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


Tractable and Intractable (Resolution-Resistant) Conflicts

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Conflicts can be ranked according to their ease of settlement or resolution. Simple disputes involving only two people and relatively minor issues can usually be settled very quickly. Other conflicts strongly resist resolution. These tend to be ones based on deep-rooted value differences (for example differences in religious beliefs), conflicts involving high stakes distributional questions (for example, territorial conflicts between nations) and conflicts over a person's or group's placement in the social, economic, and political hierarchy (discrimination against an ethnic group), for example.

All of these situations are characterized by a problem that cannot be resolved in a win-win way. If one value system is followed, another is threatened. If one nation controls a piece of land, another does not. If one group is dominant, another is subordinate. While sharing is possible in theory, contending sides usually see a shared solution as a loss, as they do not have total control. This is especially true in societies where natural fear and hatred is so ingrained that opposing groups cannot imagine living with or working cooperatively with the other side.

Such unavoidable win-lose outcomes, together with the high perceived importance of the issue, tends to result in very resolution-resistant conflicts. Other factors which make conflicts more difficult to resolve include numbers of people (or groups) involved, numbers of issues, the complexity of the issues, and a previous history of destructive and violent confrontation. Even relatively simple disputes, when badly handled, can escalate into very destructive and intractable conflicts. Thus effective dispute settlement and conflict management is important for all kinds of conflicts.

Although intractable conflicts resist resolution, they are not absolutely impossible to resolve. At times, intractable conflicts are transformed into disputes which can be resolved. This often occurs after a prolonged standoff when neither side can prevail, yet both are being greatly harmed by continuing the conflict. Once both sides realize this is occurring, they are often more willing to negotiate a solution than they had been before. (The end of Apartheid in South Africa is one example of a very intractable conflict that was transformed in the 1990s with the implementation of the South African National Peace Accord.)

Although this website is helpful in the management and resolution tractable conflicts, it is primarily designed to be used to help people learn more about intractable conflicts and how they can be dealt with most effectively. Often that does not mean seeking resolution, but rather managing the conflict or confronting the conflict in a constructive way. Here the emphasis is not on ending the conflict, but it carrying it out in a way that brings more benefits to the disputants than it brings costs.

For more information about the factors that make conflicts difficult to resolve, read Kreiesberg, Northrup, and Thorson, 1989 or Burton, 1990.

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