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

General Information on Procedural Problems

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Before the parties can constructively address the core substantive issues they must limit the distracting effects of procedural disputes. While people do not always expect to be victorious, they do expect to be treated fairly. (What is considered "fair," of course, changes from one culture to the next.) Violations of generally-accepted principles of fairness can easily divert attention from the core, substantive issues and become the central focus of a controversy. This may also broaden the scope of the conflict considerably as others, who feel their procedural rights are threatened, are drawn into the dispute.

Some procedural problems involve excluded parties. If parties to a conflict are excluded from the decision-making process, or their concerns are overlooked and not addressed, they may get upset with the process, regardless of what decision is made. At other times, people are supposedly involved in the process, but they do not feel they are being represented adequately, or they may not be listened to respectfully, or their ideas considered.

Other procedural problems involve issues of power. Power, by definition, means the ability to get something done. So high power groups generally have more ability to design procedures to their liking, and to press for outcomes that favor themselves. Yet decision making structures that favor high power groups over low power groups are likely to be distrusted by low power groups, who may fight the decision making process as well as the outcome, further complicating the conflict and making any dispute resolution procedures more difficult. However, structures that redistribute power to traditionally low power groups are likely to be viewed negatively by dominant parties, unless it is done in clearly legitimate ways.

Other procedural problems involve processes which are too slow or too fast. Lengthy and elaborate grievance-review processes, which may be intended to be fair, can also be seen as delaying tactics designed to avoid dealing with injustice under the guise of careful and fair deliberation. Or decisions can be rushed through before anyone notices that something unfair has just been done. Both approaches are likely to anger people and make conflicts worse, not better. Other process problems involve a lack of clear goals which makes effective action almost impossible, and a level of complexity which is so high that no one can figure out how to proceed. For more discussion of procedural problems, see the various items below.

Procedural Problems

Procedural Treatments / Solutions

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