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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Often negotiations break down because one (or more) of the
parties think that they have an alternative that is better than the one they will obtain
through negotiation. (As Fisher, Ury, and Patton say it, they think they have a better
BATNA--"best alternative to a negotiated agreement.") Often, however, this BATNA
is more an illusion than reality. Before finalizing an agreement, or breaking off
negotiations, it is wise to test the validity of ones BATNA. In his book Getting
Past No, Ury suggests pushing ones opponent to examine his BATNA by asking
questions such as "what will happen if we dont agree?" Or "what would
you advise me to do, if we dont reach an agreement?" Or "what will you do
if we dont agree?" Often these answers reveal flaws in ones assumptions
about ones alternatives, making the negotiated settlement look better in comparison
than it had before.
Helping parties assess their BATNAs is one task a mediator often performs. Often
meeting alone (in a caucus) with one side at a time, the mediator will explore each
party's image of their alternative approaches for dealing with their problem. The
mediator will help the party estimate the likely costs and benefits of each approach and
will give an alternative opinion--or suggest the party seek further advise (such as a
lawyer) if their assessment of costs or benefits of a strategy seem unrealistic.
Links to Examples of Reality Testing:
Louis Kriesberg -- The
Negotiation of Agreements
This article discusses the negotiation process, including the role
of the third party mediator. One role of the third party, Kriesberg says, is to help
disputants assess their alternatives, comparing the costs of a negotiated settlement to
the costs of continuing the conflict.
Aspen Institute: Report of Conference
Key Findings, Ideas, and Recommendations
This report from an Aspen Institute conference on the Role of
Intervention suggests that more consideration should be given to the costs of inaction
than tends to be given currently.
William Zartman and
Saadia Touval -- International Mediation in the Post- Cold War Era
This article on international mediation explains that one of the
mediator's sources of leverage is his or her understanding of the options available to the
disputants. Through persuasion, mediators revise the parties' perceptions of the
risks and costs of the conflict and the feasibility and desirability of settlement.
Kriesberg--Epilogue: The War in the Gulf
Some observers felt that the anti-Iraq coalition had unrealistic expectations regarding
the potential effectiveness of force. Unstated, but also apparent, Saddam Hussein
also likely had unrealistic expectations about his chances for success against coalition
forces. Had either (or both) sides done reality testing, a less destructive outcome
might have resulted.
Links to Related Approaches
Third Party Intervention
Links to Related Problems
Limits to Agreement: Better Alternatives
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