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

Part II: Strategies for Confronting the Core Issues in Conflict

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In intractable conflict situations successful limitation of the complicating factors is unlikely to resolve the underlying conflict.  These conflicts usually involve high stakes distribution questions, fundamental moral disagreements, questions of social status, or challenges to group identity.  All of these issues are generally seen as very important and generally non-negotiable.  People will not change their basic values; they will not renounce their group identity; they will not give up their security or their status without a long struggle. 

In theoretical terms, disputants can approach such core conflict problems in any of three ways.  The first (and most common way) is through the use of force--the use of violent or nonviolent methods of coercion designed to get one's opponent to do something that they do not want to do.  The second approach is exchange.  Although the fundamental aspects of the conflict may be non-negotiable, there are often some issues that are amenable to compromise or win-win outcomes, which may then pave the way to more fundamental agreements at a later time.  The third approach is the use of the integrative system--turning to the bonds of common identity, common values, or common needs that can bring disputing parties back together.  Within each of these categories are a large number of strategies that can be used to try to prevail in (or resolve) an intractable conflict.

Although we discuss these three categories separately, most often disputants do some of each.  They may use a large amount of force, tempered by a small amount of persuasion (the integrative system) and end with negotiation (exchange) once the relative power levels are determined.  Or they may use a large dose of persuasion, with a small amount of force and some exchange to try to work out the specifics, after the general ideas are agreed to.  These mixtures of strategies are what we call the "power strategy mix." 

The following four sections discuss, first, force-based strategies to address core issues; second, integrative strategies; third, exchange strategies and lastly, combination strategies--common strategies that combine more than one type of power.