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

Inadequate Information Gathering /Time Constraints

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Conflicts are extremely complicated processes with large numbers of actors using many different strategies to pursue many different objectives over a long period of time. The ability of people to deal constructively with these conflicts is largely determined by how well they understand the situation. If the parties do not understand who else is involved, what they're doing, and why, it is very easy for them to adopt strategies that are unlikely to succeed. Unfortunately, the communication and information gathering needed to provide needed information are expensive and time consuming. If the parties do not work efficiently they may not have the resources needed to obtain critically needed information. There is also a problem of resource commitments. Often the parties decide that they know all they need to know and that their resources should be devoted to confrontation and not further communication. While there may be times when this is a defensible position, the parties often break off potentially beneficial communication.

For example, resource limits often mean that the parties do not have the time to get to know each other in a personal and in-depth way. Inevitably choices will have to be made about what information is and is not worth pursuing and when the parties know enough to act sensibly. For this reason, efficiency is extremely important. It is easy to waste time gathering more information than needed in some areas and then not having the information needed for higher priority projects.

There is also a tendency for people to spend more time than necessary communicating with friends and supporters (who tell them what they already know) and not enough time talking to more critical people (opponents, for example) who are willing to say things that they need to know--even if they are not pleasant to hear. All too often people pursue communication strategies that only tell them what they want to hear. For example, people opposing construction of a new factory may spend all of their their time talking with friends and supporters about the factory's evils and strategies for defeating the project. They may not talk with proponents of the project to find out what the actual plans are, or to suggest possible changes that could make the plant's construction a win-win opportunity for all sides.  As a result, the disputants are unlikely to ever understand one another sufficiently to explore possible compromises.

In cases where published information sources are tightly controlled by governments committed to the suppression and dissent. a variety of alternative communication strategies may be useful. In some cases this may involve the creation and use of a communication system in exile through which supporters in the international community can exchange information and develop and implement strategies for confronting injustice.



Barbara Gray -- Three Mile Island Citizen Radiation Monitoring Program
This is a description of the aftermath of the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania (U.S.) Residents' fears about potential risks of cleanup activities were high due to lack of information and lack of adequate understanding about the plans and the likely effects of those plans.  The described Citizen Radiation Monitoring Program was a way to address these fears successfully.
Claude Rakisits -- The Gulf Crisis: Failure of Preventive Diplomacy
This article discusses how Saddam might have responded to the crisis differently had he obtained adequate information about political changes in the Soviet Union and the U.S. Due to his lack of understanding of politics in both of those countries he gravely underestimated their willingness to  use force against Iraq.
Susan Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy Removing Roadblocks
This summary discusses how inadequate information gathering can cause problems and what can be done to overcome them.
Information Technologies Can Help
This article summarizes the US Institute of Peace Conference on Virtual Diplomacy which investigated was in which new information technologies could assist in information collection and dissemination.

Links to Outside Sources of Information:

Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution in the Information Age The Institute's recent 'Virtual Diplomacy Conference' 
This is the full text of the article summarized above (Information Technologies can Help) about the U.S. Institute of Peace conference on Virtual Diplomacy.   The lead article is linked to the second article on information technologies--both together illustrate how new technology can improve peacebuilding efforts.

Links to Related Treatments:

Conflict Mapping
Strategic Option Identification and Costing
Analysis of Similar Conflicts
Identifying and Involving All Potential Disputants
Understanding Historical Context
Recognizing Related Disputes

Links to Related Problems:

Other Scoping Problems

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