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
Opening Lines of Communication
Opening Page | Glossary | Menu Shortcut
In conflict situations, lines of communication between people and groups often break
down. People stop talking to each other, they withdraw representatives (such as
ambassadors or observers) that they have in the other's countries, regions, or groups, and
they are much less open about the information they release to the other side. The result
is often frequent misunderstandings, exaggerated and overly hostile stereotypes, distrust
and fear. Opening lines of communication is one very important step to take if one wants
to de-escalate a conflict. Just by re-establishing communication, misunderstandings can be
corrected and avoided, stereotypes can be broken down, and trust can be built over time.
However, communication is often difficult to start. When a conflict is very escalated,
it is often not possible to simply call up a representative of the other side on the phone
and have a "normal" conversation. Usually some kind of structured framework for
initial communication must be developed.
This is often done by a third party intermediary, who often will initiate communication
by carrying messages or ideas back and forth between two sides. Eventually, when certain
agreements about process can be met, then the intermediary may actually get the parties
together for face-to-face communication. This may be very carefully structured and
confined at first. Then, as a certain level of interpersonal trust is developed, the
communication process can be opened up to be freer, and even made routine, so that
communication between parties becomes common, and the assistance of a third party is no
Links to Examples of This Approach
Paul Lederach -- Central American Conflict Resolution
- This article describes the Central American approach to conflict resolution.
Utilizing an insider-partial third party to open up communication between the disputing
parties is one key element of this approach.
Kauffman -- Reflecting on Nicaragua
- This article describes the Nueva Guinea Peace Commissions in Nicaragua which worked to
provide a communication channel between the Contras and the Sandinsta government.
Barnett Pearce and Stephen Littlejohn -- Moral Conflict
- This book summary explains the typical problems involved in communications about moral
conflicts and gives a variety of approaches for dealing effectively with these problems.
Princen--Quaker Mediation in Sri Lanka
- This is a story about a Quaker mediator in Sri Lanka who worked to open lines of
communication between the warring factions when no other forum for communication was
Hemmer -- Bottom-up Peace Building in Bosnia
- This is a story about a grassroots cultural change project in Bosnia, which tried to
establish communication between returning Muslin refugees and resident Serbs.
Back-channel Success Story
- This article describes Norway's role in facilitating the Oslo agreement between the PLO
and Israel. Norway is especially well suited for facilitating such negotiations, the
author says, in part because it has technology which allows to to establish communication
between people in regions of the world where direct communication between opponents is
either technically or politically impossible.
- This is a very short excerpt which explains the findings of a panel held at the U.S.
Institute of Peace. The panel agreed that opening lines of communication between
humanitarian relief organizations, governments, and the military would enhance the
effectiveness of all the parties' work. This idea is reiterated in several other
articles as well, including:Pamela Aall --
Nongovernmental Organizations and Peacemaking and Mary Anderson -- Humanitarian NGOs in Conflict Intervention.
- Tony Armstrong -- "Introduction" from Principles
- This book examines how the rapprochement between long-time disputants, such as the U.S.
and China or East and West Germany occurred. Opening lines of communication between
the disputants was a critical first step in every case.
Karl Manoff--The Media's Role in Preventing and Moderating Conflict
- This article (and the following one) illustrate how the media can help open channels of
communication in escalated conflicts.
Young--The Role of Media in International Conflict
- This article (and the previous one) illustrate how the media can help open channels of
communication in escalated conflicts.
Links to Outside Sources of Information
Communications: Lessons from Interventions in Africa
Links to Related Approaches
Shuttle Diplomacy /Mediated
Crisis Communication Mechanisms
Establish Personal Relationships
Links to Related Problems
Lack of Communication Channels/Avoided
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