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

Excluded Parties

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Most democratic decision making processes emphasize the importance of interest-group representation. This representation can come in many different forms, and have varying degrees of input. When decisions are made by legislative or administrative processes, the decision makers usually collect the views of their constituents and then try, themselves, to balance the various interests as much as possible. When decisions are made through an alternative process-such as negotiation, mediation, or consensus building, the affected parties themselves craft a solution to their problem. This is where the involvement of all the affected parties becomes especially critical. If a mediation process is undertaken with one of the major parties absent, the absent person or group is likely to disagree with whatever decision is made, and they may try to block its implementation. For this reason, it is generally considered advisable to get all of the disputants represented at the negotiating table.

This rule, itself, can create problems however. One problem arises when groups are very diverse, and who represents whom is unclear. If someone is asked to speak for and represent a certain group of people, those people may or may not accept that person as their legitimate spokesman. For example, for many years the Israelis did not accept the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative of the Palestinian people. The Israelis tried to negotiate with other Palestinian leaders, most of whom were not considered to be legitimate representatives by the Palestinian people themselves. As a result, the Palestinians did not really feel they were represented adequately in these negotiations. (Often the alternate representatives consulted with PLO leaders to try to ameliorate this problem.)

Another problem or dilemma develops when one or more parties is opposed to the negotiations, although the majority of people want them to occur. If the person or groups of people who are opposed to the negotiating process are allowed to take part in the negotiations, they are likely to be disruptive and to use their seat at the table to try to defeat any efforts to come to an agreement. If the are left out of the process, however, they will likely make problems on the outside. This is not an easily solved dilemma.


Links to Examples of this Problem:

Dennis Sandole and Hugo van der Merwe - United Nations Secretariat fails to consult with member states.
This is a short but striking example of the danger of undertaking planning or decision making without involving the affected parties in the process.
Clem McCarthy- Conflict Resolution In Northern Ireland: Reconciling Form and Substance
This article discusses the Anglo-Irish Declaration of December 15, 1993 and compares it to the 1985 Declaration which had excluded the IRA from the negotiation process.    

Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

Conflict Mapping

Identifying and Involving all Potential Disputants

Getting Parties to the Table


Links to Related Problems:

Dictatorial Process


Complexity Muddle

Meaningless Public Involvement

Rushed Decisions

Vested Interests

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