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

High Stakes Distributional Conflicts

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Distributional conflicts are conflicts over who gets what and how much they get.   The item to be distributed is usually tangible--money, land, better houses, better schools, or better jobs, for example.  But the item to be distributed can be intangible as well.  For example, siblings competing for a parent's love could be considered a distributional conflict. (Although the parents would likely argue that there is plenty of love to go around, the children may not see it that way.)

Distributional conflicts only become problems when there is not enough to go around.   If there is plenty for everyone, then everyone takes what they need or want, and no conflict develops.  But when there is not enough to satisfy everyone, and no more can be found or created, the conflict becomes a "win-lose" situation, meaning the more one party gets (that is, "wins"), the less the other party gets (or the more he or she "loses.")  When the item to be lost is very important or valuable, these conflicts tend to become very intractable. 

The conflict over Jerusalem, for example, is at least in part a high stakes distributional conflict.  The land--with its historical and religious significance--is immeasurably valuable.  Yet it cannot be expanded, and there is no way for one group to control it themselves without the other groups who care about the city "losing." In theory, the different groups could share control, of course, but that is very difficult to accomplish in reality, as each of the parties has, as least so far, viewed shared control as a "loss."

Conflicts over water in arid lands are also high-stakes classic distributional conflicts.  In the Western U.S., as well as many other arid regions, water is extremely valuable, as life cannot exist without it, and again, there is not enough to go around. Here we have endless conflicts over who gets how much water for what purpose. Although the individual disputes get resolved and a dam will get built or a city will be allowed to divert water out of a stream for its use, another dispute over the same water will almost certainly arise again later on.

Examples of this Kind of Conflict

Felicity Volk  -- Kashmir: The Problem of United Nations Peacekeeping Contributing to Political Stasis
This article sees the Kashmir situation as a classic case of a zero-sum, win-lose high stakes distributional conflict.


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