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

Lack of Communication Channels/Avoided Communication

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When people or groups are in conflict, communication between them tends to get worse and worse. As a conflict escalates, people limit their direct contact with people on the other side, because such conflict is uncomfortable or threatening. They also tend to assume that they have "heard it all before," that there is nothing new to be learned from listening to what the opponent says or thinks. Thus, they tend to get their information from "internal sources"--from talking and listening to each other, and from rumors. Eventually all direct communication between parties may be cut off. Sometimes, communication is cut off in protest, as when an ambassador is recalled from a country in response to an act or statement which the host country made or did. Although this clearly exhibits displeasure, it does nothing to resolve the situation; rather it makes the chances of resolution more remote.

In describing the escalation process (or what they call the "spiral of unmanaged conflict,") Susan Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy (1988, p. 13) write "in the early stages of conflict, people talked with each other and exchanged opinions. But somewhere along the way public discussions turned to public debate. People are frustrated by the situation and angry at each other. They become intolerant of other points of view and lose interest in talking about perspectives other than their own. Listening to counterpoints is unpleasant because they have invested heavily in one side of the argument and this is not time for second thoughts. As a result, conversation between the parties stops, and information is used as a weapon to promote a position or win a point. Information that would lead to a solution no longer flows between the parties."

Deutsch (1973, p. 353) agrees, observing that in escalated conflicts, "available communication channels and opportunities are not utilized, or they are used in an attempt to mislead or intimidate the other. Little confidence is placed in information that is obtained directly from the other; espionage and other circuitous means of obtaining information are relied upon." Like rumors, such information collection process are highly prone to error and are very likely to escalate the conflict even further.

Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

Opening Lines of Communication

Dialogue Projects

Shuttle diplomacy /Mediated Communication

Crisis Communication Mechanisms



Links to Related Problems:

Cultural Barriers to Effective Communication

Crisis Communication


Time Constraints

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