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.

usiplogo.gif (1499 bytes)

International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Overlooking Ripe Moments for Negotiation

Opening Page | Glossary | Menu Shortcut Page

Disputes usually become "ripe" for negotiation once each disputant's alternative options (or BATNAs) have been clarified and compared. When all the parties know their options and their relative level of power, they are in a position to negotiate a settlement to their dispute which accurately reflects their relative power structures, but which can be obtained at much lower cost than would occur if the power strategies were played out "to the bitter end." This commonly occurs when one person or group files a lawsuit. Both the plaintiff and the defendant (that is, the accuser and the accused) develop a plan for the case and go through the preliminary legal stages of motions, hearings, and discovery (a process in which each side asks questions of the other which must be answered). As this processes is concluded, it usually becomes fairly obvious to all which side has the winning case, long before the trial actually takes place. The parties can then negotiate to settle their dispute out of court, thus avoiding further delay, court costs, and the risk of an unexpectedly bad outcome for either side. It can be said that the preliminary legal activities make many disputes "ripe" for settlement. Sometimes, however, such ripe moments are overlooked, and the parties proceed to the full trial. The result is usually similar to what they would have gotten had they negotiated earlier, but the transaction costs are higher.

Sometimes, such ripe moments are missed by accident. Disputants may be so entrenched in their confrontational strategy that they may ignore situations in which negotiations would likely be successful. In other cases, negotiation is rejected intentionally. If power contests are ended prematurely by settlement negotiations, there is always the possibility that the outcome could have been different, had the power contest been pursued until the bitter end. When the stakes are high, parties often fall victim to what we call the "going down in flames syndrome" in which people who are losing a dispute stubbornly pursue the power contest to the bitter end, hoping that somehow they can eventually turn the situation around and win. Thus they let "ripe" moments for negotiation go by, continuing the power struggle no matter what the cost. Along with the overuse of force and miscalculating the power balance, the "down in flames" syndrome is one of the most destructive conflict problems.

However, it is also important not to pursue resolution solely for the sake of resolution. Resolution of the immediate dispute should seldom be the ultimate goal. It might be a worthy intermediate goal, but the ultimate goals should still be the building of constructive relationships and the making of fair and wise decisions over the short and long terms.


Links to Examples of Overlooked Ripe Moments:

Chester Crocker -- Lessons on Intervention
Often ripe moments are missed because potential third parties assume they must wait until both sides are exhausted and longing for peace.  But early intervention can sometimes be successful, Crocker maintains, and thereby avoids tremendous suffering and bloodshed.
Jeffery Rubin --Negotiation Timing
In this essay on negotiation timing, Rubin makes the similar point that the concept of "ripeness" is sometimes used as an excuse to procrastinate which makes effective intervention later all the more difficult.

Links to Treatments for this Problem:

Good Timing

Negotiation Loopbacks


Links to Related Problems:

Timing Problems

Illegitimate/Excessive Use of Force

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