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


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The term stalemate refers to the point at which the parties are using the maximum force possible (or the maximum that they are willing to use), yet neither side is able to prevail in the conflict. (To use a chess analogy, they have reached a "draw." ) When the conflict is very violent or costly in emotional or economic terms, the situation is often referred to as a "hurting stalemate"--a situation in which continuing the conflict will bring only continued harm, without benefit. Once all the parties to a conflict agree that the conflict has reached this stage, they are more likely to be willing to negotiate at least a temporary settlement, since they can tell that continuing the confrontation will do no them no good.

In their book Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate, and Settlement (1986), Dean Pruitt and Jeffrey Rubin give four reasons stalemates may occur. First is the failure of contentious tactics. Often, they observe contentious tactics that work early in the conflict are not as effective later on, as the parties get to know just how far the other will go and how they can counter any offensive effectively. The second cause of stalemate is resource limits. Parties may run out of energy, money, or time. Third, they may run out of people who are willing to continue the fight. If they can't win a conflict relatively quickly and easily, people often get tired and want to give up. Fourth, the costs of continuing the conflict may just be too high (if the situation is a hurting stalemate). This was the situation, Pruitt and Rubin argue, in the Cuban Missile Crisis, because neither side was willing to risk nuclear war in order to prevail.


Links to examples of stalemate:

Building Trust in an Environmental Conflict
This is a short article about a conflict between environmental advocates and the forest industry about chemical spraying. The conflict was mediated successfully because of the efforts of the mediator to move the parties beyond stalemate by reframing the problem in a new way.
Dean Pruitt and Jeffery Rubin --  Escalation in the Cuban Missile Crisis
Pruitt and Rubin observe that both sides intentionally escalated the conflict in the Cuban Missile Crisis in order to produce a stalemate, which was then ripe for negotiation.
Jeffery Rubin --Negotiation Timing
This is a theoretical article by Rubin which examines (among other things) how stalemates produce "ripeness"--the situation in which a conflict is ready to be settled through negotiation.
Dean Pruitt and Jeffery Rubin --Tactical Stalemates
The authors discuss the purposeful creation of a stalemate by third parties in order to facilitate opponents' participation in problem solving.
Timothy D. Sisk--The Violence-Negotiation Nexus: South Africa in Transition and the Politics of Uncertainty
Negotiations leading to the end of apartheid in South Africa were stimulated, Sisk observes, by the hurting stalemate that prevailed in the 1980s.
William Ury -- Beyond the Hotline
This summary discusses how stalemate can be used as a tactical approach to crisis situations, preventing uncontrolled escalation.

Links to treatments for stalemate:


Identifying Ripe Times for Negotiation

Negotiation Loopbacks

Reality Testing



Links to related problems:


Sacrifice Trap

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