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.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Crisis Communication

Glossary | Menu Shortcut Page

In crisis situations, the pace of the conflict accelerates dramatically. This means that the parties have to react very quickly to changing conditions or risk having their ability to protect their interests substantially reduced. Crises  are likely to be further complicated by the increased levels of fear, anger, and hostility which are likely to be present.  Often in crises, communication gets distorted or cut off entirely.  As a result, rumors often supplant real facts, and worst-case assumptions drive the escalation spiral.  In addition, parties often try to keep their real interests, strategies, and tactics secret, and use deceptive strategies to try to increase their relative power. 

In these difficult situations, the parties' ability to make rapid and sound decisions is largely dependent on their ability to quickly obtain reliable information. Thus, communication needs to be increased during crises, not cut off.   To prevent uncontrolled escalation, disputants must be able to effectively communicate with adversaries, intermediaries, and other parties effectively, even under urgent and highly emotional conditions. In the most serious situations, crisis communication involves efforts to prevent or halt violent confrontations.   "Hotlines," rumor control teams, and crisis control centers all offer related approaches for dealing with this problem.


Claude Rakisits -- The Gulf Crisis: Failure of Preventive Diplomacy
Ambiguous and misleading communication as the crisis was developing was one of the reasons preventive diplomacy failed in the case of the Gulf War.
Alexander George -- The Cuban Missile Crisis
Clear communication during this crisis is one of the factors that prevented a disaster.
William Ury -- Beyond the Hotline
This is a description of crisis control mechanisms that can be used in addition to "hotlines" between opposing leaders that Ury recommended be established between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the cold war.  They are equally applicable, however, to current situations.
Alexander George -- The Cuban Missile Crisis
This article defines the communication that took place during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Information Technologies Can Help
One of the advantages of the current rapid communication technologies is that it enables people to exchange information much faster and more accurately in times of crisis.   (This, however, can be a detriment as well, as people have less time to "cool down" between hostile exchanges.)

Links to Outside Sources of Information

USIP-Managing Communications:   Lessons from Interventions in Africa

Links to Related Treatments

Opening Lines of Communication

Rumor Control Teams

Crisis Management

Links to Related Problems

Lack of Communication Channels/Avoided Communication

Secrecy and Deception

Inadequate Information Gathering/Time Constraints

Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu