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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Arbitration is a dispute resolution process in which the disputing parties present their case to a third party intermediary (or a panel of arbitrators) who examine all the evidence and then make a decision for the parties. This decision is usually binding. Like court-based adjudication, arbitration is adversarial. The presentations are made to prove one side right, the other wrong. Thus the parties assume they are working against each other, not cooperatively. Arbitration is generally not as formal as court adjudication, however, and the rules can be altered to some extent to meet the parties’ needs.

As in court-based adjudication, arbitration outcomes are typically win-lose, not win-win. Thus, the arbitrator usually decides that one side was right and the other wrong. They do not often go out of their way to develop new approaches for meeting the interests of both sides simultaneously, as a mediator would do, though if a win-win solution is apparent, the arbitrator would probably recommend it.

In the United States, arbitration is most commonly used in labor-management, commercial, and consumer conflicts. In 1985, more than 95 percent of all collective bargaining contracts required that arbitration be used to resolve disputes (Goldberg, Green and Sander, 1985, p. 189.) There are several advantages of arbitration.  First, it is more flexible than adjudication. The disputants can usually choose their own arbitrator, who can be an expert in the topic in dispute, which a judge seldom is. This makes arbitration especially useful in complex, technical commercial disputes. Second, arbitration is usually much quicker than litigation, especially since the result is binding and not open to appeal as litigation is.  Third, arbitration is private. This avoids the disclosure of trade secrets and potentially embarrassing information.

Arbitration is a very common approach for resolving international commercial or business disputes, and a number of international organizations have been established for doing this. These include the International Chamber of Commerce (in Paris), the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, and the International Court of Arbitration administered by the World Business Organization. Each of these bodies has its own procedures for arbitration which avoids the problem of one country having different procedures from another, thereby creating a conflict over which jurisdiction should hear a case.

It is common for international contracts to mandate that arbitration be used to resolve any disputes that arise. Sometimes, the contract specifies that one of these bodies be used. At other times the procedures to be used for such arbitration are spelled out in the initial contract itself.

While mediation also provides some of these advantages, it is a cooperative process, not an adversarial one. If the parties are so angry with each other that they cannot communicate effectively, even with help, or cannot cooperate at all, arbitration is usually more effective than mediation. It is also more effective when the problem involves the determination of facts or interpretation of law.

The disadvantages of arbitration stem from the same characteristics. Arbitration is adversarial, thus it generally does nothing to create win-win solutions or improve relationships. Often it escalates a conflict, just as court-based adjudication is likely to do. In addition, arbitration takes decision making power away from the parties. This results in a resolution of the current conflict, but does nothing to help the parties learn how to resolve their own conflicts more effectively in the future, as does mediation. Other people also fault arbitration for being too informal and potentially unjust. Only the courts, with their carefully regulated procedures can provide justice, some observers believe.


Links to Examples of Arbitration

Jay Rothman -- Conflict Management Policy Analysis
This is a description of a border dispute between Egypt and Israel that took place after the Camp David Accords. The dispute was arbitrated, although Rothman’s analysis includes descriptions of how the conflict might have been handled more effectively with a more integrative approach.


Links to Outside Sources of Information on Arbitration

Charted Institute of Arbitrators Home Page

Permanent Court of Arbitration

The ABCs of ADR A Dispute Resolution Glossary

Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre

Singapore International Arbitration Centre

Dispute Settlement (conciliation and arbitration)
This review of conciliation and arbitration rules and processes for trade disputes is from the international trade law monitor.
American Arbitration Association Home Page
This page has considerable full-text information about mediation, arbitration, and other alternative dispute resolution processes in the U.S.


Links to Related Approaches



Links to Related Problems


Lack of a Negotiating Forum

Refusal to Negotiate

Failed Mediation



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