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

Third Party Intervention

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The terms "third party" and "intermediary" are both used to refer to a person or team of people who become involved in a conflict to help the disputing parties manage or resolve it. Third parties might act as consultants, helping one side or both sides analyze the conflict and plan an effective response. Alternatively, they might act as facilitators, arranging meetings, setting agendas, and guiding productive discussions. Facilitators will also usually record what was said, and may write up a short report summarizing the discussions and any agreements that were reached.

A more active and powerful third party role is that of mediator. Mediators not only facilitate discussions, but they usually impose a structure and process on the discussions that is designed to move the parties toward mutual understanding and win-win agreements. While many different styles of mediation are common, most mediators have the conflicting parties sit down together to explain to each other their views about the nature of the problem and how they think it might best be solved. The mediator often tries to get the disputants to focus on underlying interests (the things they really need or want) more than their initial opening positions (what they initially say they need or want). By clarifying the divergent views and reasons for those views, mediators can usually get the parties to develop a common understanding of the situation, which often yields a solution which satisfies the interests of all parties. While some mediators take a stronger role in option identification and selection than others, mediators do not have the power to impose a solution. At most, they can suggest a solution, which the disputants may or may not accept.

The most powerful third party role is that of an arbitrator. An arbitrator listens to presentations made by both sides, examines written materials and other evidence relating to a case, and then makes a determination of who is right and who is wrong, or how a conflict should be settled. Usually, the arbitrator’s decision is binding and cannot be appealed. Thus, the arbitrator is the most powerful type of intermediary. Arbitration works well when the parties simply want a settlement, and do not worry about losing control of the process or the outcome. For parties that want to maintain control, however, the other forms of intervention (mediation or facilitation) are often preferred.


Links to More Information About and Examples of Third Party Intervention

Note:  This website has write-ups of over 100 articles about this topic.  A few are highlighted here, but readers are urged to browse the full list of examples to find more that are of interest.

Paul Wehr - Third Party Intervention
This article gives a more detailed view of the roles of third parties in conflict intervention.
Mary Anderson -- Humanitarian NGOs in Conflict Intervention
This article discusses NGO intervention in escalated conflicts, highlighting the benefits--and the costs and pitfalls--of such intervention.
Chester Crocker -- Lessons on Intervention
This article looks at what works and what doesn't work in terms of international intervention in intergroup and international conflicts.
Current and Future Arrangements for Intervention
This is another article which describes the intervention dilemmas currently facing the international community.
Mediating the Oslo Accords on the Middle East
This is a short description of Norway's intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, highlighting the special strengths Norway had that made the effort successful.
Thomas Princen--Quaker Mediation in Sri Lanka
This is a very different story of mediation, examining the approach taken by Quakers in Sri Lanka and elsewhere around the world.
William Zartman and Saadia Touval -- International Mediation in the Post- Cold War Era
This comprehensive look at international mediation considers what works and what doesn't and why.
Adam Curle -- Another Way: Positive response to contemporary violence
This article focuses on nonviolent intervention from NGOs acting to protect human rights.
Aspen Institute--Conflict Prevention: Strategies to Sustain Peace in the Post-Cold War World
This article discusses a variety of strategies used to sustain peace.  One approach that worked in South Africa was utilizing the rule of law together with local peace commissions which were empowered to end violence.  These commissions were assisted by European senior police officers and UN observers who gave credibility to the process.
Susan L. Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy--Removing Roadblocks
This article discusses ways third party intervenors can help disputants get beyond obstacles that are preventing progress in their conflict resolution efforts.


Links to Outside Information about Third Party Intervention

Leaping the Bar Overcoming Legal Opposition To ADR in the Developing World - Spring 1998 - Dispute Resolution Magazine - Section of Dispute Resolution - American Bar Association
This article reviews progress made toward adopting alternative dispute resolution programs in the developing world.  Both successes and obstacles are discussed, as well as ways of surmounting obstacles.
US Institute of Peace Special Report-The U.S. Contribution to Conflict Prevention, Management, and Resolution in Africa
This report summarizes what the U.S. can and should do to promote peacemaking and peacebuilding in Africa.  It also examines what Africans need to do themselves, with and without outside assistance.
Confronting Post-Cold War Ethnic Conflicts: Alternatives to Intervention - Paul Wehr
This essay discusses the benefits and limitations of international intervention in intergroup conflict

Jan Øberg--Conflict Mitigation in Reconstruction and Development


Links to Related Approaches


Links to Related Problems

Almost all the problems addressed on this website can be helped with third party intervention.

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