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


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Trust is an important element in any social system. It links people together, giving them confidence in each other, in their relationships, and in their agreements. When trust is lacking, people will not believe what their opponents say; they will doubt their intent or motivation in any dispute resolution process, and they will fear that any promises their opponents make will be broken. For this reason, it can be very hard to start--or finish--a dispute resolution process when the level of distrust between the parties is high.

Like many other aspects of conflict, distrust tends to grow as conflicts escalate. It is heightened as communication gets cut off, and misunderstandings begin to occur. Efforts to persuade using intentional deception can also fuel distrust, as can manipulative or coercive strategies.

Ironically, however, being too trusting can also be a problem, as leading negotiation scholar Roger Fisher points out. "The more one trusts the other side, the greater the incentive one provides for behavior that will prove such trust to have been misplaced." (Fisher 1991, p. 124). So trust must be earned and built carefully in any successful dispute resolution process.


Links to Examples of Distrust:

Rebuilding Communities Devastated by War
This article describes several peace-building projects underway in Bosnia. One of the foci of these projects is trustbuilding, since the war eroded the people's trust in anyone other than their immediate families.
Craig Kauffman -- Reflecting on Nicaragua
In 1994, Kauffman described a growing distrust of leaders in Nicaragua and a resulting dangerous separation between class groups.
Tony Armstrong -- Principles of Icebreaking,   Introduction
This book discusses three cases of conflict transformation or "rapprochement" of apparently intractable conflicts. Distrust was a problem in all three cases, but was especially strong in the relationship between Israel and Egypt before the Camp David mediation process.
Dean Pruitt and Jeffery Rubin --  Escalation in the Cold War
Pruitt and Rubin discuss distrust and escalation in the early development of the Cold War.
Ruth Heimburg --Extremists versus Police -- A Tragedy for All
This story of a standoff between a well-armed extremist group and the police highlights the problem of distrust, which was one of several causes of failed negotiations and violence.
Hugh Wyndham -- The Falklands: Failure of a Mission
Trust in the mediator is essential. This story of mediation failure resulted in part from the fact that the mediator was not trusted.
Jay Rothman -- Conflict Management Policy Analysis
This is a second case study of the distrust between Israel and Egypt, which persisted even after the conclusion of the Camp David Accords.
Barbara Gray -- Three Mile Island Citizen Radiation Monitoring Program
This is an example of an environmental conflict in which citizens distrusted the technical "experts," who they feared were biased due to their conflict of interest.
Dean Pruitt and Jeffery Rubin --  Escalation in the Cold War
Distrust was one of several factors that fueled the Cold War.

Links to Possible Treatments of Distrust:

Trust Building

Disarming Moves


Links to Related Problems:

Integrative System does not Exist or is Very Weak

Lack of Legitimacy

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