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

Refusal to Negotiate

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One major obstacle to successful negotiation is the refusal of one or more of the parties to participate in negotiations. The most common reason for such a refusal is that the refusing party thinks that it can get a better outcome by some other means-usually through force. (Using Roger Fisher and William Ury's term, they want to pursue their BATNA.) Even if this is not true--if their BATNA is not as good as what they might get through negotiations--if they think that it is good, they will be deterred from participating in the negotiations.

In other cases, a party will refuse to negotiate because they fear they will be forced to accept unwanted compromises. This is a common response when conflicts involve deep-rooted value differences or fundamental human needs, neither of which are considered negotiable. If parties think they will have to compromise their values, or give up their chance to obtain their fundamental needs, they will refuse to participate in any negotiation.

Another reason that parties may refuse to negotiate is that they make think that the negotiations are a waste of time. They may think negotiations are destined to fail, or they may think that another party will refuse to keep any commitments it makes. In either case, negotiating would be a waste of time, money, and effort.

A final reason why parties may refuse to negotiate is that they are so angry with the other group that they are not even willing to sit down at a table and talk with them, because they do not want to grant them the legitimacy that such an act would imply. Or, they may be so angry with their opponent that they do not want to pursue any process that might yield a mutually beneficial outcome. Rather, they want to continue to attack their opponent, causing him or them harm, in revenge for what they have done in the past.


Links to Examples of This Problem:

Gareth Evans -- Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait in 1990: A Failure to use Preventive Diplomacy
This is a short examination of the Gulf War, illustrating some of the reasons behind Iraq's and Kuwait's unwillingness to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
John Paul Lederach -- From War to Peace
This is another analysis of the Persian Gulf War examining why Iraq, Kuwait, and the U.S. all refused to negotiate a peaceful end to the standoff.
Rudy Friesen -A Mohawk Confrontation in Canada
This is a story about failed negotiations between the Quebec, Canadian government and the indigenous Mohawk tribe. The story suggests that the cause of the failure was that the Quebecois government did not really want to negotiate, and so created all sorts of obstacles to the negotiation's success.
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The Sale of Nuclear Fuel Between the U.S. and India)
This essay shows how framing a conflict in moral terms can prevent its resolution.
Dean Peachy -- Thoughts on the Failure of Negotiations in the Gulf
Peachy argues that the focus on personalities prevented negotiations because the demonization of both sides by the other made each assume that force was the only appropriate option for dealing with the "enemy."


  Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

Getting People to the Table
Identifying and Pursuing Negotiable Sub-Issues
Identifying Ripe Times for Negotiation
Consensus Building

Links to Related Problems:

All or Nothing Approach
Limits to Agreement: Better Alternatives
Attempting to Negotiate Non-negotiable Issues

Power Imbalances

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