher, Ury, and Patton refer to this as a party's BATNA--best alternative to a negotiated agreement.) Often, these BATNAs involve some kind of power contest. A party to a conflict may think they can win outright without having to compromise if they threaten military action, nonviolent action, or political or legal action. If the threatened party does not immediately submit, the party making the threat will then be forced to carry it out. But they do not necessarily have to carry it to its full conclusion--they can stop as soon as the relative strengths of the parties are clear. At that time, the parties can agree to "loopback" to negotiation, working out a settlement to a dispute or conflict that was not ready or "ripe" for negotiation before.
One common example of negotiation loopbacks occurs when people settle a lawsuit out of court. Often a lawsuit will be filed and the parties will begin to carry out the legal proceedings. But after one or two preliminary hearings, it usually becomes clear who is going to win, and the lawyers can then negotiate an "out-of-court" settlement that parallels the outcome that would likely have occurred had the case gone to trial. By settling out-of-court, however, the disputants maintain control of the final decision, and often save a great deal of time and money. In the United States, such out-of-court settlements occur in about 90 percent of the cases that are filed.
It is sometimes possible to loop back and forth between force and negotiation several times. Gandhi, for example, did this routinely in his nonviolent actions. He would use nonviolent coercion to get attention and prove he had political support, then he would stop his demonstration of power and seek negotiations with the British to see if they were willing to meet his demands. If they were not, he would escalate the conflict a little bit more by engaging in more nonviolent direct action; then he would "loopback" to negotiation again. This is also a way to test "ripeness" of a conflict for negotiations, rather than waiting a long time, and suffering high costs before negotiation is attempted.
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