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

Overly Competitive Approaches to a Conflict

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Usually when people are involved in a conflict it is because they are prevented from having or doing something that they want or need because someone or something is preventing them attaining their goal. Usually, it is assumed that in order to get what they want, it is necessary for the other side to not get what it wants. This is termed a "win-lose" situation because the assumption is that if one side wins, the other side must lose.

In some conflicts, this situation is unavoidable. If a resource is limited, and there is not enough available to satisfy everyone, then the more one person has, the less another gets. For instance, if two countries each need water from a river that flows between them, and there is not enough in the river to meet each country's needs, then the more one takes, the less the other gets. This is an inherently win-lose situation.

Other conflicts, however, are assumed to be win-lose, when they are not necessarily so. Sometimes, it is possible to develop a solution which will meet both parties' interests or needs simultaneously. If the conflict involves interests, this can be done by interest-based reframing and principled negotiation. If the conflict involves needs, this can be done by a needs analysis and analytical problem solving.

However, especially in long-lasting and deep-rooted conflict, people assume that the situation is a win-lose problem, and they respond very aggressively, or competitively, trying to get as much as possible for themselves, and consequently as little as possible for their opponents. This tends to increase the opposition of the other side, cause the conflict to escalate, and make finding any solution-even an interim solution-much more difficult. A cooperative approach, on the other hand, can often improve even win-lose situations, as the parties can learn more about what each needs and then determine together the fairest way to divide things up.



Links to Examples of this Problem:

Vinco Puljic, -- Religion and Reconciliation in Bosnia
Vinco Puljic, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Sarajevo presented his thoughts on the situation in Bosnia after the Dayton agreement during a discussion organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace. Bosnians need to redefine their problems from the mutually-antagonistic nationalistic identities and stereotypes of the past to a more cooperative approach to mutual problem solving, he argues.
Gareth Evans -- Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait in 1990: A Failure to use Preventive Diplomacy
Evans joins other analysts in his assessment of the causes of the Persian Gulf War, arguing that both sides took an overly competitive, win-lose approach, refusing to compromise until the other side gave in.
Jay Rothman -- Conflict Management Policy Analysis
This is a description of a border dispute between Egypt and Israel that was resolved in a competitive way.  Had a more integrative approach been used, Rothman observes, the results might have been better for all sides.
Morton Deutsch - The Resolution of Conflict
This is a detailed summary of Deutsch's theory of conflict, which focuses, largely, on determining why some conflicts are pursued in a competitive (and often destructive) way, while others are pursued in a cooperative (and usually constructive) way.
Silke Hansen - Confronting Group Differences and Commonalties in a Diverse Society
This article illustrates that overly competitive approaches to racial and ethnic conflicts can have detrimental effects.

Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

Integrative (or win-win) Reframing

Principled Negotiation

Integrative Approaches


Links to Related Problems:

Confusing interests (what you really want) with positions(what you say you want)

"Into-the-sea" Framing

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